There are many benefits to letting your indoor cat go outside. These are a more natural life of your cat, more mental stimulation and better all-round health. Many people do not consider outside access for their cats because of the many hazards, however, it is possible for your kitty to have the best of both worlds. What that is will depend on you, your cat and your living area.
There are different levels of access for your cat that give you options so that your cat can truly experience life rather than just looking at it through the glass.
The Benefits of Letting Your Cat Go Outside
There are many benefits to letting your cat go outside. These include better health, more mental stimulation and more natural living conditions for your cat.
Healthier Body and Mind
When you keep a cat inside it’s actually quite hard to give it enough exercise and mental stimulation. Indoor cats sleep longer than outdoor ones. It may be that you have a large area where you can set up lots of climbing things and adventure for your indoor cat and then there is less of a problem.
However, if you have a small home and your cats are in tiny areas and there just isn’t enough room for several climbing frames so they really aren’t getting enough exercise. This can result in health issues and weak muscles and an underdeveloped rear end.
When a cat is outside it naturally moves more for a longer period of time and has a larger range of movement.
More Stimulation of Your Cats Mind
Simply being outside will give your cat much more stimulation that it would have indoors. All the sights and sounds and smells the insects and the birds to look at or help to stimulate your cat’s mind. If it all they’re doing a staring at an insect for half an hour that’s keeping him occupied and also tiring them out. While indoors they can look out of the window (and love to do so) they are still separate from the activity. In addition, I have found that there is added benefit when they can also use their sense of smell. Which is absent when sitting at a closed window.
Your Cat Can Enjoy a More Natural Lifestyle
Cats are not naturally indoor animals. They are not really domesticated. While there are some very valid and understandable reasons why you may want to keep your cat inside including safety, cat breed etc they naturally love the outdoors and most of them will take easily to it.
In addition one of the things to think about is that a cat must be able to express its natural behaviour as part of the caring process (In the UK this is law).
Have a Happier Cat
Being outdoors even with limited outdoor access makes your cat a much happier cat. While it can be happy indoors some safe outdoor access will be better for your cat in most circumstances.
The Disadvantages of Letting Your Cat Go Outside
There are of course disadvantages to letting your cat outside. While this post is about the advantages of outside access it would be remiss not to mention there are disadvantages. Most of these include all the dangerous hazards as I mentioned previously in this post. The major one being that of the high mortality rate of cats in traffic. The fact that you may lose your cat or have it stolen. Or it may become a sick may be attacked. Of course is also the risk of disease etc.
What Does Being An Outdoor Cat Mean to You and Your Cat?
While there are many benefits to your cat having outdoor access, there are also many dangers too. For your cat to have the benefits it is a good idea to think about their safety while outside.
I think it’s important to define what ‘Outdoors’ means to you and your cat. You might not have fully decided yet. You might be in an area where you feel full outdoor access is fine, however, you may not be. There are options that you might be happier with:
Firstly, There Is Full Outdoor Access
A fully outdoor cat will be free to roam. It will not be tied in by fences or walls or catios/outdoor cat runs. This cat will have full freedom to go where it pleases when it, pleases. It will have the most natural lifestyle. However, it will also be more prone to encountering all the outdoor hazards.
Full outdoor access might be best in areas where there are fewer of the mentioned hazards and lots of wide-open countryside.
Here most people allow full access, it is the norm. However, the ever-increasing traffic volume and speed, constant building of houses and increased injury for cats is means that it makes it harder to maintain this level of access for your cat. The charities review each possible home on an individual basis here.
My sisters home in the semi-rural village and she has a large garden. There are lots of gardens. She is several hundred feet away from the road and the road is intermittent traffic. Still, the charities hesitated. She was allowed cats. However, one of her cats was seriously injured (thankfully due to the vets care and my sister’s diligence he survived).
Next, There is Limited Outdoor Access
Limited access can be in the whole garden or small yard. Your cat can be on its own or with you depending on your cat’s personality. Here your cat is essentially an indoor cat with some outside access. It can be supervised or not. However, you will have put up some kind of fencing that stops your cat from getting out.
The benefits are that although there will be some hazards to think about however most hazards like cars won’t apply unless it gets out. It gives your cat some independence and a more natural lifestyle without many of the dangers of a full outdoor life.
This is my indoor cat Boo’s access level. We have a small backyard that is enclosed. I am renting so am limited to what I can do. So, we have mesh on one side of the yard and nothing the other as he cannot jump the wall. He is 1/2 ragdoll and is weak from his previous home so he is not a great jumper. I’m always around when he is outside. He has a makeshift climbing area (I’d prefer a proper one really) he gets to watch the neighbours and their garden. In addition, he goes out for walks.
Then Finally, There Is Constrained Access
This is where your cat is in some form of confinement like a Catio or runs something that you have built for it to stay in where it is completely safe and unable to escape. Maybe with some time out walking on the harness. Some cat runs are quite small while some people make huge networks of runs for their cats giving them more freedom.
These are the catios and runs that you see. Many people swear by them, and they are better than no outside access. The advantages are that you can attach them to your house and your cat can come and go as it pleases in safety. With this method, there are only a few hazards to think about.
Added Extra, Going For Walkies Or Walkies Only Access
Taking your cat out on a harness or lead very much depends on your cat. Not all cats will take to the harness. Some breeds take to it better than others and moggies may be trained but not all will. Some will simply freeze or fight it. If you decide to try this as an option go slowly and take notice of your cats reactions. There are ways to train your cat to accept the harness and go for walks.
Which Option is Most Beneficial for Your Cat?
Which option you choose will depend on your own beliefs on cat keeping, the area you live in or facilities and ability to let your cat out to control or not to control that access (ie if you can even enclose your yard or garden) and your own cat’s needs.