Ginger kitten with blue eyes

Indoor cats are healthier, but are outdoor cats happier?

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Which is better: the indoor cat or the outdoor cat

By Nick Whittle Author

Updated on the

We look at whether the outdoors is safe for a cat, and whether or not your cat prefers home comforts to rugged outdoor adventuring. When it comes to looking after a cat we also look at what best suits you, the owner.

The general consensus is that it is safer to keep your cat indoors for the majority of the time, only letting him out when it is safe to do so. To keep an eye on your cat and to affirm your home as its base will mean he is less likely to get into fights and to pick up nasty germs.

If you are an avid cat fan, and you are considering adopting a cat, read on to discover the pros and cons of indoor and outdoor cat life, and what sort of living cats actually prefer!

Are outdoor cats happier than indoor cats?

The question of a pet’s happiness is often on the mind of the owner. It is hard to say at times whether a cat (or any other animal) in our care is happy. Certainly, a cat by its very nature will be happy to be outdoors, but it will also be happy with home luxuries and a cuddle at the end of the day.

Cats unlike dogs are generally nomadic and independent. That is no secret, and it is generally considered true that cats will see humans as their equals rather than in charge of them. However, there is no getting away from the fact that cats are domesticated and rely on us for their warmth, shelter, food and water.

In short, a cat will enjoy its time outdoors and is more likely to be able to survive if left to its own devices than a dog, but the ownership of the cat comes with certain obligations to you, the owner, and the animal.

Here are some of the best treatments for poorly cats

Is it cruel to have an outdoor cat?

Cruelty exists in the withholding of the essentials needed for an animal’s health and wellbeing. If you have an outdoor cat you should still make sure that when it decides to pay you a visit you welcome it with food and water. It may not necessarily demand physical affection, but it will expect you to provide it with what it needs to go about its daily business.

In terms of cruelty you may want to consider as well that outdoor cats lead a more dangerous life than indoor cats. Writes WebMD, Jane Brunt, DVM, veterinarian and owner of the Cat Hospitals at Towson and Eastern Shore says of outdoor cats: “Allowing cats outdoors increases their risk of being injured and exposed to infectious diseases such as feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).”

Are indoor cats healthier?

Due to the risks they are exposed to when out, cats are normally healthier if they are kept indoors. Cats that are kept indoors will have a more normal life span (on the whole) of 17 years. They are protected from diseases, pests, parasites and injury, and as such outlive their outdoor counterparts by as much as six times.

According to American Humane, outdoor cats are more prone than indoor cats to the following diseases:

  • Leukaemia (FeLV)
  • AIDS (FIV)
  • FIP (feline infectious peritonitis)
  • Distemper (panleukopenia)
  • Upper respiratory infections (or URI)
What other cat diseases are there? Check out our Cat Diseases advice. 

What's the difference between indoor and outdoor cats?

As far as the look of an animal is concerned, you would be forgiven for missing the clues to the difference between both types of cat. While cats enjoy grooming themselves and generally take pride in their appearance, all is not well with the outdoor cat.

The outdoor cat may suffer with one or more of the following conditions, all of which can cause the cat a variety of symptoms or none at all. It is conditions such as these that will eventually cause the cat to become unwell:

Why are outdoor cats bad?

Cats may be a danger to themselves if left outside but they are also a danger to other cats, especially those that predominantly live indoors. Outdoor cats may also cause road users problems if encountered in the road. 
Outdoor cats also get into a lot of fights with other cats due to their being allowed to become more territorial than their indoor cousins. Cats that live mostly outdoors may die from injuries sustained during these fights.

Should you let cats outside?

You may let your cat out from time to time. If it is a cat that enjoys being indoors and having the comforts of home on top then it will not roam far and will be back when it feels the outdoors holds no more excitement.

Letting your cat out is a positive move due to the following reasons:

  • Your cat can reaffirm its territory
  • Your cat will enjoy being outdoors for a while
  • Some outdoor adventuring is good for your cat’s mental health

Will my cat come back if I let him outside?

Your cat will come back eventually, especially if you have made its home a fun and fulfilling place to be. Cats may enjoy their independence but they also enjoy being in the presence of an owner who is generous and loving.

Read on to discover our advice of preventative health for cats 

Should I let my cat sleep with me?

Many experts suggest that letting your cat or dog sleep with you is NOT a good idea, and may cause your pet’s separation anxiety. Additionally, having a pet on the bed can eventually lead to your developing allergies.

How far do cats roam from their house?

How far your cat roams depends on what there is to entice it further from your home. The availability of food, the presence of dangers and the need to be back in the warmth of its bed all determine how keen or reluctant your cat is for adventure. Pet Happy writes that male cats on average may wander 500 metres from your front door and female cats 230 metres.

Do cats wander off for days?

Many cats may disappear for a few days. Cats are much more able to fend for themselves than are dogs. Food and water, especially if in plentiful supply, will tempt your cat to continue its adventure. That being said, if your cat is normally one that returns to your house after just a few hours you should begin your search for him.

Ensure your house is the perfect place for your cat to spend the majority of his time and you will keep your indoor cat happy and contented. He will feel little need to wander except to check the area around the house, and will be more than happy to stay indoors. You will be able to tell, in any case, when your cat wants to go out.

Of course, an excellent way to manage your cat’s foibles is to install a cat flap in order that he can come and go as he pleases. Be vigilant of your cat’s health at all times, especially when he returns from a long outdoor stint. He may have picked up a nasty bug or been involved in a fight, and he will need your loving touch!

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