It’s a debate that rages on and has raged on for decades. Should cats be allowed outdoors?
The numbers are quite staggering. In her book, “The Cat Bible: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know,” author Tracie Hotchner writes that “a well-looked-after indoor cat can live to the age of 20, but if that same cat is allowed outdoors, the average life span is 7 years.”
That means if you keep your cats pent up inside and never let them go outside, they can live almost three times as long as the normal life expectancy. But some people say that never letting their pet experience the outdoors isn’t worth the extended life.
Let’s break this debate down in the three main areas that are thrown around in this debate:
PHYSICAL HEALTH & SAFETY
The top reason why outdoor life expectancy is so much lower is health and safety concerns. Among other dangers, traffic, predators, poisons, and disease are all potential concerns for a cat that is allowed outdoors.
These factors greatly depend on the home setting. Traffic is much more prevalent in urban settings while predators such as wolves, possums, or snakes are more likely to be a threat in rural areas.
If allowed outdoors, cats could potentially get into a variety of materials that are poisonous in either setting. Rural areas are more likely to have pesticides. Cats could get into poisonous cleaners or wastes such as motor oil in urban areas.
MENTAL HEALTH & SAFETY
If you were to given a giant, celebrity/royal palace to roam around in with a movie theater, bowling alley, indoor pools and roller coasters and whatever other indoor activities your heart desires, on the condition that you were never allowed to go outside, would you take it? Can you imagine never again being able to bathe in the warmth of the sun or to smell the fresh air?
That’s essentially what you are forcing your cats into (likely minus the bowling alley and roller coasters), if you never let them go outside. Is that fair?
It is probably best for the mental well-being of all creatures that have traditionally been outside to feel the warm sunlight. There’s a reason they even let prisoners outside for a certain amount of time.
One of the primary reasons given for allowing a cat outdoors is for it to get more exercise. Many indoor cats get lazy and then add extra weight because they no longer have predators or prey to hunt.
But this is the responsibility of the cat owners. Just as parents of young children are responsible for their kids health and well-being, it is indoor cat owners’ duty to make sure their furbabies are healthy. Owners should schedule play times filled with exercise, games, etc.
Outdoor cats will naturally get more exercise than indoor cats if left on their own. However, a wise and caring owner easily evens the playing field in this case.
VERDICT: This is a complicated debate. If you are staunchly on one side or the other, it is highly unlikely that you will be crossing over to the opposing side anytime soon. But for those in the middle, which way should you lean?
Do extra years or extra experiences equate to more happiness? Are you more concerned about how your cat makes you feel or how your cat feels?
If you are selfish, then you will definitely want your cat to live a longer life at the cost of experiencing the potential joy of playing in a natural setting outdoors. If you want your cat to have the most enjoyment, then you will potentially put him/her at a greater risk for sickness, disease and possibly even death, but let him/her enjoy stalking and pouncing on everything that moves in a cat’s natural environment.
In the end, it’s probably best to have a compromise and take your indoor cats out in a controlled environment, allowing them to roam free on occasion — the best of both worlds.