Outdoor Cats

The term outdoor cats used on this page relates to domestic cats that are free to come and go as they please, or are allowed outdoors for only parts of the day, rather than to cats that are permanently outside such as feral cats or farm cats.

Many of us believe that domestic cats lead a far happier life if allowed outdoors to enjoy their freedom.

Those of us that think this way consider that to keep their cat confined inside the home would be somewhat cruel to their pet.

cat outside

It is believed that outdoor cats are less inclined to behave badly.

Cats that are allowed outside are far less likely to urinate in the home, claw at furniture, stalk humans or your other household pets, they are less likely, than indoor cats, to become frustrated or bored with their surroundings.

Outdoor cats are less likely to have a weight problem, cats get their exercise hunting, stalking, climbing etc. Indoor cats not only have less opportunity for exercise, but can also overeat through boredom.

Outdoor cats suffer fewer stress related problems. Solitary indoor cats rely heavily on their owners for stimulation, and can become very dependent. Should the owner have to spend long periods away from the home this can cause the cat stress.

Out of the house, cats can find social stimulation by interacting with other cats; thus they are more independent.

Indoors a cat has a very small territory (the home,) and sometimes finds it stressful if new people, new pets, or even new items of furniture are introduced into the home.

In the outdoors, cats can help control pests. Cats that are allowed out help keep the rodent population around your home and garden under control.

However it must be kept in mind that our feline friends do encounter plenty of dangers and hazards in the outside world.

Some of the risks to outside cats are....

Outdoor Cat BullyThere is at least one bully cat in every neighborhood.
  • Traffic. The closer you live to highly trafficked roads the greater the risk of death, or serious injury, to your outdoor cat. Cats and traffic do not mix, period.
  • Dogs and other animals. Free roaming dogs, other cats, foxes, rodents, snakes etc. can cause outdoor cats injury (and even death.) Sadly, sadistic humans are sometimes the cause of cat injuries.
  • Loss. Cats, being curious by nature, love to investigate strange places and can get shut in garages or garden sheds. Outdoor cats can get driven away in vehicles they have climbed into. It is not unknown for outside cats to move in with someone else, no matter how well you may have treated them. It must also be mentioned that there are low life cat-snatchers that patrol the streets.
  • Poisoning. Outside cats can become poisoned by the many chemicals used in gardening, or by eating prey that has been poisoned. Many of the plants found in gardens can be poisonous to your cat
  • Fighting. Territorial, and other disputes, can lead to fighting between outdoor cats and these fights may result in serious injury. Un-neutered tom cats are particularly at risk.
  • Disease Fighting with other outdoor cats, and feral cats, can result in infections with, FIV (cat HIV), feline leukemia virus, and cat flu amongst other diseases.
  • Parasites Fleas and other parasites can be picked up by outside cats from their prey, and contact with other animals.

As well as the above dangers there may be a few other problems for the owners of cats that are allowed outside...

Offerings. Outdoor kitties will often leave you a present, the trophies of their hunt, more often than not right in the middle of the carpet.

Angry neighbors. The owners of outside cats frequently have to deal with complaints from neighbors, about their cat using other peoples gardens as a public toilet (or worse, using their child's sandbox to relieve itself in.)

Wildlife. Cats do not only hunt undesirable wildlife unfortunately any creature of a suitable size will be seen as prey whether it’s a rodent or a rare wild bird.

Upsetting, but that is the nature of cats. Your free roaming cat will likely generate complaints from your neighbors about its hunting habits.

As stated above, where you live will have to be a major influence on your decision.

Outside cats may not be the best choice for those of us that live in towns or cities. The heavy traffic levels of today do not give cats much of a chance.

Keeping an outdoor cat may not be an option for those who live in high rise apartments.

Your lifestyle will also be a factor in your choice. Is there someone in the home for large parts of the day, or does work and other commitments mean that an indoor cat would spend a lot of its time in solitary?

Do outside cats have a shorter lifespan? The dangers to cats in the outside world must mean that on average felines that are exposed to those dangers don’t live as long as cats that are protected by being kept inside. But many outdoor cats do live to enjoy their full life span.

Some experts claim that the average lifespan of a outdoor cats is as low as 18 months. Others say 5 years. These low figures must include feral cats (for whom the perils of existence are greater).

Outdoor Cats or Indoor Cats - Compromise solution?

Confused? Wondering if perhaps no cat at all may be preferable to owning an outdoor cat with all the associated risks to its life, or keeping a psychologically stressed cat confined to a life indoors?

There are of course many steps that you can take to make owning outdoor felines less risky, and many things that you can do to give indoor cats a less psychologically stressful life.

Cat's that are allowed outside should be spayed or neutered.

Outdoor Cat
A cat enjoying freedom... however it must be kept in mind that our feline friends do encounter plenty of dangers and hazards in the outside world.

All cats should be spayed or neutered, but it is vitally important for cats that are allowed out.

It is amazing how far un-neutered tomcats will wander. Over very busy roads, without a thought for the traffic, in the search for doing a what comes naturally. Un-neutered tomcats fight frequently, and are at great risk from infected wounds. Small wonder that most do not last long.

Neutered toms do not have cause to stray so far, and are not quite so inclined to get into a scrap. Incomplete males do not cause the smell and noise nuisance that un-neutered ones do, less complaints from neighbors.

Female cats that are un-neutered and let out are obviously at risk from pregnancy.

Outdoor cats by day, Indoor cats by night. If your circumstances allow consider letting your cat out in the day but shutting him in at night.

Night is a far more dangerous time for a cat to be out, vehicle headlights can dazzle, and there is the risk of injury, or death, from nocturnal animals.

It is possible to train cats to come to you when called (it takes patience). Letting your cat out at dawn for exercise, and to pursue a feline social life, and encouraging her indoors by nightfall will allow her a lot of the benefits of a free roaming cats life, and the safety of an indoor cats life.

Outdoor cats and vaccination. Make sure that your cat gets vaccinated against all infectious diseases.

This will lessen the risk to a cat that is allowed outside, from bites and other fight wounds. Outside cats will go hunting so should be wormed regularly.

Outside cats should always carry ID. If you let your cat outside make sure that she has an identification tag with your name and phone number, so that should your cat be injured anyone finding her can let you know.

The outdoors presents cats with ample places to climb and explore. Fit your cat out with a collar that has a safety catch, or use an elasticized collar, that way your cat will be able to escape if she gets caught up somewhere.

Owners of outdoor kitties can have a tiny microchip injected under their cats skin, this microchip carries a unique identification number. Most cat rescue centers automatically scan for this microchip and match it to the address on file.

Outdoor cats under supervision. If you have a garden or yard and can have it fenced (a minimum of 6ft is best), you can allow your cat a daily prowl and exercise under your watchful eye.

It is possible to buy an invisible fence system specially made for cats. This comprises of a special collar, a wire that you bury around the perimeter of your yard, and a beeper.

As the cat approaches the buried wire the beeper sounds, if the cat continues a very mild shock is felt by the cat. These invisible fences are reported to work very well, the cats, being intelligent creatures, soon learn not to ignore the beep.

However it is not recommended that these fences are used with the cat unsupervised.

Outdoor cats on a leash. Cats can be trained to walk on a leash attached to a harness, and some will even walk city streets amongst traffic and crowds of people. 

outdoor cat

Some cats will only be happy on a leash for short periods at a time, and others will not accept the leash at all.

Do remember though that cats that have lived indoors for a number of years, will not easily be turned into outdoor cats by leash training.

The less used to an outside environment a cat is, the more patience will be required.

Playtime for cats. Cats that are kept permanently inside, or cats that are mostly indoors, do not have the same opportunity for exercise that free roaming cats have.

Owners can at the least partially compensate for this by playing with their cats, and providing cat toys. Most pet stores have a range of toys designed to keep cats amused, also try crumpled paper, paper bags (not plastic bags) and cardboard boxes.

Indoor cats will follow their natural instincts and sharpen their claws, and if nothing else is available your furniture will do nicely!

Outdoor cats can use trees and fence posts for this activity. If your cat is prevented from going outside, obtain a good quality scratch post and save your household furnishings.

Cats eat grassy vegetation to help them regurgitate hairballs, outside cats usually have no problem finding a supply.

If you are keeping your cat indoors provide her with an indoor grass box. Sow cat grass in a potting mixture every couple of weeks and your cat will always have a fresh supply.

Hopefully the information on this page will help you to decide whether indoor or outdoor cats are the best choice for you.

Quite possibly you may come to the decision that 'the third way', cat indoors at night with the freedom to go out in the daytime, is just right. Indoor or outdoor, all cats need love and care, give them those two things and your cats will repay you a thousand fold.

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