Is it Time for My Outdoor Cat to Be an Indoor Cat? How to Know When to Bring an Outdoor Cat Inside

Is it Time for My Outdoor Cat to Be an Indoor Cat?
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vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

Many pet parents decide that their cats can roam and play outdoors. However, the time may come when your cat should no longer go outside. Maybe they've developed a condition that slows them down or needs regular treatment. There are a variety of factors that will affect your indoor/outdoor decisions.

A revealing statistic tells us that indoor cats live an average of 12 years, and outdoor cats an average of 5. Quite a difference. The truth is that outdoor cats can run into all kinds of dangers, including cars, dogs, disease, and plain bad weather that can, in some cases, severely limit their lifespan.

Some cats, however, just won’t stay inside. Keeping a cat indoors can be especially difficult if your cat was once feral, or had lived outdoors at any time in their life prior to meeting you. Many pet parents decide that a possibly fewer number of happy years are worth more to their feline companion than a higher number of sequestered years.

However, the time may come when your cat should no longer go on their forays to who-knows-where. Maybe they can’t defend themselves any more because they’re weaker or overweight or have just slowed down. Maybe they’ve developed a condition that could infect other animals, or one that needs daily treatment from you, like a shot.

There are a variety of factors about your cat and their environment that can affect your indoor/outdoor decisions.

Is Now the Right Time?

Life outdoors can be tough for a cat, and the following conditions can be considered when you’re wondering whether the time has come to keep kitty indoors.

Health problems or conditions

A cat that has health troubles, whether an issue with a sore knee or paw, problems with fleas or other parasites, or a chronic condition like diabetes, is much more susceptible to the dangers of the outdoors. Any of these can lower your cat’s resistance to more serious diseases like feline leukemia or immunodeficiency disease. What’s more, an ailing cat will be more prone to being caught by an angry dog or being hit by a car while crossing a busy street.

It will be more difficult to monitor your cat’s health when it spends time outdoors. Changes in behavior that could indicate flagging health will be easier to spot inside. Observing the quality and frequency of digestion and elimination may be necessary, and these tasks must be accomplished indoors. Also, it will be easier to set a schedule for any medications your cat might require.

Advancing age

As with people, older cats have a more difficult time fighting off diseases as their immune systems slow down. An outdoor cat that had little trouble staying healthy when it was younger could contract a serious disease in their later years. Also, extremes in temperature can be harder on an older cat, with the risk of dehydration or exposure much greater as your cat ages.

Changes in environment

Changes in your cat’s environment can be a big clue that it is time to bring them inside. If a new subdivision is built in what was once an open field, an increase in traffic and general human presence will put your outdoor cat at greater risk.

Should you move to a new neighborhood, this could be an ideal time to bring your cat inside. Moving is always stressful for a cat, and placing them in an environment full of new, unknown dangers doubles that stress. Relocation presents an excellent opportunity to transition your cat to life indoors.

Tips for Transition

Some outdoor cats will make the transition to an indoor lifestyle more easily than others. The following ideas will help your kitty adjust.

Start feeding inside

If your cat is used to being fed outdoors, begin coaxing them inside to eat instead. Although they might at first refuse to come inside, their hunger will eventually get the best of them. Once your cat starts eating inside, gradually lengthen the time you keep her there after feeding. This will help them get used to being inside.

Make inside fun

The outdoors is a stimulating place for cats, full of birds and mice to chase and places to roam. Help your cat adjust to the indoors by supplying them with toys to play with, scratching posts, and plenty of attention from you. Soon enough, they may even prefer an indoor lifestyle.

More on Cat Care

How to Give Your Cat or Dog a Shot
How to Give a Pet Oral Medications
How to Treat a Cat's Wound

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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