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Should my cat be indoors only or outdoors?

grey cat with green eyes lying indoors

You may have recently bought a kitten or recently adopted a cat and are now deciding “should my cat be indoors only or outdoors?”! This is a very personal choice with benefits and disadvantages to both, so I will share my thoughts and experience below to help you with the decision.

Indoor life for a cat

Many people prefer to keep their feline companion indoors and because of this, there are many products and information to help best equip them for a happy and fulfilled indoor life!

Keeping a cat indoors may decrease some risk of injury that they can experience if they were allowed outdoors. This includes: being hit by a car, dog attacks, cat fights, paralysis ticks and snakes (just to name a few)!

I do still like to recommend using some preventatives that includes tick control as ticks can still be brought inside by humans or other pets who are allowed outdoors. Indoor life is not free form risk and cats can still get sick, injured and stressed living indoors so pet insurance is still a good idea for indoor cats, just be aware of what accidents or illness are covered by ‘indoor ‘policies.

Natural Instincts for indoor cats

Even if brought up indoors from a kitten, cats will still have instincts for hunting, scratching, grooming, and climbing. This is completely normal and these instincts should be encouraged, but in a way that is best suited for indoor life. For example, using cat furniture such as scratching posts will help satisfy the urge to scratch.

Did you know that a cat’s paws contain sweat glands so whilst they are scratching, they are actually marking their territory too! You can also discourage scratching your furniture and sofas by placing double sided tape which cats hate!

kitten grooming itself on hammock

Other cat furniture such as hammock beds for windows or walls can be very popular with cats as they enjoy sleeping or observing the world from different heights (while enjoy the feeling of security and privacy). Cats love Being at a height that gives a vantage to survey their territory.

Cat Playtime

cat hunting pink feather toy

Another strong and instinctive behaviour is the hunting instinct. You can help satisfy this urge to hunt by playing with toys with your cat, especially ones that you can dangle and move to allow them to pounce and chase. This can also help strengthen your bond with them.

Grooming your furry-friend

We all know cats love to groom, but did you know why? In the wild felines groom to minimise shedding of their coat which can help lower the chance of leaving behind traces of fur. You can encourage cats to groom by not disturbing them during a grooming session and brushing them regularly to help maintain their coat which can prevent matting and hairballs.

ginger kitten sleeping while being brushed

Toileting

Cats are clean creatures and like a clean litter tray. Instinctively they prefer not to use a dirty tray where the smell can get onto them making it easier for predators to sniff them! Encouraging your cat to use their litter tray is also important to prevent urinary issues and toileting outside of the litter tray.

This can be helped by keeping litter trays clean, ensuring they are placed in a private location and at least two available to use as required. Choice is important, a good rule of thumb is to always have one more litter tray than the amount of cats you own.

Cat Feeding

As mentioned, cats do like to hunt and their feline ancestors had to hunt for their food. Why not make mealtimes interesting and make them work for their food? This can be done by using interactive feeding methods such as treat dispensers, food mazes, puzzles and lickimats for wet food.

This can help to decrease boredom, increase mental stimulation as well as encouraging some more activity (especially for those sedentary and perhaps overweight indoor cats!). Consider dental kibble and treats to help assist with preventing dental disease.

Outdoor Life

Outdoor life for cats can be filled with stimulation and excitement but also provides more danger from outdoor threats. There are things you can do to help keep them as safe as possible whilst roaming outside including considering pet insurance. I would recommend keeping your feline friend indoors for the first few weeks to help them settle into their new environment, this can be a stressful time for them and you don’t want them getting lost and not remembering where home is!

tabby cat running outdoors on grass

You want to ensure your cat is neutered and up to date with vaccinations before letting them out, this helps to control unwanted pregnancies, spread of diseases and fighting!

Outdoor Enclosure for cats

If you just want your cat to have a taste of the outdoors but still be safe from threats, then an outdoor enclosure is a great option. You can buy one or even design and make one yourself. This allows them to see the outside and experience the feel of the outdoors but not let the get into mischief! You can add to the experience with hammocks, scratching posts, a litter tray, and some toys for them to play with!

should my cat be indoors only or outdoors - pic of cat in outdoor enclosure

How to identify a cat

The most important thing for outdoor cats is the ability to be identified in case they get lost, hurt or in trouble. Apart from a collar with tag (engraved with owner details) there are now tracking devices with gps, where you can track your cat at any time! All cats should be microchipped whether they are indoor or outdoors and these microchips can be scanned at any vet clinic or shelter and their unique number will be associated with your contact details.

TIP! You can attach a bell to their collar, which can help warn birds and other potential prey that they are being stalked! This can reduce you cat brining you a ‘gift’ in the middle of the night.

Safety first

Consider the outdoors environment you intend letting them have access to and nearby areas they might roam. Ensure there are no toxic plants such as lilies, daffodils, tulips, snake plant, aloe vera or floxglove around!  Also make sure there is water available to them when they are outdoors, as they get a lot more physical activity than their indoors counterparts.

Training an outdoor cat

cat training with kibble

Another tip to try is to train them to come home! You can achieve this by providing tasty treats or meals, calling them and lots of cuddles and affection when they do return. By doing this, you can encourage them to come home before dusk or dark (which is a favourite time for cats to fight!). I would encourage you to let your cat out in the morning rather than night when they could be more easily involved in a road accident in the dark.

If you want to let you cat have a taste of the outdoors but would prefer them not to roam you can let them outside on a harness and lead with you present. This way they can still sniff and walk around, eat some grass, roll on the ground but you know they are secure and won’t be going too far!

Both indoor and outdoor cats can benefit from insurance to help protect them, our policy covers indoor and outdoor cats the same. Outdoor cats can have falls or accidents and often get parasites like ticks, we protect for both.

Dr Angie with Axel

Written by Dr. Angie, the brilliant veterinary mind behind Pet Circle Insurance. With over 15 years of experience in the veterinary field and hands-on experience in handling insurance claims, Angie is a trusted and reliable source of truth when it comes to all things pet-related. Her passion for small animal medicine, nutrition, and the human-animal bond shines through in her work with the Pet Circle Veterinary Squad, where she provides top-notch advice and support to pet owners.