Having a cat is not as simple as throwing away bowls of food and water. We are all responsible for keeping our cats safe, satisfied, and happy, and this can require some tricky decisions to make. There are pros and cons to letting cats outside, including some real safety hazards.
Keeping cats indoors or letting them outside is a personal choice with pros and cons.
Cats kept strictly indoors still require physical and mental stimulation, as well as the ability to express natural behaviors such as play, scratching, and scent marking.
Engage indoor cats with active play and additional enrichment activities such as cat trees, scratch posts and puzzle feeders.
If your cat meows desperately to get it out, there are a few other options that can balance safety with your cat’s desire for freedom. However, keep in mind that excessive vocalization can be a symptom of certain behavioral and medical issues, not just a desire for fresh air.
Should I let my cat out?
There’s no perfect answer to whether or not you should let your cat outside, and there are a variety of options for balancing safety with the great outdoors. Let’s look at the pros and cons of allowing cats to roam.
Cats that are allowed to roam freely have three main advantages. These benefits include the following.
Cats that can move outdoors naturally have larger territories than cats that are confined to indoor environments. They’re also likely to spend more time actively playing and exploring, rather than being as sedentary as house cats (cats do like to nap!).
Also read: How Do Cats Mark Their Territory?
Outdoor cats are constantly exposed to a wide range of physical and mental stimulation. Their senses are constantly challenged by the ever-changing sights, sounds, smells and textures of the natural world around them, as well as the physical exercise involved in exploration, such as climbing fences or jumping over obstacles.
Also read: 5 Best Outdoor Cat Houses
3. Instinctive behavior
Cats are highly motivated to perform certain behaviors such as scratching, scent marking, and hunting behaviors. That’s why they can scratch your furniture or snap at your feet if a suitable replacement isn’t provided. Outside, cats are free to express these natural behaviors. Also read: How do cats hunt?
The disadvantages of allowing cats outside are mostly related to their safety. Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk, which unfortunately coincides with the more dangerous times outdoors.
Here are some of the main risks for outdoor cats:
- traffic accident
- parasitic infection
- Injuries from other wildlife or neighboring pets (such as large dogs)
- Infectious diseases from other cats, such as FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) or FeLV (feline leukemia virus)
- Unintended pregnancy if you have a virgin female cat
- Exposure to poisonous plants, pesticides, and antifreeze
- more vulnerable to cruelty, theft or confiscation of animals
- If your cat is a hunter, it can be harmful to local wildlife populations
Also read: Intestinal Parasites in Felines: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
How can I keep my cat happy indoors?
If you weigh the risks and want to keep your cat safe and sound inside, it’s still important to look after their health. If your cat is constantly meowing at doors and windows, they are trying to communicate that their needs are not being met. Here are some ways to spice up your cat’s routine, prevent boredom and frustration, and keep them happy, fulfilled, and healthy.
If your cat wants to get outside, they may be missing out on one of the three great benefits of outdoor living: exercise, enrichment, and the ability to perform natural behaviors. Fortunately, there are ways to meet these critical needs when it comes to home security. Providing a full food and water bowl is not enough; your cat has other needs that are being met.
Set aside time to spend with your cat and engage in physically and mentally stimulating activities with them such as active play, grooming, petting, and even basic training using treats as rewards for good behavior. It’s easy to develop these habits, so set aside specific times each day to interact with your cat to keep them active and excited.
More passive entertainment is also possible. Provide a scratching post, a cat tree or perch for climbing, and some educational toys or treat balls for quiet enrichment. Your cat needs to stay busy to prevent boredom, and being able to perform key behaviors such as climbing, playing, and scratching will prevent depression.
If your cats are left alone for long periods of time, consider having a pet sitter come in and keep them company. Automatic feeders that dispense food at feeding times and other random opportunities can also bring some excitement to your cat’s day.
ALSO READ: The 5 Best Interactive Cat Toys for Bored Cats
2. Outdoor safety time
There is a middle ground between having a cat that is completely indoors and one that is allowed to roam freely. There are a variety of options now available to provide your cat with some safe outdoor time.
Some cats are trained to wear a harness and leash. This process has to be done very slowly and carefully – you can’t expect a cat to just tolerate a strange object being placed on them and then be expected to walk well.
Make sure the harness is secure and fits well, first place it on the floor and let your cat explore it. Gradually fasten it on your cat for short periods of time. Only attempt leash and outdoor travel once your cat is completely comfortable wearing a harness.
A pet cage allows your cat to experience some of the smells and sounds of the outdoors. Again, care must be taken to get your cat used to the harness first, as some cats do not like being restrained.
Enclosed outdoor areas or “catios” are becoming a popular choice. This is an ideal middle ground, as it allows cats the freedom to be active and explore nature while keeping them (and local wildlife) safe.
Also read: Is Cat TV Good for Cats?
Why is my cat meowing?
If your cat is howling at a window or door, it’s obvious they want to get out and are making this excessive sound to signal their intentions. However, your cat may be perfectly content inside, as there are many other reasons why your cat may meow.
Cats (both female and male) make a lot of noise when they want to mate. Kittens reach sexual maturity at around 4 months. Female cats begin their heat cycles during the lighter, warmer months. Cats that have not been neutered and wish to breed often make howls and other loud noises during this time.
Some medical conditions can cause changes in your cat’s meowing habits. Cognitive dysfunction (similar to dementia in humans) can lead to confusion, leading to excessive meowing at odd times, altered sleep cycles, and altered interactions with the owner. Hyperthyroidism often also causes increased nervousness and vocalizations, as well as increased thirst and hunger.
Stress or anxiety can cause changes in a cat’s behavior. This could be subtle, such as hiding more, or more obvious, such as toileting outside the litter box or vocalizing excessively. Cats are stressed for many reasons, from a new pet or baby in the home to territorial disputes or loud noises with other cats.
If your cat meows more than before, or has other behavioral changes or symptoms of illness, such as changes in thirst or appetite, consult a veterinarian. With any feline behavior problem, it’s important to rule out disease, so even if your cat doesn’t look quite like itself, making an appointment with the veterinarian is a good first step. If needed, a qualified behaviorist may be able to help if the problem is not medical.
ALSO READ: Explaining Cat Excessive Meowing (Causes and Solutions)
It can be difficult to balance the needs, wants, and desires of adventurous pets with the real responsibility to keep them safe. There are pros and cons to keeping your pet indoors, but if your cat is very distressed and wants to go outside, there are some safer options than letting them roam.
It’s also worth double-checking that sudden vocalizations don’t have an entirely different cause, as certain behavioral and medical problems can manifest in this way.
Also Read: 7 Best Healthy Cat Foods for Indoor Cats
frequently asked questions
Why is my cat so eager to go outside?
Cats love the outdoors for exercise, enrichment, and the freedom to express their natural behaviors. If your cat wants to go outside, these needs may not be met at home, so extra enrichment and active play may help.
How do I stop my cat from wanting to go outside?
Cats need physical and mental stimulation, as well as the ability to express natural behaviors such as play, scratching, and scent marking. Provide plenty of activity games, puzzle feeders, cat trees, and scratching posts around your home to fulfill these needs and keep your cat content inside.
Do cats need to be outside to be happy?
Cats can benefit from being outside, such as more exercise and mental stimulation. These can also be provided in a home setting, but require lots of active play and additional enrichment, such as cat trees, scratch posts, and puzzle feeders.
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