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Indoor Cats Versus Outdoor Cats

by Helen Anslow BSc (Hons)

One of the decisions that you will have to make as a cat owner is whether you want to allow your cat to be an indoor or outdoor cat. Many owners decide to have their cats as a mixture of both, letting them outside whenever they want to go out, however this is not always the case.

By allowing your cat access to the outside world it encourages behaviours that they would display in the wild.

Which cat breeds are indoor cats? 

Many people who have pedigree cats choose to keep them inside their houses or in a cat run of some sort. This is usually because these cats are companion animals. Many pedigree cats suffer from multiple health conditions that have been bred into them via selective breeding. In some cat species such as Ragdolls and Persians, their natural instincts have been bred out of them, meaning that if they were to be let outside it would difficult for them to defend themselves if a predator were to go after them.

Are indoor cats really happy?

When keeping cats inside it is important to keep in mind that a cats needs and wants are different to our own. We must not anthropomorphise them and think that what we need or want for them is what they need and want from us.

In order to maintain a happy environment for your cat, we must first look at how the animal behaves in the wild. A housing system that allows the cat to be outdoors for part of the day is highly beneficial to the cat as it allows them to alleviate boredom, stress and allows them to explore new things.

In the wild, cats will spend the majority of their time hunting or searching for food and so it is important to give indoor cats the same opportunities. Cat hunting feeders offer cats the chance to hide pieces of food or treats inside in a situation similar to the wild. It may also be a good idea to obtain a puzzle feeder that you can hide away in different places around the house to help encourage their natural hunting instincts.

How do outdoor cats hunt?

Outdoor cats will hunt for their food all throughout the day and night times. Once the cat has caught their prey they will usually play with it for a long time before actually consuming it. We cannot allow indoor cats to replicate this behaviour if they are being fed only out of bowls. It is important to try and keep an indoor cat mentally active and in touch with its natural instincts.

Buying toys for your cat and playing with them and the puzzle feeders act as mental stimulus and keeping them physically active, which can reduce the likelihood of obesity.  Cats that do not have access to the outside become more susceptible to obesity due to the lack of opportunities for them to exercise to the extent that they would normally do in their natural environment in the wild.

In conclusion…

Indoor cats on the whole need a lot more time and dedication to ensure that they are well looked after both physically and mentally as they lack the environmental enrichment that outdoor cats have. However, if you have plenty of time on your hands and are willing to put in the time and dedication to ensure they are in optimal health then an indoor cat can be a very good companion.


by Helen Anslow BSc (Hons)