Does indoor mean unhappy?

by Samantha Mitchell
(Charlotte, North Carolina)

I have an indoor cat, and I really love him. All I want is for him to be happy. The problem is, he's declawed --and, aside from that, we live near plenty of roads. I'm afraid something will happen to him if I ever let him out.

He's three years old, and as far as I can tell, he's not unhappy living indoors. I watch him for any signs of depression, anxiety, etc., but he seems to act like any outdoor cat I've seen. He gets in playful moods and sleepy, cuddly moods, and I alternately play/cuddle with him.

He doesn't seem unstable or miserable. I would think that, if a cat were extremely depressed, they'd become lethargic and stop eating or something, which my cat has never done. He's lively and affectionate.

He does get restless sometimes, and bounces around the house looking for things to play with. Whenever I can, I play with him, but I don't always have time to. Usually I set aside time for an hour-long play session at least once or twice a week, and throughout the week I often let him play with water dripping from the sink, or something. I interact with him every day, so he doesn't just sit in a room all the time.

I'm constantly wracked with guilt for making him an indoor cat, but he doesn't seem to be as upset about it as I am. As the situation is, I think being indoors is best for him, but I could be wrong.

Has anyone had both an indoor and outdoor cat, and did you notice any differences between their overall moods (aside from the obvious fact that indoor cats will need to be played with more than outdoor cats)? And does it make a big difference to the cat's safety outdoors if they don't have their front claws?

Part of me thinks that if he doesn't know anything more than being indoors, he won't miss being outdoors -- like people who have always been deaf wouldn't be constantly miserable because they miss hearing. I could let him out, and risk him being killed or injured by a car or by his inability to defend himself from other animals (because he doesn't have front claws). What I want to know is, is it worth it?

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Cats indoors are alright.
by: Anonymous

Cats indoors are not unhappy. Why should they be if that is all they have ever known?

If they have toys and people to play with then they are quite content with their world. I'm confident that if I opened the door and left it open, my 10 year old cat would not want to wander outside.

Dear lady, your cat is fine, he is not unhappy.

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Probably very happy.
by: Larry (Editor)

Hi Samantha,

I'm still hoping that a few more visitors will chime in here, but I'll add a little.

"He doesn't seem unstable or miserable. I would think that, if a cat were extremely depressed, they'd become lethargic and stop eating or something, which my cat has never done. He's lively and affectionate."

Then Muffin is probably very happy with his life.

And I do very much agree with Teresa when she says:

"In my opinion, it sounds like your cat is fine as an indoor cat and, most importantly, without claws, he would be unable to defend himself outdoors, so keeping him inside = keeping him safe."

Yes, a cat's claws a vital for their defense against all sorts of enemies.

I hope you are feeling easier about keeping your cat indoors. Sounds like he has a great life with lots of love, and that's all cats ask for.

Larry (Editor)

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Teresa
by: Samantha

Teresa,

What you've said has basically been my experience, as well, but I never knew some cats were more inclined to be indoor cats.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
Oh, and I know I neglected to mention this in the post, but... his name is Muffin. :)

Samantha

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Indoor Happiness
by: Teresa

Hi Samantha,
I went through some similar thoughts and angst a couple of years ago when we adopted a kitten. (I posted here, perhaps you can search "Fidget" to see my posts and the comments.)

Our great vet told me that there are cats who seem to HAVE to go outside, it's in their nature, but that there are others (and she lives with two) who don't really have the desire and are perfectly happy as indoor cats.

In my opinion, it sounds like your cat is fine as an indoor cat and, most importantly, without claws, he would be unable to defend himself outdoors, so keeping him inside = keeping him safe.

The other issue is being near roads. I live in the woods away from roads but years ago had several cats in a small town who eventually, sooner or later, got killed by cars. So keeping a cat inside away from that danger makes sense. Though of course, the woods have their dangers as well, but that's another topic :)

I do notice (my sister has an indoor cat in an apartment in a small city in California) that indoor cats are more dependent on their humans for entertainment, but it sounds like you spend plenty of time with whatever-his-name-is.

They do need interaction but they also are happy with the silliest things they can play with. And novelty is a good thing, too. All cats I've known get tired after a while of the same old balled-up piece of paper thrown across the room.

All in all, I think you're a very conscientious cat person and are providing a wonderful home for what's-his-name.

Sincerely,
Teresa

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Thanks
by: Samantha

Larry,

Thank you for approving and commenting on my post so quickly! I agree that it will be interesting to hear other people's opinions. It's good to hear from someone who has been in a similar situation. I'm grateful for your input!

Samantha

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Very important questions.
by: Larry (Editor)

Hi Samantha,

Thank you very much for your well thought out post. You ask some very important questions.

My own cat, Mr Robin, is also an indoor only cat, and there is so much in your post that I could answer that I agree with.

However, I do want other visitors to chime in with their advice and opinions so I'll hold back a while before I say much.

One thing I will say though is that I certainly don't think that you should be "wracked with guilt." This applies whatever your decision. It is obvious that you love your cat, and whether you keep him in or let him out, you will have made that choice with love.

Larry (Editor)

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Struggling with New Kittie

by Julie
(Rochester, NY)

We just took in a cat that has been used to being an outdoor/indoor cat from a relative who could not provide continuous care.

As many of the other readers have shared, she is very affectionate and well behaved inside but definitely longs to get her energy out in the outdoors.

I have been struggling with the thought of falling in love with this beauty only to lose her or have her hurt when I am not right there to watch out for her. I agree that tags and a flea collar are a must and am insisting on these before allowing her out for unsupervised periods of time.

It has only been a few days, but she has won me over! Thank you for a well balanced presentation of helpful information.

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it will take time.
by: Lelly

It was kind of you to take the cat on. Please give yourselves and your cat some time before you decide whether she simply has to go outside.

Our little girly had been a outside cat, she could come and go as she pleased for most all of her adult life. She was seven years old when we got her.

We live in a high rise so there is not really the option for her to go out on her own. At first I was worried that she just would not accept being indoors all of the time and to be honest, the first few days she did seem very subdued.

She did pick up tho and after a few months she seemed to accept that our apartment is her world. She has toys and a condo, of course we give her lots of attention.

It may be difficult but your cat will come to love the indoors I'm sure.

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Won your heart.
by: Larry (Editor)

Hi Julie,

It's only been a few days and your new cat has won your heart already, it doesn't take long does it :0)

It's very difficult to turn a cat who has been used to going out into an indoor only cat. Of course you will have to weigh up the risks if you want to allow her out. If there is a lot of traffic where you live this is one of the things you will want to take into account.

Has she been spayed? This of course, is a must.

Congratulations on your new friend, may you have years of happiness together.

Larry (Editor)

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flea collars
by: Marie

Flea collars aren't very effective and can be dangerous if the cat gets caught on something. It's definitely more expensive but you should use Advantage or Frontline if the cat is going to go outside at all.

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My life line of outdoor cats.

by Ali
(Australia)

Hi i am a person who gone through almost 50 cats in my life so i know what i am talking about.

The story starts with my cats always being outdoors unsupervised and just living normal lives. i never thought cats were ever kept indoors and i would thought it was cruel. i would see cats always on the window looking at the outside world and it always puzzled me why my cats never did that. But all that changed when i have to foster two beautiful cats a boy and girl indoor cats.

That's when it hit me and i realized the cats that have been indoors are the ones who are dieing to feel the free world. They were cleaner then my cats because they don't go outside and they were in a way stuffed toys. They relied on me all the time and followed me (in my case very irritating) and did nothing other than to think of food.

I had to always keep the kitchen door locked so they don't get out and so my other cats can come in to feed and sleep. But the place i wanted to go to in the story was that the indoor cats were very aggressive, unpredictable, non social and bored to death. while my cats were always happy to see me and tired after exploring around and sleep with me or in most cases next to me because i prefer it. my outdoors cats in my case go and play or hang around my neighbors cats (which are all spayed females and males so they don't fight at all).

They wont treat like a cat but they will treat you like you are a dominate cat our a parent. My last boy that i have with me loves to play outside or shall i say roam around and play with all the neighborhood cats which they all like him they don't tended to like each others. He is so social and doesn't kill at all because i trained him not to play around the aviary or chase the chooks.

Every time he comes in the house which is about several times i don't feel like my pet is inside again i fell like a friend who doesn't even have to come to see me comes in and rolls around with excitement and joy to see unlike an indoor which properly is thinking here's that guy again. I truly would never make my cats indoor cats.

One other thing is if your cat didn't grow up playing outside with you other cats and has been a indoor cat try to take it very slowly if you intended them to learn the outdoors. its like teaching an elderly a new language that they never heard of before. Make sure they see the the doctor every 2-3 moths for a check up.

Indoor cats are tired of seeing us as we are of them, outdoor cats are pleasured to see us as we are to see them. My boy runs to me when i come home and rolls around and wants me to pick him up, its is true what they say a friend(outdoor cat) is always enjoyable then your sibling(indoor cat). One more information Outdoor cats are well behaved then indoors.

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Not always so
by: Geoff

I too enjoyed Ali's story. I have tried both indoors-only and limited outdoor times with my cats, so I can compare them. I have never allowed ANY of my cats unlimited time outdoors and don't think that is smart, generally, unless you're dealing with a senior barn cat who has lived that way his whole life.

I would also agree with Larry that indoor-only cats are not necessarily unhappy. My first cat, Cloud, I kept indoors-only for his first five years, except for very limited periods outside on a leash. Then I saw that he just really really wanted to go outside, and as we'd moved from big city to small town and I saw that the area was pretty safe, I started letting him out for 20-30 minutes at a time, supervised. I do think his quality of life changed for the better after that, and I am glad I let him out. As I grew more secure I let him out unsupervised. But he rarely stayed out more than an hour at a time. There is no question that letting one's cat out exposes him to some risks that he would not get as an indoor-only cat. The question is HOW much risk is appropriate, and each of us must answer that for ourselves. We must weigh risk against the gains in terms of quality of life to be gained from going out. Had I stayed in the city, Cloud would have remained an indoor-only cat and I'm sure had a happy life. But I think he was happier that I moved to an area where it was safe for him to go out.

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Happy cats.
by: Larry (Editor)

Hi Ali,

Thank you for your very detailed story of the cats in your life.

You know, at one time not so long ago I too thought that all cats should be allowed outside. I could not understand why anyone would want to keep a cat indoors, and I suppose that I too thought that confining a cat was a bit cruel.

But I have come to understand that a indoor cat can also be a happy cat.

I'm not sure that I agree that "Indoor cats are tired of seeing us as we are of them." I'm sure not tired of seeing my indoor cat and I honestly do not think he is tired of seeing me (yet.) :0)

There are happy indoor cats and happy outdoor cats. Which is right, to keep your cat in or let your cat out? Who can say, it depends.

Thanks very much once again for sharing with us.

Larry (Editor)

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Please read this.

by kaylee
(california, los angelas, USA)

First my cat Oreo is an indoor cat and we have a wonderful relationship he sleeps with me goes on vacation with me waits by the door for me when i come home and many other things that makes our relationship great. He is 7 years old i have had him since he was 5 months old.

On the other hand my neighbors cat Clarence is an outdoor cat only he is deaf which happened 2 years ago. He is also seven years old, and when their kids try to go up and pet him and he runs away from them cause he is scared of humans, does not eat cat food, and has a very bad relationship. i think keeping your cat indoors is a much safer and happier way to keep your cat

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A happy cat.
by: Jobaputra

Your cat is happy and having a good life. Your Oreo cat helps you to have good life too!

He is safe indoors, is it best? It is depending on where you live. Some places you can not be taking risk on letting cat out.

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A good pal.
by: Larry (Editor)

Hi Kaylee,

Thank you very much for sharing your story of your cat Oreo with us. He sounds like a terrific cat, a good pal and it does indeed sound like you have a wonderful relationship.

As to whether indoors or outdoors is best,well that does depend on a lot of things. In the case of Clarence though, I would say that he would be safer indoors. Deaf cats cannot hear approaching traffic of course or other animals or humans.

Here's hoping that your wonderful relationship with Oreo will last for many more years.

Larry (Editor)

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