While I acknowledge the decision to keep your cat indoors versus letting them outdoors is a personal choice—I do recommend keeping them indoors, particularly if you live in the city like I do. For those that were initially outdoor cats that owners later adopted, I get it. It’s hard to keep a cat inside when for much of their lives, they’ve run rampant outdoors. But in general, I find that letting our cats outside exposes them to far too many predators and other factors that can affect their lifespan and overall health.
Let me first start by clarifying a few terms.
When I say “indoor cats”, I’m referring to the ones that are strictly indoors, but I also extend that term to those that are allowed outside but are monitored. This includes cats who are leash-walked, sit on your balcony with you, and definitely the special ones who are rolled around town in a cat stroller. Yes, cat strollers! We can’t judge these people because have you seen how much those things cost? They must really love their cats!
Now when I talk about “indoor/outdoor cats”, I’m referring to those who spend a good portion of their days outside and are unsupervised. And finally, there are “outdoor cats” who just stay outside and are most likely feral. You feed them, but they prefer not to enter your homes or if they do, it’s mostly for a very brief period.
Whether your cat is indoor or outdoors doesn’t reflect how good of a cat owner you are, but I’ll admit, every time I hear the word “outdoor cat,” it makes me cringe and my heart hurts a little. It’s because I’ve seen what happens to some cats that succumb to the outdoor elements. Thankfully bad things don’t happen often, but it happens enough that I’ve seen things that I’d prefer to forget but are forever ingrained in my memory.
My two boys are indoor only. I live in an urban area filled with wildlife like possums, raccoons, and coyotes. Then you factor in moving cars, HIV positive feral cats, and inter-cat aggression and I just feel better if they’re inside. It only takes a second for something to happen, and while I’d like to give my cats the benefit of the doubt that they’d be smart enough to avoid predators, the truth is I can’t. Lando will never go outside because he knows he has it too good inside and frankly, he’s quite fearful of anything out of his comfort zone, making him also the worst patient at the vet.
Kingsley, on the other hand, still has some natural curiosity for what’s beyond the glass window. I took him out a couple of times on a leash and harness. However, once I put the harness on him and carried him out, it was like I cut off his legs and he became a 9-pound sack of cat that I ended up dragging through the grass. I’d stand him upright again only for him to collapse again. Epic fail!
However, that experience was enough to pique his interest to the point where I would find it more difficult to leave the home because he’d be lurking around ready to dart outside. So I nixed that. Also, the idea of bringing in fleas or dirt into my home and having to vaccinate him for outdoor cat vaccines also turned me off. I’d also have to leave his nails long to provide for outdoor protection which would leave my sofa and chairs exposed to the wrath of his claws. Sure that’s a selfish thought, but my furniture has suffered enough : )
Yes, there are days when I’d love for him to roam free. Ideally, if I had enough room, I’d build him an enclosure that would allow him to lay about outside but also be protected. I see the way Kingsley looks at the birds, squirrels, possums outside and I long for him to have access to that life, but then I’d have to accept the risks associated with that. I could let Kingsley outside to explore, but there’s a chance he’ll come back injured. Worse yet, there’s a chance I’ll never see him again. And I can’t take that risk. I know and I’ve seen too much and I can’t erase those vivid images from my mind. Nor can I erase the tears on the faces of owners who have lost their pets to the dangers of the world.
So for now, I’ll keep my cats indoors where they’re safe from the elements. I know this won’t make them live forever, but it will at least allow me to sleep comfortably at night knowing that I did everything in my power to protect them.
Feel free to share with me any experiences you have had with your indoor or outdoor cats in the comments below!
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Theresa Loo