Are cats happiest when exploring outside, or purring away from the comfort of your home? How do you ensure they get the best of both worlds? And which option, outdoor or indoor, is best if you’re thinking of getting a new pet?
The experts from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home share their tips.
Deciding between an indoor and outdoor cat
Battersea believes all cats need some sort of outdoor access to be able to meet all their welfare and psychological needs, but the charity does occasionally rehome cats as indoor only.
“If you're unable to have an outdoor cat because of where you live, adopt one in need of an indoor home instead. An older cat (12 years or over) who is looking for a retirement home and has less of a need to go outside would suit a quieter life,” says Feline Welfare Advisor Evy Mayes.
“Battersea also rehomes cats who have Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) as indoor cats to stop the virus from spreading between cats, or if there is a medical issue to consider and the cat’s quality of life isn’t compromised.”
Battersea has been successfully rehoming FIV+ cats and older cats as indoor cats for many years. With an understanding of the extra care that they will need in this environment, many people have found that owning an indoor cat can be very rewarding and a perfect match to their home and lifestyle.
The perks of life as an indoor cat
Being an indoor cat has its advantages: no late-night hunting trips and fewer fights. In comparison to outdoor cats, they are less likely to get hurt and often have better physical health.
There’s also less risk of injury from traffic accidents and exposure to risk factors out of the owner’s control, such as anti-freeze. But being safe isn’t always enough for a cat.
“The main problem for an indoor cat is the lack of opportunity to display their natural normal behaviour. Cats are natural hunters and being confined to the indoors can lead to great frustrations, compromising their welfare and quality of life,” says Evy, who adds that even limited outside access can make a big difference.
Creating stimulation indoors
For some cats, leaving their home simply isn’t an option due to medical reasons. In such cases, mental stimulation is key.
Give them hidey holes, an indoor cat tree to climb and lots of toys. The cat’s psychological wellbeing is just as important as its physical wellbeing.
Being able to move around and have fun in their own feline territory is vital, not just for their sanity but also for their overall health. Indoor cats can also easily become couch potatoes too, which increases the risk of obesity.
The importance of interaction for indoor cats
Cats probably spend most of the day sleeping if their owners are at work, so it’s important to interact with them once you are home. This will provide them with much-needed exercise as well as playtime.
However, it’s important not to leave toys lying around all day as they may lose their novelty value after a while. String toys should never be left unattended due to safety.
The benefits of outdoor life
Being outside is the most natural thing for a cat. It’s fun, exciting, stimulating and good exercise, and if your cat is young and fit, there’s generally no reason to keep it inside. But leading a thrilling life also has its challenges and with adventure comes risk of going missing or getting into trouble on the roads or with wildlife.
Evy says: “Many of these risks can be reduced by providing your cat with a stimulating garden environment. By making them feel at ease in their own home, the chance of them wandering off on long hikes is greatly reduced.”
How to create a cat-friendly garden
Cats love to play, especially hide and seek. Give your cat hidey holes, access to water, shelter and something to scratch on and you’re on the right track. Felines are thrill-seekers and like to have a high vantage point to survey their kingdom.
They’re also big fan of plants, especially honeysuckle, catnip and catmint, although it’s important to research toxic plants and keep them out of your garden.
Also note that in areas with a big cat population, an irresistible garden might attract other felines to your home, threatening your cat’s territory. To limit the chances of cat intruders, make sure there are lots of safe places in the garden for your cat if installing high fencing is not practical.
Where to go for more information
If you would like any advice, support, or would like to give a cat a home, visit the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home website.