Is It Cruel to Keep a Cat Indoors?

Indoor cats live 10 times longer on the average than outdoor cats, according to Dr. Steven Fairchild.
i curious cat image by Janet Wall from

So you want your adorable new kitten to live indoors as a housecat, but Aunt Eunice says cats belong outside and that it's cruel to keep a cat indoors. What are the real facts in the indoors-versus-outdoors cat debate? Does keeping a cat inside go against its nature?

Expert Opinions

Dr. Justin Lee and other veterinarians lead the pack of indoors proponents. Being pet doctors, they see firsthand the numerous medical grounds for keeping a cat inside. Dangers include being shot with BB guns, hit by cars, attacked by dogs or other cats, and being exposed to parasites and infectious diseases. In fact, when talking to cat parents about whether or not they should allow their kitty outside, Dr. Lee points out that an indoor cat can live to be as old as 21 while the average lifespan of an outdoors-only cat is only two years.

Life on the Inside

Cats are creatures of comfort ... and what is more comfortable than a heated home in winter and an air-conditioned environment in the summer? It's not that domesticated cats can't survive life outdoors, but they do tend to thrive inside. House cats live comfortable lives, healthier than their outdoor counterparts, and they are less likely to end up at the animal shelter or to be taken by a well-meaning (or not-so-well-meaning) neighbor or stranger.

Concerns to Keep in Mind

While keeping a cat indoors is not cruel, indoor cats aren't entirely immune to problems and dangers. It's possible for indoor cats to become bored, which can lead to stress and behavior issues. Boredom can also lead to overeating and obesity. Plants and household cleaners present a danger to inside cats, as they can be poisonous if kitty snacks on them.

An Inside Cat Habitat

You can create a safe indoor environment for your cat with minimal effort. Place a litter tray in a low-traffic area of the home and keep it clean, scooping or changing the litter once a day. Provide sufficient -- but not unlimited -- food and plenty of clean water. Allow your cat access to several rooms in the house so she has ample space to roam and play but keep plants and other harmful inedibles out of her reach. Get a scratching post and encourage her to use it so that she doesn't shred your sofa. Supply your cat with a variety of interesting toys to keep her occupied and happy, and make sure to spend some quality time playing with her.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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