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Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats: Should You Keep Your Cat Inside or Outside?

Should You Keep Your Cat Inside or Outside?

This is an area of much dispute among cat owners: should their pets be allowed to go outside, or should they be kept strictly indoors? There are strong opinions on both sides of the question.

On the one hand, there’s the “natural” argument. Cats simply are outdoor creatures, people say, and to keep them essentially locked up and caged is cruel. These animals are natural explorers and roamers, and it could actually be too stressful on their psyches to restrict them to an enclosed area that, to them, is way too small. One only needs to watch how desperately some cats try to get outside when the door is opened even a crack, to realize that their caging is a cause of real distress.

And anyway, add these proponents, allowing a cat outside will provide exercise and keep its senses and reflexes sharp and alert. Not only that, but letting the cat out will reduce the use of the indoor litter box. And whatever spraying or scratching it might do to mark its territory will occur more outside than inside.

Those who are against allowing a cat outside have many valid arguments in their turn. One of the big ones is the danger from vehicles. Unless you’re in quite a secluded area of the city, or live in a small town or rural location, the pet will be in frequent danger from cars and trucks. Many cats will be able to judge distances and speeds and avoid getting hit when crossing a road, but any high traffic area will multiply the danger a thousandfold.

But say you do live in a more rural area, so the danger from vehicles is diminished. This is when another peril can arise: coyotes, raccoons, and other predators that could simply drag the cat away, never to be seen again.

Allowing the cat outdoors in a more populated area could also lead to fights with neighbor cats, increasing the possibility of wounds and infection. People could have plants that are poisonous to cats in their gardens. And neighbors could object strenuously to the cat being allowed to use their gardens as litter boxes. This could even lead to soured relations with others who live nearby, and calls to animal control. The cat could be picked up as a stray, and either end up at the shelter to be adopted to another family, or even euthanized.

Some cats actually don’t mind staying indoors, enjoying the security and, let’s face it, a pretty cushy life. They’re happy not to have to hunt for their own food, defend their territory, or get their fur all dirty. But others do seem to have difficulty with the indoor life, constantly wanting to go outside, never ceasing to feel the deep call of the wild. While most cats can eventually adjust to remaining inside, there are a few who genuinely do seem to experience great stress when denied the outside world.

One alternative that works for some of these is something of a “hybrid” solution. If the cat can be trained to wear a harness and walk with a leash, it could be tethered securely in the yard and at least have some fresh air and have a little wider movement. It could even be taken for daily walks, the same way dogs go outside. This could be a way for cat and owner both to have time outdoors every day, and it may help the cat work off some of that yearning and energy. This works best with as long a leash as the owner can manage (even if it’s necessary to clip two shorter ones together), so the cat can feel as free as possible in its movements.

Whichever choice the owner makes, he or she must realize that it will have certain consequences. The safety and health of the cat – including its psychological health – has to be considered very carefully.

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