Should your kitty live exclusively indoors or be allowed to roam freely outside in a more natural environment? This is a controversial and often heavily debated subject among cat lovers. Some believe that living in the safe and secure indoor environment is best while others view that it is cruel to keep a cat inside and that they should be allowed to explore the outdoors. The question is, what is best for your cat?
Two Sides of the Argument
The lifespan of an exclusively indoor has been known to reach 20 or more years. Protected from the elements, indoor felines never have to worry about harsh winter weather, extreme summer heat, or battle any type of inclimate weather. Fed a steady diet, there is no need to worry where the next meal will come from and their bellies are always full.
Although this seems like the perfect kitty life, with everything perfectly managed for them, there is little left for them to do. Most indoor cats sleep the day away with the majority of their physical activity coming from their walks to the food bowl. Obesity becomes a problem for many indoor kitties which leads to health problems and need for medications. Natural prowlers and trappers, indoor environments leave little opportunity for them to act on their instincts and therefore provide little mental stimulation.
Outdoor cats have the opportunity to stretch their legs and run and prowl as their wild ancestors did. They are able to hunt and trap mice and birds and eat natural plants. Cats living as cats, the way of their wild ancestors. With space to run, and having to work for their meals, obesity is not a concern and this type of life provides plenty of mental stimulation.
However, not all outdoor cats will be in the same environment as their ancestors were and face many different types of dangers. The lifespan of an outdoor cat is greatly reduced, as few as 3 years for cats living in urban or suburban areas. Street traffic is a huge danger and natural foods may not be readily available. Extreme weather conditions are also a concern, especially if there may be no place for them to find adequate shelter. City cats, in an effort to find relief from the elements, often climb into cars and snuggle for warmth under the hoods…a very dangerous place for a cat.
What is Best?
Living in a rural environment that is natural and green, and allows kitty to run as their ancestors did, is wonderful place for a cat. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Given the proper tools, cats can adapt to their “unnatural” environment and live a happy, fulfilled life. Exclusively indoor cats should be given plenty of opportunity for mental stimulation through toys, and places to hide and climb. They need to be fed a nutritionally complete diet with natural ingredients and be provided with many opportunities for social interaction.
Some city or suburban cats are given the opportunity to explore the outdoors being “walked” on a leash. This is a trend that is increasing in popularity. Unlike walking a dog, cats are allowed to explore outdoors while being supervised attached to a leash with an appropriate kitty harness. Indoor cats can also experience the outdoors by having access to a perch in a sunny, open screened window.
I believe that where you and your kitty live is the first factor in determining what’s best. Cats can live long, happy, fulfilled lives either indoors or outdoors as long as they are provided with the tools to help them adapt to their environment.