Should You Keep Your Cat Indoors?

Always a controversial subject amongst cat owners but it is an interesting question.  Should your pet cat be an indoor cat or should it be allowed to wander outside?

I will admit to owning an indoor cat.  After speaking to staff at the Animal Welfare League where we bought our cat six years ago, we decided that indoors was best.  I think it has been the right decision and the cat doesn’t seem to mind at all.  In fact, on the rare occasions when we have left the door open, we have found the cat sniffing around the doorway, but he has not ventured out.  He did fall through a flyscreen once though and ended up on the outside.  I didn’t realise what had happened for a few minutes but when I did go looking for him, I found him cowering on a window ledge about 1 metre from the window.

Indoor CatCredit: Steven Pike

One of the main reasons we decided to keep our cat indoors was for its own benefit health wise.  Cats like to fight and, having had an outdoor cat when I was kid, I remember it coming home on a few occasions with scratches and clumps of fur missing.  This necessitated in a couple trips to the vet to clean up the wounds.  In the six years we have had our cat, it has never suffered any kind of injury and there has been no need to visit the vet.

Although we live in suburbia with a small back yard, there is an abundance if birdlife and we have even been able to install a bird feeder and bird bath, both of which are subjected to regular visits by the resident bird population.  Our dog ensures no neighbourhood cats enter our yard, so the birds have nothing to fear.  If our cat was outdoors, I’m sure we would see less birds, if any at all.

In other areas, cats have caused carnage over the years to local wildlife.  Lizards, birds and small mammals are all favourite targets of cats.  It is not just around the home that the damage is caused.  Feral cat populations are well established in some areas and these have decimated some native species.

I once mentioned to our vet (we were there with our dog) my concerns regarding keeping our cat indoors at all times.  He suggested that I had nothing to worry about; the cat won’t know any different, as he has been indoors since he was a kitten.  When I asked about the cat’s natural behaviour and suggested they were made to hunt, he stated that a cat is far happier to lounge around the house all day sleeping.  If he is fed appropriately then he has no need to hunt anything.  He reiterated that a cat is perfectly happy being indoors.

There are a few negatives to keeping your cat indoors.  The biggest is trying to stop the cat clawing your lounge chair (or any other chair) and from climbing the drapes and putting holes in them in the process.  We have tried a few different suggestions to try and stop our cat from behaving like this, but nothing has been successful.  I think if we had bought a scratching pole from the start, then it may have been different.

Cats, like dogs, sometimes go nuts for a few minutes.  During this time they will run around the house, slide across tiles and scale drapes, wardrobes and cupboards.  Our cat likes to launch himself at the screen security doors and hang on about half way up.  He clings on with his ears flat to his head and a stupid look on his face, before dropping back to the floor and scrambling off.  These moments don’t last long though.

It is necessary to keep the cats litter tray clean.  As soon as our cat has used it, it gets changed.  This prevents any smells from permeating through the house.

If you do decide to keep the cat inside, you may spend a bit of time trying to discourage him or her from stealing the most comfortable chair in the house.  Cats have an uncanny ability to find the warmest, most comfortable spot to sleep.  And sleep the lazy devils will.  Our cat is almost always asleep somewhere.  Our cat is banned from the armchairs in the lounge room.  I have never seen him curled up on either of them; not during the day anyway.  However, I have arrived home late at night on occasions and found him fast asleep on one of these chairs.  He obviously thought we were all in bed.  Makes me wonder how many nights he does actually sleep there.

Overall, I think the advantages for keeping the cat inside outweigh the disadvantages.  It’s peace of mind really.  I don’t worry about the cat and, more importantly, I don’t have to worry about him actively hunting any of the local wildlife.  I also save on vet bills.