The ‘Indoor Life’ versus the ‘Outdoor Life’ for cats
The pros and cons of the indoor cat
Keeping a cat as an ‘indoor cat’ as always been a debatable issue. Some would argue that it’s not fair for a cat to live it’s days inside a human home without contact with neither grass or trees. Many ‘would be cat owners’ maybe concerned that because they cannot provide a cat with outdoor space then they should never own or rehome one.
Then there are the cats who, without living as an indoor cat, would be forever caged up and unwanted in a cat rescue centre or even eventually put to sleep.
In this article we will be looking at the pros and cons of both the indoor life and the outdoor life of a cat. Hopefully we can shed some light on some of the issues concerning the life of an indoor cat which some people may not have considered before.
Can an indoor cat be happy?
Many believe that because a cat cannot venture outdoors then it will never be a naturally happy cat. But for some indoor cats there is no alternative. There are cats that due to illness or age are no longer able to go outdoors. For their own safety it’s wise for them to remain within the safety of the home. If they should end up outdoors they may get attacked by a more younger and aggressive cat or become disorientated with their surroundings and become lost.
There is also the issue of heavy traffic in many of out towns and suburbs and older or infirm cats cannot move as quick as they used to. So keeping them indoors is a sure way of keeping them out of harms way.
Most cats that succumb to a life indoors are generally happy. But they will need a great deal more care, attention, love and companionship from their owners. They will also need to be encouraged to do exercise, play and activity. Cat towers and activity trees are the perfect solution to enrich the environment of an indoor cat.
Indoor cats are healthier and live longer
It does make sense that an indoor cat may live longer than a cat that ventures outdoors. Traffic accidents, feral dogs and diseases can cut a healthy outdoor cat off in it’s prime. Every time a cat goes out the door or cat flap, it is in danger of never coming back. It will always be susceptible to the many dangers that lurk outdoors. But that’s the risk we take with our outdoor cats. We can help the situation with vaccines and microchips but if we want to keep our cat out of harms way, keeping them indoors will allow them to live a long and happy life.
Indoor cats may have less exposure to disease and infections. Some of these diseases are fatal. Some of these include Feline Leukemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). An indoor cat will not suffer from attacks, infected scratches or be lost or even stolen. They are also not exposed to poisons, pesticides and chemicals that would cause serious harm if ingested.
On average an indoor cat lives up to 12 years but it has been known for some to live as long as 20. In comparison an outdoor cat’s life is on average 5 to 7 years.
Does an indoor cat need to be micro-chipped?
All cats need to be micro-chipped whether they are outdoor or indoor cats. Micro chipping a cat is quick, easy and not very expensive. The micro chip is only the size of a grain of rice and is simply inserted under the skin. It’s more crucial that an indoor cat gets micro-chipped in case they should escape the home and become lost or disorientated outdoors. A collar and tag is useful too, but these can fall off or be removed, whereas a microchip is permanently under the skin and can be scanned. With the insertion of a micro chip a lost indoor cat has more chance of getting reunited with the owner.
Do indoor cats have to be vaccinated?
Although indoor cats are less likely to be exposed to serious cat illnesses and diseases, there is still a risk of them catching something. People can walk infections into the home on their shoes, or a friend or relative may be carrying a contagious infection if their pet has been ill. It’s very wise to keep your cat vaccinated annually and they should also be protected from fleas, worms and ticks.
There is also very possible that an indoor cat can escape the home and it will be then that the non-vaccinated cat will be unprotected should they fall in with a feral crowd! A cat can catch lots of unwanted bugs and diseases from a simple scratch or bite which was the result a scuffle or cat fight.
Is an indoor cat more likely to become overweight?
This can be true. Many indoor cats tend to exercise less and therefore put on more weight which in turn can resort to obesity and other health issues. Weight gain on an indoor cat can happen gradually and when it is finally diagnosed can be pretty hard to shed. The key to this is to really keep an eye on food portions and keep the indoor cat as active as possible. Any additional edible treats should be included in their daily food allowance. Also start to read the cat food packaging and begin to understand what actually goes into your cats food. You may find that more natural treats like poached chicken or pieces of fish are a much better treat than a manufactured one.
Cat activity trees and towers should always be provided and lots of playtime should be encouraged. Providing your cat with lots of toys and activity will even get them moving when you are not home or in bed. You should also allocate regular playtime with your indoor cat as you may be the only companion the have.
Regular health and weight check ups with a vet are vital when you have an indoor cat. A vet will be able to assess your cats health and weight and advise you on how to keep it at a healthy level. They use a system called ‘Body Condition Scoring’ which helps them assess a cats weight. Read more in our article ‘Body Condition Scoring your cat’.
Indoor cats won’t annoy the neighbours
This may sound silly but many suburban cats can wreak havoc with fellow neighbours. We have all heard about neighbourhood cats eating prize winning fish from the pond, urinating on plants, flowers and vegetable patches not to mention fights and scuffles with other cats. Every neighbourhood has troublesome cats and can become a nuisance when it comes to territory wars.
Indoor cats won’t add any trouble to this mix and may just look out of the window and just watch it all going on!
Keeping cats indoors is a new thing
Our history books tell us that cats have always been used as mousers. Their purpose was to hunt mice and rats in factories, homes and even on ships. Even modern farms employ cats to keep the place mouse and rat free.
It’s only recently over the past hundred years or so that people have been domesticating cats and keeping them as pets and companions. Domesticated cats have in general also become more healthy as they are now fed with good nutritious food rather than surviving on bin scraps and hunted prey.
But domesticating a cat can have a side effect on their health and well being. Over feeding a cat or feeding them incorrectly can cause health issues and even obesity. Many health nutritionists believe that the only creatures on the planet that become overweight due to overeating are humans and the domesticated pets that they own. So sometimes cat owners can ‘kill their cat with kindness’ especially when it comes to over feeding them and treating them with a never ending supply of edible snacks!
Can you still take an indoor cat outdoors?
Cat owners uncertain about keeping a pet indoors can still give their cat the best of both worlds by offering outdoor experiences in controlled situations. If you do live in a heavily trafficked area then there are cat strollers on the market which will house your cat safely and securely. They are designed very much like a child’s pushchair or buggy but the cat is fully enclosed inside the interior with zippered mesh panel windows.
These pet prams are perfect for taking your indoor cat outdoors. The cat will have the benefit of the fresh air and the mental stimulation of seeing new surroundings and meeting admirers. It’s also an easy and comfortable transportation system for travel and trips to the vets. far more appealing than a clunky cat carrier.
There are also cat leads and harnesses which enable you to ‘walk the cat’. Walking your cat on a lead may sound silly, but it’s the perfect way to take your cat out and be in control of them at the same time. And with a little, time and patience you can train a cat to walk in a harness or on a lead (if it’s up to it of course).
Walking an indoor cat regularly will also be an excellent source of exercise for them. Teaming up a cat harness with a cat stroller will also enable you and your cat to travel far and wide. It can walk when it can and then be securely enclosed in their very own ‘min’ cat home on wheels’!
There are also large cat enclosures which can be built on a large balcony, in a yard or any area where you have very little garden space. These cat enclosures are designed with exercise in mind because they usually include various height levels, climbing accessories and even an enclosed den for shade. Your cat has the security of the enclosure and also benefits from being in the fresh air.
If you are pretty handy with tools, you could attempt to design and build one which would cater for your cats needs. But if you do, you must make sure it is extremely secure and safe.
We would recommend that you buy one as the manufacturers will have designed the enclosure with the correct materials so your cat stays safe and happy within the structure.
Some professionals beleive that cats should be kept indoors
Outdoor cat enthusiasts claim cats love the outdoors, which is often true, but the dangers can outweigh the benefits. Such views, however, are outdated and outranked by most animal professionals. The majority of veterinarians believe cats should be indoor pets and can stay safer that way. So do members of most Humane Societies and animal protection societies.
Many indoor cats live a long and happy lives, some of them being rehomed from animal shelters and therefore being saved from an early demise. All an indoor cat requires is activity, stimulation and lots and lots of care, attention and most of all love.