Statistics show that indoor cats have longer, healthier lives than outdoor cats and in fact keeping your cat indoors may reduce some risks. However, these cats are also more likely to develop behavioural problems than those allowed outside if their environment isn't properly enriched. The decision to keep your cat inside or allow him or her to go outside is a personal one and much will depend on your circumstances and on the personality of the individual cat.
Knowing the benefits and disadvantages of keeping your cat indoors or outdoors will help you decide what is best for your cat. Here are some factors you should keep in mind when making this important decision:
- Accidents and injuries. Cats that live outdoors can be hit by vehicles, become injured from other cats, or attacked by dogs and other predators.
- Infectious diseases and parasites. Cats with access to the exterior can contract infectious diseases from other cats and from the environment. They can also get more parasites, such as fleas, ticks and internal parasites.
- Poisoning and getting lost. Cats that live outdoors are more likely to get poisoned and lost, since cats tend to wander. They can have access to different kinds of poisons such as slug pellets, anti-freeze and rodent control poisons, including eating poisoned prey.
- Cats with outdoor access can exercise more. Not only because they have extra space, but also because they can hunt and climb trees among other activities. Indoor cats may not get the exercise they need, which can lead to a weight problem as well as stress. In order to help your indoor cat do more exercise you can enrich your household and provide him or her with places to climb such as cat towers and a supply of toys.
- Scratching behaviour. Cats have a natural instinct to keep their claws sharp, and they do this by scratching. If cats are not allowed outside they are more likely to scratch your furniture. If you have an indoor cat, you can get a scratching post that will allow your cat to display this normal behaviour.
- The outdoor environment is particularly stimulating and interesting for cats. If you have an indoor cat, there are ways to give him or her outdoors time while minimizing the associated risks. You can use a screened in porch or an outdoor cat enclosure to allow your cat to feel like he or she is outside, without exposing him or her to the outdoors dangers. You can also train your cat to walk with a harness. Either way it is recommended to provide adequate environmental enrichment if you want to keep your cat indoors. Keep in mind some timid and older cats may also prefer to stay indoors, where they are warm and protected.
Cats kept solely indoors should be provided with ways to exhibit their natural behaviour to ensure their welfare and avoid undesirable behavioural issues. Your cat needs to have enough space to exercise, climb and play indoors. He or she should also have a variety of resting places.
Some cats love going outside and others don't want to go out at all, so wherever your cats spend their time, make sure they're safe and happy!
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