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The debate over indoor cats vs. outdoor cats is one that continues to be controversial among cat owners. After all, cats are naturally wild creatures that should be allowed to roam freely, right? Whilst there are some who claim that keeping a cat indoors is cruel, there are actually many benefits to an indoor cat. Here are some of the most important factors to consider if you’re trying to make the choice between indoor and outdoor.
Cats aren’t exactly safety conscious when it comes to crossing the road, and if they spot moving prey on the other side they’re going to want to get there as fast as possible, even if that means running into oncoming traffic. Sadly, too many of us know the pain of losing a cat in a road traffic accident, and it isn’t only in high traffic areas that this can be a risk.
Cats who roam outdoors are likely to meet other cats along the way, including those who may have Feline Leukaemia (FeLV) and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV). Both of these diseases are transmitted through blood and saliva, so a fight with an infected cat could mean your cat contracts an incurable, and potentially life-threatening disease.
Cats need exercise to ensure they stay happy and healthy, and an outdoor cat will certainly get plenty through running, stalking and jumping. You may worry that keeping your cat inside means that they won’t get enough exercise, but an indoor cat will get as much exercise as it needs as long as you make the effort to involve them in play time. Your cat’s innate need to hunt means that a feather on a string, laser pen toy, or even a screwed up ball of paper will keep them active for hours. Indoor cats will also spend less time in direct sunlight, reducing their risk of sunburn and skin cancer, particularly in the harsh Australian climate.
An outdoor cat is more likely to come into contact with toxins such as rat poison, antifreeze, fertiliser and poisonous plants than an indoor cat, but it’s important to remember that there are various household items that can also be toxic to your feline friend. Lilies, human medicine and even certain foods can all be poisonous if ingested by cats, so it’s important to be aware of what you leave lying around the house.
Cats are natural predators, so the birds and wildlife in your area are likely to suffer if you have an outdoor cat. You should also consider the risk of your cat encountering other creatures such as snakes, possums and even stray dogs, that may attack, maim or even kill a cat.
Parasites such as fleas will always be a problem for outdoor cats, but even more serious is the risk of ticks, especially in tick-prone areas. Ticks can cause a range of nasty side effects for your cat, including paralysis and deadly bacterial diseases. An exclusively indoor cat is unlikely to come into contact with ticks.
It’s a big world out there, full of sheds and garages and other interesting places that your cat will want to explore, and risk getting locked in. If you have a pedigree cat breed, you may even run the risk of opportunist thieves striking. There are other ways in which people are a factor in cats going missing, they may mistakenly assume your cat is a stray and take it to an animal shelter, but sadly it can often be more sinister. You could have a neighbour who thinks black cats are unlucky at Halloween and want to harm them, or there may be a cat-hater next door who’s fed up with birds being killed or their veggie patch being dug up and pooped in.
As long as you meet all of your cat’s needs, including mental stimulation and exercise, your indoor cat will live a life that’s just as happy and fulfilling as an outdoor cat. There are compromises to be had if you want to give your cat time outside, such as building an enclosure that your cat can access from indoors, or taking your cat outside on a leash. Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but your cat won’t be worse off from living an indoor life, and we’d argue that they will in fact be better off, and have a longer life span.
Are you cats indoor or outdoor? What’s your view on what is best for your cat? Please share…
Image: Russell Bernice via Flickr