Keeping An Indoor Vs Outdoor Cat

December 30, 2019

Maybe your pet has always preferred the outdoorsy lifestyle and cries to be let out. Perhaps you have a working farm and your cat has a job to do (and yummy mice to catch!). Maybe you moved into a new house and ‘acquired’ a new feline friend. Whatever the case may be, you now apparently have an outdoor cat. Allowing your housecat to straddle the line between being an ‘indoor’ cat and an ‘outdoor’ catmay seem like the best of both worlds.

Plenty of wild space to explore, unlimited freedom and new adventures every day and the hours spent tapping into their natural instincts hunting prey. The choice between keeping an indoor vs outdoor cathas many factors to weigh, like nutrition and safety and grooming.

What should you be considering when allowing a cat outside?

The Risks And Benefits Of Life Outside

Some cats enjoy spending their days lounging on a comfortable chair, eating gourmet wet food, and chasing catnip-filled cotton mice around the warm kitchen floor.

Others enjoy the rugged landscape of the wild beyond, honing their vicious killer instincts and working their bodies to exhaustion jumping and climbing and chasing prey.

Being an outdoor catcomes with some benefits, like being more physically active. Sensory activation is a big potential plus too - with all the scents and sights outside your cat will not be bored!

Outdoor cats definitely have fun, but there are risks to allowing a domestic pet outside, even for shorter periods of time. Dangers include:

  • Outdoor cats are often leaner and smaller than their indoor counterparts who may be an easier target for coyotes, feral dogs, and rival cats. This is one of the biggest ways that an indoor vs outdoor cat can differ.
  • Diseases like feline leukemia run rampant in outdoor catpopulations. Many outdoor cats have upper respiratory problems or sores on their skin that get infected.
  • Parasites and pests. Ticks, fleas, and an array of intestinal worms are all more likely to be seen in outdoor cats.
  • Toxins like vehicle fluids and poison (or even plants and flowers not safe for animals!)
  • Getting lost or being trapped by another person
  • Being run over by a car or getting attacked by another animal are all possible scary scenarios.

Taking Care Of Outdoor Cats

In some ways, caring for outside cats is a bit easier than caring for a pet kept strictly indoors.

There is no worry that your outdoor cat will scratch up your furniture, or that he will ignore the litter box and poop on the rug, and the food sitting on your counter is relatively safe.

An outdoor cat has some specific nurturing needs, however, and keeping an outside cat safe and clean and healthy may require more effort on your part.

While tending to your outdoor cat, if you see any unusual skin conditions (like bald spots, rashes, or cuts) or your cat is acting strangely and you do not know why then you should contact your vet immediately. Your kitty could be developing a health issue that needs medical attention.

In general, it is a good idea to make sure you let your pet care team know that you allow your cat outside. Your pet needs to be up to date on all his shots and be on preventative care medicine for fleas and ticks and heartworm. He should also be microchipped and be wearing a choke-proof collar with tags. He may also need more regular vet physicals.

It is very important that your outdoor cat is neutered. There are lots of stray cats reproducing on the streets and it is causing a problem for many cities - the most responsible thing is to not allow your cat to contribute litters of kittens.

Grooming your outdoor cat is essential to good health. Special cat grooming products are the most effective choices and will make your job faster and easier (and avoid making your cat angrier than he needs to be!).

Cats are generally clean animals, but an outdoor kitty may require a bath. He may be filthy and muddy, or he may have had a run-in with a skunk, or he may just be smelly from being outside.

Whatever the reason you are bathing your outdoor cat, make sure to use a cat shampoo, not one made for humans, and rinse extra thoroughly. Any leftover soap could build-up on his coat, making him more prone to dry skin, or could be swallowed and make him sick. Allow him to air dry before attempting to comb his hair again.

Many animals do not like having their nails trimmed. It can be very difficult for outdoor cats to survive not having any claws! His nails may need to stay sharp to be safe outside whereas an indoor catmay have shorter, duller nails or wear nail caps.

While you are grooming your outside kitty, make sure to check his skin for irregularities and growths. Take a look inside his ears, examine his teeth, and watch his movements for any abnormally uncoordinated steps or jerking.

A metal comb is the best cat brush for an outside pet. Try and gently detangle any knots. If there is a mat too large for brushing, use sharp clean scissors to trim it out of your cat’s hair. Do not nip his skin on accident! Leave at least one inch of fur anywhere you cut or you could risk skin irritation and infections.

If your cat is in rough shape, a professional groomer could help get him back to looking his best.

You may find that there is a raging debate on keeping indoor vs outdoor cats. Many people have strong opinions on allowing house cats to be outside pets.

There is no ‘correct’ way of keeping a cat so long as he is happy, healthy, and safe. Allow your cat’s unique disposition and personality to be your guide.

It is entirely possible to allow your cat the privileges of being outside coupled with the safety and security of being well cared for indoors - it just requires a little more effort!