Most owners in Europe allow their cats the freedom of going outdoors as well as caring for them and feeding them when they return home. However, about 10% of cats in the UK and many more in the USA live permanently indoors and the number is increasing.
The Benefits of Staying at Home
It was only with the advent of cat litter in the 1950s that cat owners were able to choose whether or not to let their cats outside. Since then it has been found that indoor cats tend to live longer lives on average than those allowed outdoors. This is because indoor cats are at a reduced risk of:
- • Theft- with more valuable pedigree cats being kept as pets, cats are increasingly being stolen
- • Getting lost- outdoor cats can sometimes get trapped in garages, sheds or even boots of cars leading to them becoming lost.
- • Road accidents- Around one in four cats are killed on the road in the UK- with an increased risk for young cats. Those who live beyond one year and have learned to avoid traffic dangers are likely to live into old age
- • Predators- Indoor cats are naturally protected from foxes or other predators
- • Fights- Unless they fall out with their housemates, indoor cats will obviously avoid cat fights!
- • Poisoning- although rare, some outdoor cats may unwittingly ingest poisonous substances such as antifreeze or rat poison
- • Infectious diseases- Many infectious diseases can only be passed from cat to cat by close contact. Keeping your cat indoors will protect her from this. However, some organisms and even parasites can be carried inside on the shoes or clothing of humans
Some elderly cats may also prefer the comfort and security of staying inside all the time.
An Outdoor Cat
Despite the benefits of indoor life there are also advantages of letting your cat outside. The main benefit is to your cat’s mental health and wellbeing. Cats are designed to hunt and mark their territory and use their highly developed senses of smell, hearing and touch and specialised eyesight to stalk and hunt prey. Allowing your cat outdoors enables them to express their normal feline behaviour more fully which is probably why outdoor cats suffer less mental health or behavioural issues than those kept entirely indoors. As outdoor cats are able to exercise more they are also less prone to obesity and its associated health concerns.
Cat Sleeping Patterns
Cats sleep an average of 15 hours a day (and some can even sleep for 20!). They tend to sleep mostly during the day and hunt at night with their most active times being dawn and dusk as this is the time when their prey is most active. Most of a cats’ sleeping time is spent just dozing with only short bursts of deep sleep. This is because,- as natural predators-they need to be ready to spring up at a moment’s notice. Whether your cat is allowed outdoors or not, - provide them with a safe and comfortable place to hide and sleep.
Can my cat become ill?
Although indoor cats are more protected from infectious conditions and parasites than outdoor cats they will still require regular vaccines and preventative worming medication to keep them healthy. Talk to your vet about your cat’s specific requirements.
Whether you decide to let your cat outside or keep them in, the most important thing is to provide them with a high quality of cat care. Ensure they have preventative health care and good nutrition to help keep them physically well,- and give them an enriched environment with plenty of toys and human interaction to support their mental wellbeing.