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Optimeal® Blog

Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats: Which Is Best for You?

By Bridget Reed


If you are considering adopting a feline, one of the biggest decisions you need to make as a pet parent is whether they will be an indoor or an outdoor cat. This can be a daunting decision, especially if this is your first time bringing a cat home. 

This article will closely examine the pros and cons of both options to help you decide what is best for you and your new furry companion. 

What Is the Difference Between an Indoor and Outdoor Cat?

Before diving into the pros and cons of indoor and outdoor cats, it is important to understand these two categories' differences. The terms indoor and outdoor cat do not refer to your feline's breed or any physical characteristics. 

Instead, indoor cats spend all their time indoors and are not allowed to go outside. Outdoor cats are cats who have access to outdoor spaces. Contrary to popular belief, some outdoor cats still spend most of their time inside. Their ability to go outside if they want to makes them outdoor cats. 

What Are the Benefits of Keeping My Cat Inside?

Most veterinarians will tell you that keeping your cat inside is healthier and safer. Generally speaking, indoor cats are less at risk for picking up diseases and parasites and do not have the opportunity to interact with potentially harmful things in their environment. 

This section will examine some of the most compelling reasons to keep your cat inside. 

Will Keeping My Cat Indoors Improve Their Health?

Pet parents' biggest concern about letting their felines outside is their health. Although there is no guarantee that your four-legged friend will come into contact with something harmful when roaming outside, several serious feline diseases can potentially contract. 

Some of these diseases include:

  • Feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • Feline distemper (panleukopenia)
  • Upper respiratory diseases

Another issue with letting your cat outside is that they are more likely to pick up a parasite, such as ticks, fleas, mites, heartworms, and other types of worms. All of these diseases and parasites may decrease your cat’s lifespan and lead to other health issues. 

Although outdoor cats are far more likely to pick up these parasites, it is still possible for your indoor cat to get them through contact with other furry companions who go outside or from human clothes. That said, checking your feline for fleas and watching for abnormal and excessive scratching is always important.

Do Any Cats Need To Be Kept Indoors?

For most feline parents, the decision to keep their cat indoors or outdoors requires much thought and consideration. However, in some instances, cats should absolutely be kept indoors. If your cat has a serious health issue, you should consider keeping them inside for two main reasons. 

First, if your furry friend regularly needs medication, it is a good idea to keep them inside so that you can find them when it is time to give them their medication. If you let your cat outside, you may have to wait hours for them to return home to give them their medication which can be detrimental to their health. 

Second, if an illness compromises your cat’s immune system, they will likely benefit from staying inside. As mentioned, cats are more likely to be exposed to different illnesses and diseases outside. For felines struggling to stay healthy, being outside can put extra, unnecessary stress on their immune system. 

What Environmental Dangers Do Outdoor Cats Encounter?

There are also a few environmental dangers that you should keep in mind when deciding whether or not your cat will be an indoor cat. Just like with diseases and parasites, there is no way of knowing whether or not your cat will encounter these dangers, but it is important to know about them so that you can accurately assess the safety of your neighborhood for your furry friend. 

One environmental danger outdoor cats may encounter is other cats or dogs in the neighborhood. Cats can be territorial, meaning they may fight if allowed to roam outdoors. 

In addition to other cats and dogs in the neighborhood, your cat may encounter dangerous wild animals if they are allowed outside. Raccoons, coyotes, and other wild animals can be aggressive and carry harmful diseases. 

Along with neighborhood furry friends, you also have to remember what humans your cat will come into contact with if they are let outside. For people living in cities and other highly populated areas, keeping your cat inside may be a good idea. 

Although incidents of animal cruelty against cats are rare, the more people your cat encounters when roaming means, the more they are at risk of encountering a dangerous person.

Another environmental concern to keep in mind is cars and traffic. If you live in an area close to a busy road, keeping your kitty inside and away from cars may be a good idea. Given that cats are spooked easily, they often run across roads without looking, which can be fatal, especially at night. 

Trees also pose a potential environmental danger to your four-legged friend. When cats feel scared or threatened, they may climb a tree to seek safe, high ground. Although cats are skilled climbers, they often cannot escape the tree. This can become dangerous if they are stuck for several days because they risk dehydration and fatal falls. 

How Can I Keep My Indoor Cat Entertained?

If you think the environment around your house may not be safe for your feline, there are still ways to keep them stimulated and entertained. This section will provide a few ideas for entertaining your indoor cat.

Get Your Indoor Cat a Companion

Cats are social creatures and usually enjoy the company of other cats and dogs. Adopting another cat or a dog may be helpful if you are worried about your cat getting bored or lonely while you are at work. 

Your furry friends can play and snuggle together while you are at work or out doing errands. Before adopting another animal, ensure your cat gets along well with canines and felines. Try asking a friend to bring their furry friend over to see how your cat responds to another animal in their space. 

Provide Them With Entertaining Toys

Just like kids, cats love playing with toys and scratch posts. Interactive toys can help keep your feline entertained and stimulated. 

If you notice that your cat loves any new toy you bring home but seems to get bored after a few days, don’t feel like you have to continue buying new toys. Try rotating your cat’s toys by leaving a few out and putting some away to keep them interested. 

Go for Walks

Many pet parents believe that walks are just for dogs, but you can purchase harnesses and leashes for your feline. Taking your cat for a walk around the neighborhood is a safe way to ensure they get enough exercise and stimulation. 

Just like canines, cats need to be trained to walk on a leash. It is easiest to leash-train your cat if you start walking them as a kitten. 

Build a Catio

Another way to ensure that your cat can spend time outside without any risk is to build them a cat patio (also known as a catio). A catio is an enclosed space outside where your cat can roam safely. 

If you choose to build a catio, remember that some cats are skilled climbers. You may need to build high walls to ensure your cat cannot climb out of the catio. 

What Are the Benefits of Letting My Cat Go Outdoors?

Although your cat may encounter certain dangers outside, there are still benefits to letting your cat roam and explore the area around your house. Usually, pet parents give their feline outdoor access to improve their quality of life.

Will My Cat’s Health Improve If I Let Them Outside?

From a health perspective, cats allowed outdoor time are usually more active. This means that they are less likely to develop obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease

If you live in a relatively quiet area without car traffic and wild animals, your cat may benefit from outdoor playtime. Staying active is extremely important for a cat’s overall health, especially as they age. 

Will Letting My Cat Outside Change Their Behavior?

Every cat is different, so it is impossible to say how your furry friend will react to the outside world. That said, spending time outside usually allows cats to expend their energy which may make them more tranquil and peaceful inside. 

For cats especially prone to hunting and playing, spending time outside may make them less likely to pretend to hunt and stalk you inside. Fresh air may also provide necessary enrichment for your cat’s life if you are away from home a lot and do not have other furry friends at home. If your cat is allowed outside, you may also notice that they are less likely to have accidents outside the litter box.

How Can I Keep My Outdoor Cat Safe?

As previously mentioned, there are several dangers to remember if you decide to let your furry feline roam free. However, given that there are benefits to an outdoor lifestyle, you might be wondering what you can do to keep your cat safe if you decide to let them roam. 

There are a few steps you can take to protect your outdoor cat, which include:

  • Get your cat a microchip. If your furry friend has a microchip, you can find them if they are picked up by animal control or a veterinary clinic.

  • Make sure your cat has proper flea and tick prevention medication. Also, make sure you administer regular flea and tick checks.

  • Bring your furry friend to the vet regularly. The vet will ensure they are up to date on all their vaccinations. 

Conclusion: Should I Allow My Cat Outdoors?

Ultimately, the decision to keep your cat indoors or let them outside is up to you. Most veterinarians recommend keeping your cat inside because of the diseases, parasites, and environmental dangers cats can encounter outside. 

If you want to let your cat outside but are unsure if the area is safe, you can always talk with your vet before letting your feline roam free. 


Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) | Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Osteoarthritis in Cats: More Common Than You Think | FDA

Veterinary college researchers to study most common heart disease in cats | Virginia Tech

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