Indoor cats are pets that live inside a house or apartment all of the time without ever going outside. In these days of city living, this is becoming a common way to keep a cat or kitten.
There might be a lot of reasons why you would want to keep a cat indoors. Maybe you live in an upper floor apartment where the cat cannot easily get in and out. Depending on the layout and height of your apartment building, you might be able to hear him mewing and let him in, but in many cases you will not. A cat will often ‘adopt’ another owner or become wild if he cannot get inside when he wants to. To prevent this, you could keep him indoors. But probably you worry about whether this is really good for the cat.
Or your cat may have a condition that requires indoor living. For example, cats who are deaf or blind may be kept in the house all of the time because their disability gives them a greater risk of being hit by traffic; cats who have a serious infectious disease such as feline immunodeficiency virus (a.k.a. feline AIDS) are kept inside to prevent them from passing it on to other cats; etc. In this case you have no choice.
So is it cruel to stop a cat from ever going outside? Are cats that spend time outdoors healthier and happier than indoor cats?
The answer, it seems, is no. According to the American Veterinary Association, to name just one body, indoor cats are healthier, happier and live longer than cats that are free to roam outside.
When a cat has lived all of its life inside a house or apartment, it hardly knows that the outside world exists. It watches out of the window not because it wants to go there, but because it is an interesting sight with lots of movement. It’s like us watching TV.
So there is no reason why indoor cats should be unhappy, as long as they have a good relationship with their owners. Of course, you will need to play with your cat often when you are home, especially if you live alone with no other pets. Indoor cats also need more toys than outdoor cats. But given these conditions, your indoor cat has a very good chance of living to a healthy, happy old age.
Of course, one reason that indoor cats live longer is that they do not have the same risk of dying in traffic accidents or from injuries caused in fights. But there is more to it than that. Indoor cats are also less likely to catch infectious diseases or suffer from fleas and worms. And if they do get sick, their owners usually notice it quicker because they are around them all of the time.
And yet a lot of people, including some cat owners, think that it is cruel and unnatural never to let a cat go outside. The truth is that as long as the cat is always kept in the house (or transported in a carrier) from the day it is born, it will not suffer. But if a cat has lived an indoor/outdoor life and then is kept indoors all of the time, it will surely be unhappy. So if you want an indoor cat, be sure to get a kitten and not a rescue cat whose history you don’t know.