Owning an Outdoor vs Indoor Cat: Everything You Need to Know

Key takeaways

Whether you keep cats indoors or outdoors, there are pros and cons of both. It all depends on your personal situation.

This is why we have explored a few situations that would suit an outdoor cat and a few that would suit an indoor cat.

We weigh up the pros and cons of both so you can make an informed decision for your furry friend.

Quick Navigation

  1. Key takeaways
  2. When to have an outdoor cat
  3. When to have an indoor cat
  4. Pros and cons of indoor vs outdoor cats
  5. FAQs
  6. Final thoughts

When to have an outdoor cat

Cat owners may want to let their cats outdoors to give them a better quality of life or if they haven't got the time to care properly for an indoor cat. Below are some situations where an outdoor cat could work.

You have a small house

If you have a small house or flat, it may be cruel to keep your cat strictly indoors. This is because they won't be able to get the exercise or mental stimulation they need to live a high-quality life. Without space to run or climb, they will begin to feel very cooped up, which may result in behavioral issues.
If you can, fit a cat flap so your kitty can come and go as they please. If you aren't home during the day, then this is the best option. However, if you are, you can let them in and out. This will help prevent other cats from entering your home, and it will be easier to keep an eye on your kitty's behavior.
A cat exploring outside a house

You live in the countryside

If you live away from busy towns, cities, and roads, then your kitty will be pretty safe to roam freely. Without the risk of traffic accidents or becoming lost or taken, there is little risk to them exploring the outdoors on their terms.
You can make this even safer by:

Getting them microchipped: This will make sure that people know your kitty is a pet and will make sure you are contacted if they are found far from home.

Invest in a GPS tracker: If you're still nervous about letting your cat out, you can get a GPS tracker for their collar. This means you'll always be able to see where they are.

Make them wear a collar: A collar that has your contact details on can help neighbors identify whether your kitty is a stray or a pet.

A cat in a garden

Your cat has previously had access to the outside

If your cat has already had access to the great outdoors, then depriving them of this experience for the rest of their lives can be cruel and cause unnecessary stress.
You should do all you can to accommodate your cat's need for solo adventures. Without doing so, they may develop the following:

Behavioral issues




If your cat has already had access to the great outdoors, then depriving them of this experience for the rest of their lives can be cruel and cause unnecessary stress.

Outdoor cat sleeping in a garden

When to have an indoor cat

While most cat lovers want to do everything in their power to keep their feline friend safe, an indoor cat doesn't suit every situation. Check out the following situations where an indoor cat can work.

You live in a busy area

Living in a town center, a city, or near a busy road can put your cat's life in danger if they get out. Risking your cat's life is not worth it! In busy areas, they are more likely to:

Be involved in traffic accidents

Be taken in by people or stolen

Become lost

Be involved in territory fights with other cats

This means it's better for your kitty to remain indoors. You can make sure they still get enough stimulation and attention by playing with them every day.
An indoor cat looking out of a winow at the city

Your cat has a disability or illness

Certain illnesses and disabilities mean your cat needs to stay indoors. For example, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus can be passed to other cats through bites and scratches, so if you have an FIV-positive cat, they will need to remain indoors to prevent the spread of the disease.
Other examples of scenarios where your kitty needs to be kept in is if they have a disability that means they may be vulnerable to predators, people, or cars if they go outside. This can include:

Loss of hearing

Loss of sight

Inability to run

A cat being seen by a vet

You have a spacious house

If your living space is big enough for an indoor cat to chase toys, run wild, and climb high, then they may not need to have access to the outside world.
They should be able to get enough physical and mental stimulation within your four walls without being vulnerable to the various risks outdoors. To make sure your home makes a good environment for them, try:


Moving furniture to make more space

Keep bedroom doors open so there is more space to explore

Installing climbing blocks or getting cat trees so they can explore vertical space

A cat jumping near a window

Pros and cons of indoor vs outdoor cats

Now we know the specific situations that suit outdoor cats and indoor cats, we need to weigh up the pros and cons of both.

Pros and cons of indoor cats

The pros of keeping a cat indoors include:

Indoor cats tend to live longer

They are less likely to get injuries or infections from catfights

They are less likely to be involved in traffic accidents

They won't be vulnerable to theft

They won't be prey to wild animals

They won't risk eating toxic plants or waste

The cons of keeping a cat indoors include:

An indoor cat's health may suffer from a lack of exercise

Indoor-only cats may become bored and develop behavior issues

They may experience loneliness, anxiety, and depression

They may not get the mental stimulation they need

A cat sleeping on a windowsill

Pros and cons of outdoor cats

Pros of keeping outdoor cats include:

An outdoor cat will get the exercise they need to be healthy

Outdoor cats tend to avoid boredom by exploring

They won't experience loneliness

They will be able to satisfy hunting instincts

Cons of keeping outdoor cats include:

Outdoor cats are more likely to be involved in traffic accidents

They are more vulnerable to theft

They are more vulnerable to fights with other animals and cats

They are more likely to get lost

A cat hiding in a garden


Do vets recommend indoor or outdoor cats?

Vets will recommend what will be best for the cat in individual situations. For example, if you have the space and time to care for an indoor cat, then they'll encourage you to keep them inside for their safety. But if they don't get the attention they need, then they may encourage you to let them outside.

Do cats live longer indoor or outdoor?

Cats live longer indoors. This is because they are less likely to be involved in traffic accidents or be involved in catfights.

What are the benefits of an outdoor cat?

The benefits of outdoor cats include being mentally stimulating, getting enough exercise, preventing boredom, and allowing your cat to listen to their instincts, like hunting and surveying their territory.

Should cats go outside?

Cats should go outside if you live in a quiet area away from busy roads or town centers. This will mean they can get enough exercise, hunt, and they won't get bored.

Are indoor cats happier?

Indoor cats aren't necessarily happier, but they are safer. It all depends on individual situations. If cat owners are giving their pet cats lots of attention indoors, then they will be very happy.

What are the cons of outdoor cats?

The cons of outdoor cats include being more vulnerable to theft, being involved in cat fights, which increase the risk of injury and infection, and an increased chance of being involved in traffic accidents.

Will my cat come back if I let them outside?

If your cat has lived at your home for longer than two weeks, they will be able to navigate their way back to it if you let them outside.

Final thoughts

So, indoor cats vs outdoor cats? As you may have suspected, it depends on the individual cat owner and their situation. Whatever you choose is right for you, make sure you prioritize your pet's wellbeing. Keep your kitty healthy and happy, and they will adapt well to any setup you think is best.
If you have an outdoor kitty, be sure they are microchipped and wear a collar. This will help keep them safe!

Written by

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Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

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