Is It Okay to Keep a Cat Indoors?

In short, yes. Unsurprisingly, at Pets Indoors we think that it is okay to keep your cat indoors for its lifetime. While people and organizations from different backgrounds may argue for and against the matter, we believe that the arguments for outweigh the arguments against. There can be some concerns about being able to provide a happy and healthy life to an indoor cat, we think that a dedicated pet owner will be able to address these worries and reap the benefits of keeping your furry friends indoors. However, these views can be a matter of personal opinion. Read on to find the concerns and benefits of keeping cats indoors so you can arrive at your own educated decision.

Is Keeping a cat indoors cruel?

Some people argue that keeping cats indoors is cruel because it denies them of the ability to satisfy some of their natural instincts. Although cats have been domesticated for thousands of years, we have done little selective breeding with them as we have with dogs, many of their key instincts are still hard-wired into them. Cats will feel compelled to satisfy these certain behaviors to different amounts no matter what their living situation is. We believe that responsible cat owners are able to give the time necessary to satisfy these needs at home. Lets look at what the strongest cat instincts are and how what we can do indoors to make them happy.

Cats need to hunt

All cats, even ones with a free supply to food, will feel the need to hunt. In the wild, cats would need to catch smaller animals every day to feed themselves. The smaller size of the animals they catch means that cats means that cats are only successful in catching their prey half of the time. If a feral cat took a break from hunting just because they were full, they would run the risk of going hungry later due to a string of failed hunts. Cats have developed to have the compulsion to constantly hunt, even when they have free access to food, to give them the best chances of survival. This is a compulsion that is very difficult for cats to ignore although the strength of this compulsion will vary from cat to cat. Not fulfilling the need to hunt can lead to behavioral problems. Cats who don’t satisfy their need to hunt can have excess energy that they may release through aggression or destructive behaviors. While cats with access to the outdoors regularly satisfy this need by hunting the local wildlife, indoor cats won’t be able to find anything interesting to hunt.

How can I satisfy my cat’s need to hunt?

Indoor cat owners can satisfy their cat’s hunting needs by playing with their cat. Owners should have a regular schedule for daily playtime with their cat where they can feel like they are hunting, its also a great time for owners to bond with their cats. There is a large variety of different toys that may interest your cat, the most popular form of play being using a toy on the end of a string or “wand” to lead your cat about the house or apartment. These toys are designed to mimic prey by having materials and movements that cats will naturally look out for. While these toys may not be as innately exciting as a living animal to hunt, in our experience there is usually at least one type of toy that your cat will find irresistible to chase around. Playing with your cat enough to keep it entertained is easily achievable, but it is still a long-term commitment. While the amount of play needed will depend on your cat’s unique personality, you should expect to dedicate at least 30 minutes per day to playtime although this could be done in multiple shorter bursts of play throughout the day. The specifics of playing with your cat or cats is a topic that we could talk about for much longer. Look out for our future article on playtime with your indoor cat.

Cats need to establish their territory

Another behavior that has become ingrained into the cats is their need to mark their own territory. Feral cats are used to living in a range of land that can cover hundreds off thousands of square meters. They use a range of methods to tell other cats and animals that this is their territory. This includes scratching surfaces, rubbing their scent onto the environment, and marking with their urine and feces. Doing this in their home range makes the cat feel more comfortable in their own homes. These behaviors aren’t too much of an issue when they are done outside of the house. A common concern is that an indoor cat won’t feel as in control of their limited and shared indoor space and turn to these territory claiming methods to make themselves feel more at home. Thankfully, most cats don’t feel the need to turn to their more destructive methods of claiming territory and most will be content to rub their scent on their owners and surroundings which is actually rather cute. That being said, behavioral issues such as destroying furniture and leaving waste outside of the litter box are common problems in cats that don’t feel at home in their territory.  

How can I satisfy my cat’s need to claim territory?

Owners can reduce the need for their indoor cats need to display territorial behaviors by making their cats feel more comfortable within their home. This should involve creating spaces where your cat can safely retreat to and be separated from other members of the household. This can be done through placing cat trees and beds throughout the living space. Placing soft fabrics in these areas will also allow cats to leave their scent in these areas, allowing them to feel more comfortable. All cat owners should place scratching posts for their cat to mark and sharpen their claws with. This will stop cats from scratching other furniture around the house. If your cat feels reasonably comfortable indoors, it is unlikely that they will feel the need to go to the toilet outside of their litter box.

Cats need stimulation

This is a more general point. Any animal, even humans, would get bored if they have been restricted to living in the same space every day. This is especially true of cats. Although cats may spend over half of they day sleeping, they would naturally be accustomed to spending a portion of their time roaming their living area where they will be able to be interested in new sights and smells. Bored cats may develop bad behaviors such as aggression and over-eating, studies have even shown that they can become depressed.

How can I keep my cat stimulated?

There are multiple ways to keep your cat entertained while they are indoors. This includes playing with your cat like we previously mentioned. You can also make their living area more interesting to explore by occasionally moving cat trees, tunnels, and other play areas. If you have access to a window your cat will likely enjoy staring out of it to see anything that is moving outside. Placing a bird feeder on the opposite side of a window can be a cheap option for regularly entertaining an indoor cat. Having a rotation of different passive toys for your cat to interact with is another great method to keeping cats mentally stimulated. Giving your cat an enriching life is a long-term commitment for most people but in our experience the effort is well worth the pay-off of having a happy cat.

What are the benefits of keeping a cat indoors?

There are some clear benefits from keeping cats indoors for their whole lives, especially for people who live in areas where there are unavoidable dangers for cats. On average, indoor cats live several years longer than their outdoor counterparts as they are less likely to become injured or catch diseases. They also avoid the risk of eating dangerous objects, being struck by traffic, and fighting with other animals. Indoor cat owners live with less anxiety of wondering where their cat is and what they are doing.

In summary, while indoor cats may need a bit more maintenance to achieve the same quality of enrichment as an outdoors cat, they receive many unique benefits. We think that these benefits are well worth the time and effort that need to be invested but you should come to your own decision with the advice that we have given.