Should Cats Be Allowed Outdoors?

I was reading an article in DVM Magazine (yes, I have a very exciting life) about cats with extreme behavioral issues and one of the suggested “remedies” was to let the cat be an outdoor cat.  Not an indoor-outdoor cat, but strictly an outdoor cat.  The argument was that being an outdoor cat was better than being a euthanized cat.  While I think the jump from a behavioral problem to banning a cat from the house is a big leap (though one I would consider for our kids), I was surprised by the wide range of responses to the article by veterinarians.

There were some veterinarians who thought that a cat should never be allowed outside — that the risks of the outdoors were simply too great to the cat and that once outdoors cats were too detrimental to the environment and too disturbing to neighbors.  At the other end of the spectrum were veterinarians who claim that indoor/outdoor cats are healthier and less likely to engage in the bad behavior that started this discussion.

What do you think?  Should we keep our house cats in the house or let them out and about?  When considering your cat’s health and safety, how do you balance the risks and rewards to you and to your cat?

Thanks for reading!

9 thoughts on “Should Cats Be Allowed Outdoors?

  1. M y female cat is strictly indoors.  She has not been euthanized although I think it is a good idea when she is in heat OMG.  However, outdoors is dangerous.  I have lost three cats to the outdoors in the past and do not intend on losing another one. 

  2. I would love to  be able to have indoor/outdoor cats, but to do that in our area would be to turn them into Coyote food.  I do let them outside for a bit during the summer months – during the day time when I’m outside too.  They don’t stray too far from the house so I can keep an eye on them and as long as the dogs are kept in their yard, the cats get a peaceful adventure.

  3. Cats are much safer indoors, it’s true. It’s not the life for some though, including my most recent kitty. She came to me from the outdoors and refused to be an indoor only cat. I think it’s interesting that they suggest letting the cat stay outside full time and I can see where they are coming from. 

  4. Great subject and one that often ignites a wide variance of opinions, as you have discovered. In the animal welfare community the consensus seems to be that keeping cats strictly indoors is best. I understand the reasons for this but I think it really depends on the cat involved.

    My cat does go outside on occasion, usually only when we are outside with him, but depending on the weather he is probably out for around twenty minutes, give or take, each day. In the winter he might not go at all and in the summer he might be out for much longer or more frequently. We tried keeping him in but he kept finding ways to escape and when he escaped after being cooped up for so long he would be gone for days at a time. It is actually safer for him, in a roundabout way, to be given permission to go out regularly, that way he’ll have his freedom but always come back. You have to know your cat. Our guy is not only pretty savvy, he is also extremely cautious. I trust him to avoid the road because I know how skittish he is. I know when he goes out he rarely leaves our property and usually just skulks around the perimeter. It works for us and I know it helps keep him sane. If he was a different cat with a different personality, I might be changing the rules.

    In my uneducated opinion, I do think many cat behaviour problems – and potentially health problems caused by stress or weight gain – could be solved by allowing cats to go outdoors. Just like our dogs they need exercise and stimulation. Many indoor cats don’t receive enough of this in the form of play. But to say that they should live permanently outside is a pretty big leap, especially if you live in an area with cold weather.

  5. Isn’t it sad that because WE live in a built up area and because WE want a pedigree cat and because WE want to keep a cat, the poor cat has to suffer being imprisoned in a house. People will say ‘my cat doesn’t like going out’ or   my cat enjoys being indoors. Well I like being indoors and out and I have the freedom to choose. Cat’s like to hunt and chase other cats and lay in the warm sun and shelter in the shade and bury their poo in the card and pee up the neighbours car as well as lay on the bed. They should be allowed as natural a life as possible. If you live in an unsuitable area – don’t have a cat! Humans are so selfish. Some are animal prison wardens. I hope if I come back in another life I come back as a bird even if the cat gets me.

  6. Great subject. My cats were indoor – outdoor and lived to be 18 years old.  However, I will not let a cat stay out at night.  It’s just not safe with coyotes, owls, etc. that we live with here. 

  7. We used to let our cats be indoor/outdoor but after one was killed by a fox, I said no more. Fortunately the two we have now have never know outdoors, so it’s worked out great.

  8. I’ve always had indoor/outdoor cats, and they always come in at night, IF I can get them in… however I do understand both sides of this issue. I just love watching the fun they have when they are outdoors, but then I also live outside of the city, where mine have room to roam, safely. 

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