A cat is a lot more responsibility than a lot of people might think. Although about 38% of all American households have a dog, many others prefer cats. There remains a common misconception that cats are low-maintenance pets and that they don’t require the same level of care as a dog. This is the case if you don’t really care about what happens to your cat, or having a healthy cat; in which case, you really shouldn’t own one in the first place. In fact, cats are sensitive creatures. Though they may display their affection in ways that differ from that of the family dog, they bond with their families and are quite depending on them for their emotional well being, food, and medical care. A cat is also a major commitment, and in terms of time is more of a commitment than a dog. If you adopt a cat as a kitten, you could very well end up living with it for up to 25 years. Although a cat’s average lifespan will max out at around 16 to 18 years, it’s not unusual for a healthy cat to live well into its twenties. So the question is: is it better for you to keep your cat indoors or outdoors during that time?
The debate on whether or not it’s okay to keep a cat outdoors is one that will never really stop. However, it is possible to own a healthy cat while keeping it largely outdoors. This is in part thanks to the advent of microchips. Whereas keeping an outdoor cat collared can be complex, what with the risks posed by some collars that can catch on branches and lead to injury, a microchip will ensure that should your cat get lost, it can be easily returned to you as soon as its microchip is scanned. However, cats themselves are territorial creatures and don’t tend to wander too far away from the home on a permanent basis. With that being said, there are a number of different reasons why some people still feel more comfortable with keeping their cat indoors. There are sacrifices that come with either option, certain things to keep in mind no matter what. With that being said, let’s look into the pros and cons of keeping an indoor or outdoor cat.
Outdoor Pro: Less Mess
An outdoor cat can largely be kept outdoors, with occasional visits inside for bonding. However, one major benefit of keeping a cat outdoors instead of indoors is that there is less mess for you to worry about. When your cat is used to outdoor living, you don’t have to worry about offering it a litter box. Nor will you need to worry about it shedding, or scratching your furniture in an effort to mark its territory. Your feline friend can remain perfectly safe while being outdoors, but you don’t have to worry about the consequences of keeping it inside.
This is one aspect a lot of owners don’t think about when assuming that they’ll be keeping an indoor cat. While cats are overall quite neat, known to bathe themselves nearly constantly, there are messy parts of keeping a cat. A litter box is always going to smell on some level, no matter how clean you keep it. Depending on the type of litter you buy, you’ll either have to clean it several times a day and flush the litter or use something like a litter box genie in order to dispose of the litter throughout the day and then throw it away in a trash can. As your cat kicks up the litter during its attempts to bury its waste, the litter will inevitably get everywhere. Most cats also shed as well and will leave their hair throughout the house. Another issue that you may find with indoor cats is that they may potentially try to mark their territories indoors in ways that don’t involve scratching. Cat owners dread dealing with their cats “spraying”, or urinating on surfaces to mark them because it’s difficult to resolve. Some cats don’t exhibit this behavior at all, and though it’s more common in males, females may do it as well. Usually, spaying or neutering your cat will take care of the problem, but some cats do continue to spray afterward. This could lead to continuous carpet cleanings, as well as odors that you really can’t completely eliminate. Outdoors, this really isn’t anything you need to worry about. In fact, this is one reason why outdoor living may be better for some cats, leaving them happier and less anxious. They have more freedom and can do as they please.
Indoor Pro: Peace Of Mind
Chances are that your cat will love his or her outdoor adventures. Cats are in many ways built for outdoor living, as their claws are made for hunting and their energy levels can often be difficult to fully deal with indoors. However, there’s something to be said about the common phrase stating that cats are actually just miniature tigers. Yes, they have a lot of the same predatory instincts and behaviors, but remember that word: miniature! Even the biggest of house cats are very small, with a typical healthy cat not being much heavier than 15 pounds. Yes, cats have defensive instincts and techniques, but they can still potentially get hurt outside. No matter how safe your neighborhood is, you don’t really know what your cat is dealing with out there. They might wander around, making lots of new friends; or they could potentially stumble upon a dangerous animal or even a human who intends to hurt them. There’s also always the chance that someone might decide to pick up your cat and take it home with them as their own pet. Unless you find that person and force them to have the cat’s microchip scanned, it might be difficult to get your pet back in this kind of circumstance. Finally, there is the ever-present danger of your cat being hit by a car, even if someone tries to avoid them.
Now, there are of course precautions that you can take to ensure that your outdoor cat is as safe and healthy as possible. You should always make sure that your cat sees a veterinarian regularly, regardless of whether it’s living outdoors or indoors. Your vet will keep your cat up to date on its vaccinations, which will keep it from picking up certain diseases. Whether your cat is outdoor or indoor, if you want a healthy cat you need to make sure that it has all the necessary vaccines. Of course, you’ll want to procure other preventatives from your vet as well. Fleas are not only annoying; they can also potentially lead to your cat growing seriously ill. Furthermore, it’s easier to keep your cat on a flea preventative than to keep applying multiple flea treatments. Another important thing to consider regarding your cat’s health care is having it spayed or neutered before allowing it to go outside. Letting an unaltered cat wander around outside is not only irresponsible but also genuinely bad for their health. An altered cat is ultimately a healthy cat; while they’re no longer able to reproduce, they’re also no longer able to develop cancers that are specific to the reproductive system. Ultimately, being able to have peace of mind regarding their cat’s health and safety makes a lot of cat owners feel more comfortable with the indoor cat lifestyle. This doesn’t however, mean that you’re irresponsible or a bad cat owner if your cat is outdoors. Just know that an outdoor lifestyle isn’t going to be right for all cats. Cats with special health needs or perhaps rescue cats that have been declawed cannot live healthily outside.
Outdoor Con: Cats Are Cats
This issue somewhat links to the peace of mind that we discussed above. Most of the time, a healthy cat can have a great time while living outside. It’s really not an issue for most cats to engage in their natural behaviors outdoors, but in some neighborhoods, this can be a bit more problematic. Keep in mind that even if you have fencing around your home, your cat is most likely going to be able to easily scale that and move on to wandering around the area. While your close, friendly neighbors may not have an issue with your cat, you never know who might end up becoming irritated. Your cat isn’t going to care about what is private property and what isn’t. They could very well end up leaving their droppings in a neighbor’s yard or even getting into a territory dispute with another outdoor cat. While this isn’t usually a major problem, you might end up having to make some embarrassing apologies for your furry friend’s less than ideal behavior.
A somewhat bigger problem that a lot of people have been voicing recently regarding neighborhood outdoor cats is that of hunting. Hunting is a natural behavior for a healthy cat, and they’ll exhibit these types of behaviors whether they’re indoors or outdoors. Nobody really complains when a cat is hunting annoying pests. But it becomes something of a problem if cats begin hunting certain types of birds. Many neighborhoods have noticed an issue with outdoor cats hunting songbirds, and at times decimating the songbird population. You can’t stop your cat from engaging in this type of behavior. This is why a lot of people, for the sake of keeping the peace with their neighbors, decide against keeping their cat outdoors.
Indoor Con: Yes, Cats Are Cats
Conversely, there’s a lot to be said for the theory that it’s harder for cats to be happy when they’re kept indoors. While a cat is able to hunt mice outside, the most exciting things they’ll catch indoors are bugs. Every cat is different, with some exhibiting stronger instincts than others. A lot of cats also show a markedly relaxed attitude after they’re spayed or neutered, which may make this less of an issue for you in the long term. However, many cats do struggle with boredom, which can ultimately give way to anxiety and a number of bad behaviors.
When a cat is experiencing frustrations while living at home, they may show a number of different frustrated behaviors. This can include “acting out” through spraying, scratching more frequently on furniture, and sometimes even showing aggression to their owners. You may find yourself with a literal grumpy cat, which isn’t as cute as the ones that you see online. Cats have also been knowing to show their anxiety through chewing. When a cat chews excessively on things that they shouldn’t, they not only cause you a lot of stress; they also can potentially damage their own teeth. Now, there are things that you can do to dissuade this type of behavior. For one thing, certain types of cleaners can actually employ scents that will keep a cat from wanting to spray in the areas in which they’re applied. For another, you might simply find luck through playing with your cat more, providing toys that will engage them physically and mentally. A healthy cat doesn’t just keep its body occupied, but its mind as well.
There is clearly a lot that goes into keeping a healthy cat. However, every cat has different needs as well as different personalities. Don’t assume that because your first cat had a great time outdoors that your next cat will do the same. Nor should you assume, when adopting a cat, that it’s going to thrive in any single living situation. If you can’t keep a cat indoors, you shouldn’t adopt a cat; because you may very well one day need to shift your outdoor cat indoors.
Ultimately, a cat is a part of your family, and your focus needs to be not on having the perfect cat but on having a healthy cat that is happy to live with you. If you prioritize its needs, you’ll be sure to succeed!
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