Every cat owner has asked themselves the same question: Do I let my kitty out to enjoy exploring new things, or do I keep them inside, safe from harm's way?
It's a toughie. As a newbie "cat mom" I have had to think about this myself and it's quite a big decision to make. So here we are going to go through the pros and cons of each option and hopefully that helps you decide on whether you want to let your cat out or not.
The main benefit of letting your feline friend outside to roam is that they have the freedom to play, exercise and explore.
Freedom - Your cat will develop natural feline behaviours such as marking their territory, climbing, socialising, sunbathing and even hunting (the latter being something we want to discourage). By being outdoors, cats are given the opportunity to use all of their senses and talents.
Active - They aren't confined to a small area which means they will be active and they definitely won't be bored.
The downside of letting your cat out is that there are many dangers they could encounter on their outdoor adventures. Many cats are harmed by cars, diseases or other animals when they're outside. They may also come in contact with plants or foods that are toxic to them.
Cars - Although you might think your cat is safe roaming around near your house (especially if you live on a farm) the potential risk of being hit by a car is still very real. Cats can be great at avoiding dangers but if they are running around, playing or chasing something, they might not see cars as a danger and run over a road in front of one. Unfortunately, outdoor cats are often hit by cars, some may survive with minor injuries but other won't be so lucky.
Diseases - Your cat may pick up a disease from ticks or mosquitoes. Lyme disease very rarely affects our feline friends but there are other disease they can contract from nasty bloodsucking bugs. Heartworm, passed through mosquitoes, can be fatal to cats and there is no treatment for it, only means of prevention.
Animal attacks - Other wandering cats or dogs can attack your cat if they spend a lot of time outside. Neighbouring cats could be a potential risk to your cat as they will be territorial and might see your new pet as a threat.
Cruelty - Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for our pet cats to be shot down by humans - sometimes it happens accidentally but on occasion it is done purposefully. Cats can be shot at by arrows, bb guns and even bigger hunting guns.
Killing birds - Your cat will be in their element outdoors and their hunting side is likely to come out. We have a lot of amazing birds around and it's a shame when cats get a hold of them, you might find a nasty present on your favorite rug if your cat gets into hunting.
Of course, the great thing about having an indoor cat is that it's stress free!
Stress-free - You don't have to worry about where your cat is when you're out, or that they're digging away through your plants, or if the angry cat from next door is sniffing around them. Having your cat stay inside means you always have that peace of mind.
Safety - Indoor cats live longer on average than outdoor cats because there's no threat of immediate danger. Not much can cause them grievous harm in the home. Also, owners are much quicker in identifying health problems in indoor cats before they become life threatening.
There aren't too many downsides to keeping your cat indoors. The only concern is that they will be bored, won't be very active and might try to escape - which isn't what you want.
Ruined furniture - If an indoor cat gets bored, they may start being destructive and your house will pay for it. Scratching is a big hobby of theirs, so they might start scratching on various furnishings if they don't have much to do inside all day.
Low activity - Just like dogs, cats need to be kept active or they may start to put on weight. Eating a lot and not getting any exercise is a risk when you have an indoor cat.
Poisons - You might have some plants indoors that can be toxic to cats, and when cats are curious and/or bored they might just go for a bit of it. Other household items are a danger too e.g cleaning products, so if your cat is permanently indoors, you'll have to be careful what you leave lying around.
Escape - Your feline friend will still be curious about the outdoors and might try to sneak out through windows and doors.
What's right for you?
Deciding on having an indoor or outdoor cat is entirely up to you, you'll need to take all of the above points into consideration before you make it though. The main thing to think about is your house and the surroundings.
If you get a cat whilst they are young, it's easy for them to become a strictly indoor cat, strictly outdoor cat or a bit of both. On the other hand, if you are adopting an older cat, it may mean taking some time in training them - but if you adopt a cat that is already an outdoor cat, there is no reason why they can't adapt to being indoors.
In our case, my partner and I adopted little Tess who was around a year old and we decided to have her mostly inside. We still wanted to let her out for a run, play and exploration for a couple of hours a day though, and as we don't live near a busy road, we thought this was possible. This way, Tess could use up some energy and be free for a little while, but we would still know she is safe inside the rest of the time. We have a big garden with a great hedge around the sides and our kitty doesn't really leave the boundaries when she is out. We're very lucky for that, but she is still quite weary of loud noises so over time she might become more confident in being outdoors.