Indoor Vs Outdoor Cats

The decision to keep your cat indoors permanently or let it go outside and roam throughout the day is one of the biggest choices to make when first getting a new cat. Cat owners moving to a new location may need to make a similar decision if they move to a new area and have new opportunities or concerns about the local environment.

At Pets Indoors, we think that cats benefit from permanent indoor living and avoid many of the dangers of having outdoor access. Indoor cats need more attentive owners to keep them entertained and happy but will lead longer and happier lives because of this. Let’s look through the pros and cons of indoor and outdoor cats from the perspective of you, the owner, and your cat so you can decide which choice is right for you.

Outdoor vs Indoor cat life expectancy

The most obvious question to have between keeping a cat indoors or outdoors is its health. It has been well established that, on average, indoor cats live longer lives than outdoor cats. On average, indoor cats will live to be 17 years of age. Remember that this is just an average so there are indoor cats who live to have both shorter and longer lives. It is not unheard of for indoor cats to live to be older than 20 years old. Outdoor cats on average in comparison have an average life expectancy of just 5 years. This is surprisingly low but remember the figure is just an average. The number is so low as many outdoor cats unfortunately live short lives of just a couple of years due to dying from the dangers associated with the outdoors. Inexperienced cats can become fatally injured from being hit by traffic, hurt by local wildlife, and eating dangerous substances. Again, there are many cases of outdoor cats living to old ages, but the data shows that indoor cats are more likely to have longer lives than outdoor cats.

Indoor vs Outdoor cat safety

So, we’ve established that indoor cats will generally be safer than outdoor cats. Indoor cat owners will generally need to worry less about the well-being of their cat throughout the day. Indoor cat owners will need to worry much less about their cat contracting animal to animal illnesses such as rabies. Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is a particularly dangerous disease that cats can contract from getting into fights with each other. The effects of the virus are life long and will mean that your cats health will be compromised to future illnesses. Cats with FIV should live by themselves or with other FIV positive cats indoors for their life to protect themselves and other cats. Outdoor cats are more likely to have less serious health problems such as fleas, worms, and cuts from encountering other animals.  

This is not to say that indoor cats are completely safe from pests and disease. Indoor cats can still contract a variety of diseases if their owners unknowingly bring into the house. Vets will still recommend for indoor cats to receive their full set of vaccinations to protect them in the event that they escape from home and get lost, but this is effectively a safety net on top of the larger safety net of your cat living in a clean environment.  

Do indoor cats have lower vet bills than outdoor cats?

Indoor cats may generally be safer from accidents and some illnesses meaning that they may need less visits to the vet. However, as with most health-related concerns for pets, there is always a risk that your cat will experience some sort of unexpected illness that even the most diligent pet owner couldn’t have predicted. Indoor cats can still become seriously injured or ill which could require expensive consultations and treatment from your vet. While keeping your cat indoors reduced many health-related risks it doesn’t completely remove them. Cat insurance offers don’t typically offer lower rates for cats that are being kept indoors so you won’t benefit on lower monthly costs for keeping indoor cats safe compared to outdoor cats. There is no guarantee that an indoor cat will have lower vet fees than an outdoor cat.

Are indoor or outdoor cats more affectionate?

Some people have wondered if keeping your cat indoors will make it more affectionate towards them. In truth, probably not. The amount of affection that your cat shows will depend on its genetics as well as its upbringing in the early months of its life. Cats who become familiar with interacting with humans in the first four months of their life are more likely to be comfortable around humans later in their life and therefore more likely to show affectionate behavior. As with most advice with animal behavior, this isn’t a strict rule. Some cats who have had a comfortable upbringing may still be cold to their owners and some ex-feral cats may be unusually loving.  

Outdoor cats will be more used to meeting new animals and humans as they travel through their territory. They may be more friendly with visitors to the house because of this, although this isn’t a hard or fast rule that can be applied to all outdoor cats.

Are outdoor cats happier than indoor cats?

Some cat owners believe that keeping a cat indoors can be cruel as it restricts them from fulfilling some of their natural instincts. This includes behaviors such as hunting small prey throughout the day and marking and claiming territory. It is well accepted that indoor and outdoor cats need to satisfy these needs to be happy. However, outdoor cats can claim territory and hunt for wildlife while indoor cats have restricted space to roam and (hopefully) no live animals to hunt. Indoor cats are at a disadvantage to satisfy their basic instincts. However, we believe that a diligent indoor cat owner can provide the right type of entertainment through regular play and creating areas for a cat to feel at home. Read our previous article to cover the basics of how to satisfy your cat’s natural instincts while living indoors. Outdoor cat owners should still regularly play with their cat keep them entertained but may see fewer behavioral issues if they miss some sessions of play. While this takes more effort on behalf of the owner, all pets come with responsibilities, and we believe that indoor cats are asking for relatively little to be happy.   

Is it better to have an indoor or outdoor cat?

Here’s a table that summaries the pros and cons out outdoor cats that we’ve gone over during this blog post. In summary, indoor cats will need more care to keep them entertained but benefit from a safer environment.

Remember that both indoor and outdoor cats need responsible owners to take care of them. Taking care of any type of cat will be a serious but rewarding long-term commitment that may be challenging at times due a variety of unpredictable factors.