Indoor Cats vs Outdoor Cats

Indoor Lifestyle

Millions of cats live long, healthy lives within the walls of their family’s home, and develop very strong bonds with their owner. On average, indoor cats live NINE YEARS LONGER than cats who are allowed outside.

Indoor cats are much easier to monitor for health issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, change in appetite, or change in activity level.

Many outdoor cats adapt very well to an indoor-only lifestyle.

Indoor cats receive fewer vaccinations, and often require fewer visits to the veterinary office.

The Indoor Cat Initiative website is a wonderful resource for cat owners, and is maintained by the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Outdoor Lifestyle

It is more difficult to monitor outdoor cats for signs of health problems. Problems can be more challenging to treat if the cat cannot be caught and transported to a veterinary hospital.

Outdoor cats are more likely to be exposed to health risks. The most common outdoor risks are listed below:

  • Parasites – Outdoor cats have a much higher exposure to parasites, and can even transfer them to your family. Outdoor cats should get a parasite preventative every month (even in winter) such as Frontline or Revolution, and also need to have a stool sample checked every year.
  • Feline Leukemia (FeLV) – Feline leukemia is a common feline illness. It is spread through the blood and saliva of other infected cats. It has no cure. Any cat with this disease must be isolated to prevent further spread of the disease. Feline Leukemia causes acute (sudden) illnesses in its victims, and can even lead to lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system).
  • Feline AIDS (FIV) – Feline AIDS is spread through the blood of other infected cats. Cats will most commonly get this disease by fighting with other cats due to the blood contact through biting and scratching. It has no cure. Cats with this disease must be isolated to prevent further spread of the disease. Cats with this disease have very poor immune systems and cannot fight infections well.
  • Respiratory Infections (URI) – Airborne illness passed from one cat to another very easily, much like the common cold. Most cases are mild to moderate and may require antibiotics, but severe cases often require hospitalization, IV fluid support, and multiple medications.
  • Abscesses – Caused from scratches, bites, or other penetrating injuries that are not treated properly, or at all. The result is a pocket of infection that is trapped under the cat’s skin. Treatment often includes minor surgery and antibiotics. If left unnoticed or untreated, and the infection is severe enough, it will require surgery to open up the abscess, drain out the infection, and repair the wound site.
  • Trauma – Includes many unfortunate scenarios such as animal attacks, poisoning, car accidents, and gun shot wounds as well as cats that become trapped in garage doors or vehicles (engines, wheels, etc.).

Unfortunately, the list goes on…

Cats and Wildlife

For more information on the effects of outdoor cats, and tips on having a happy indoor cat, see this article at the Audubon Society of Portland on “Cats and Wildlife”. The Audubon Society of Portland has teamed up with the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon on a “Cats Indoors Campaign”. Their website includes a public service video announcement, tips on how to have a happy indoor cat, and emphasises the dangers that roaming cats can pose to wildlife.