Years ago, nearly every cat was an outdoors-cat. Having indoors-only cats is a relatively new thing. Many people now feel that pets are like family, so some reason of course they stay inside where it is safe. But others wonder about the wild origins of their cats and think, “Is it even fair to the cats? Why should I keep them indoors?” Let’s consider a few facts about what sort of life expectancy and quality of life outdoor cats can anticipate versus indoor cats.

Outdoor cats live for an average of 3-5 years; most of them do not get to see old age, and oftentimes the traumas they do face outside shorten their lifespan. Indoor cats live for 15-20 years on average, and it is much easier to keep track of any concerning symptoms they have and thus pursue treatment sooner for them.

Some cats are more savvy than others, but even that street-smart tom might panic in a bad situation and dash across the road – many cats unfortunately die this way outside. Needless to say, the only traffic an indoor cat concerns themselves with is claiming every way as their right of way, causing tripping hazards!

Fleas, ticks, worms, and other parasites are real threats to an outdoor cat’s health, as well as bigger predators like coyotes and dogs. Even if your neighbor’s dog is great with cats, another dog may come by that isn’t. Deep bite wounds from a cat fight can transfer serious diseases like FIV (similar to HIV/AIDS in humans) or FELV (feline leukemia, which is deadly in cats). Treating these diseases and wounds from fights can cost you expensive vet bills and very possibly the life of your cat. Overall, cats are far less likely to face these issues when kept inside.

But what about enrichment? Surely cats outside are happier? Indoor cats can find just as much joy in their home environments. Cats are creatures of routine and structure, but sneak some toys or treats around the house for when they do their patrols at night, and you will have made their day with a fun surprise! Having cat trees or shelves for them to climb keeps them limber and youthful, while making sure they have access to a window with a good view can be an endless source of entertainment for them. Just make sure the window is secure so it isn’t easy for them to break out! Slow feeders and puzzle toys can make even feeding time interesting, replicating the experience of hunting for their food.

If you decide your kitty must experience the outdoors, consider trying to harness-train them and taking them for leashed walks. Maybe even build them a safe enclosure where they can go sit and enjoy fresh air; we call these catios! Before taking a cat outside, consider their temperament; shy cats are likely to panic and run off, at great risk to themselves. You should consider only taking confident cats outside, ones that have bonded with you and know you are their owner and that this is their home. 

Whatever you do, please make sure your cat is not wandering around outside without supervision, especially at night. We do our best to reunite lost pets with their owners, but the best way to treat this problem is by being responsible pet owners and teaching others how to be just that. If you do let your cat outside, please remember to get them microchipped (don’t forget we offer to do that for you!) and keep that microchip up-to-date with your contact information; it is the surest and quickest way to get your cat back to you if a concerned passerby happens to pick them up.