Cats first came in from the wild and took up residence with humans in ancient Egypt as early as 2500 B.C. - and the controversy over whether the family cat should live indoors or outdoors has probably raged on since then. This is a highly charged and emotional issue for cat owners, and both sides continue to argue strongly over it.
Some cat owners feel their cats should be allowed to roam free outside, as their wild ancestors did. Other owners believe it's best for the health and safety of a cat to keep him indoors. (See "Myths and Facts" and "Indoors vs. Outdoors" below.) PETCO strongly recommends keeping your cat indoors, in the safety of your home.
Preparations and Precautions
The easiest way to train your cat to be a happy indoor feline is to start with a kitten that has never ventured outside. If you do decide to make yours an exclusively indoor cat, you'll need to give him a little extra attention to ward off any bouts of loneliness or boredom. Plan to spend at least 20 minutes twice a day in one-on-one sessions with your cat, petting him and playing games.
Many indoor cats enjoy nibbling on greens as a dietary supplement. You can provide this by planting some grass seed or alfalfa in a pot. Doing so may also help keep him from chewing on your houseplants, some of which can be poisonous.
Occasionally, he'll appreciate having a whiff of the outdoors. Many cats love to stretch out in front of an open window and sun themselves or watch the world go by. Just make sure the window screens are secure first. If your cat is an avid window-watcher, consider installing a special shelf to make the windowsill wider. These shelves, some of which are padded for extra comfort, are available for purchase. Remember that just because your cat likes to watch out the window, it doesn't mean he's longing to go outside. To an indoor cat, the great outdoors is just an entertainment that flashes by, like images across the television screen.
Sometimes it's possible to allow your cat the best of both worlds. By teaching him to walk on a leash, or by providing him with a securely enclosed space outside, you can give him both the safety and comfort of the indoors and the wonders of the outdoors. If you decide to make yours a leash-trained cat, you'll need the right equipment - and a lot of patience - to help him learn to walk outside. When converting your outdoor cat to a life indoors, realize that it will take some time and effort, but that it can be done successfully.
Always ensure that your cat is properly protected by:
Myths and Facts
- Making his home environment as safe as possible by cat-proofing all areas where he is likely to roam.
- Making sure he receives regular vaccinations, especially for rabies, distemper and feline leukemia.
- Equipping him with an elastic or breakaway collar with an identification tag.
Myth: Outdoors is a cat's natural environment.
When cats became domesticated thousands of years ago, they were removed from their natural environment. They have evolved to the point where they depend on humans for food and shelter; therefore, their natural environment is now indoors.
Myth: It is cruel to deprive my cat of the pleasures of being outside.
While it is true that cats do like to go outdoors, they can be perfectly content indoors. Many indoor cats actually find the outdoors very frightening. With consideration and planning on your part, you can provide toys and activities to keep your cat healthy and happy indoors. And with patience, your cat can even be leash-trained to make the occasional trip outdoors at your side.
Myth: Cats can take care of themselves.
Outdoor cats face higher risks of injury and illness; their life spans are dramatically lower. Millions of taxpayers dollars are spent every year to rescue, treat, feed and house cats that are allowed to roam-free.
Indoors vs. Outdoors: A Comparison
Indoor cats have an average life span of 12 - 20 years when compared to 1 - 5 years for a cat kept outdoors.
Indoor cats require extra attention and playtime from their owners to receive adequate exercise and to satisfy their "natural instincts." Outdoor cats get more exercise and express their "natural instincts." However, they are more exposed to diseases and parasites such as feline leukemia, toxoplasmosis, ringworm, ticks and fleas. Additionally, outdoor cats may get into life threatening fights with other animals.
Indoor cats encounter far few life-threatening risks than outdoor cats. Indoor cats do face the danger of poisonous houseplants and household chemical. Outdoor cats face much higher risks of injury or death due to starvation, poisoning, struck by vehicles; they can even be stolen or abused by strangers.
Indoor cats do require a litter box that has to be cleaned daily. Outdoor cats trespass on neighbors' properties, damage flowerbeds, get into garbage and may kill birds and small animals.