Should Indoor Cats be Allowed Outside Unsupervised?

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Does your indoor cat spend all day gazing out the window? When you see that expression of curiosity on his face, you may wonder if it’s time to let him see the great outdoors.

While it may seem harmless to let your cat out of the house, the risks of letting him roam without supervision are much more significant than you think. Let’s cover common questions about letting indoor cats outside.

A small, fluffy orange and white cat with long whiskers sits on a forest floor with a pink flower on her head.

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Will My Cat Come Back if I Let Him Outside?

In general, if you let your indoor cat go outside, you can expect him to come back home in time for his next feeding. Cats have great navigational skills, so they don’t get lost very often.

However, cats are charismatic, adorable, and well-loved. There’s a good chance that other people will start offering food to your cat. Then your cat may not come home as frequently.

Additionally, if other cat-lovers are concerned for your cat’s safety, they may informally adopt him and keep him securely inside their own house. Some neighbors will know to ask around or check for a microchip first, but many will just assume your cat was a stray lives with them now. Having a collar with your information can help with this, but collars can get lost during outdoor adventures.

However, that still doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Even though you don’t have to worry about him running away, there are a few other reasons why you probably shouldn’t let your cat out of the house. 

The Effects of Domestic Cats Killing Birds

Cats are predators wired to hunt prey. No matter how well you feed him, your cat’s hunting instinct is strong. So when you let him wander outside, you may be putting your local ecosystem at risk.

Domestic cats are technically an invasive species in the US. As a result, they can kill native birds at a rather alarming rate. 

The effects of outdoor and stray cats have caused irreparable harm to bird populations. In fact, they may be responsible for the extinction of over 60 species of birds.

Your Cat’s Safety

When you let your cat out of the house, you’re not just putting the ecosystem at risk — you’re also putting your furry friend in danger.

Millions of cats die on US roads every year. Cats are small and easy for drivers to miss, especially on roads with higher speed limits. 

Cats are also prone to getting into fights. They’re possessive over their territory, so if your cat wanders onto another cat’s turf, they could end up coming home with some serious injuries.

Under no circumstances should a declawed cat ever be allowed outdoors. Cats need their claws to defend themselves, and to climb out of dangerous situations. A cat without her claws will quickly get into trouble outside.

Outdoor cats are also far more likely to contract severe illnesses, even if they are up to date on vaccinations. These illnesses include feline leukemia, FIV, and even feline distemper. 

The outdoors can also expose your cats to parasites such as fleas and ear mites. These pests can cause a lot of stress for your cat, and they can require rigorous treatment to eliminate. Some of these insect invaders can affect human household members.

A seriously looking cat squints toward the camera in an outdoor environment.

Strategies and tools for taking your cat outside safely

For the sake of the environment and your cat’s wellbeing, it’s best not to let your feline friend roam freely outside.

If you do let your cat outside unsupervised, be sure to have a strategy. Think through your local environment: are you in a suburb or a city? Is there a lot of traffic? Are your neighbors likely to feed, adopt or catnap your kitty? How will you prepare for and manage parasites and pests?

That doesn’t mean your cat can never enjoy the great outdoors. There are many great ways to take your cat outside safely. If you think your cat would enjoy going for a walk, you can purchase cat-friendly harness. If you feel like your cat wants to spend all day outside, it may be time to invest in a catio.

Our Favorite
PawHut Large Wooden Outdoor Catio Enclosure PawHut Large Wooden Outdoor Catio Enclosure

This outdoor cat enclosure playpen can be utilized for play with single or multiple cats, plenty of space for felines to relax in outdoor weather. The catio includes 6 large platforms. There is enough room in the enclosure for a variety of outdoor activities such as climbing, jumping, or lounging.

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No matter how much your cat begs to go outside, you should always proceed with safety in mind. If he seems bored, there are safe options to help improve him mood and lifestyle. Provide him with lots of stimulating toys, exercise opportunities, and love and affection. Play with him frequently. Adopt another cat as a companion if possible. Your indoor cat can live a long, happy and fulfilling life!

Kelsey Madison

Kelsey Madison is a cat lover, fostering enthusiast, part time vet tech & writer. She has fostered close to 300 animals over the last 10+ years, and currently has 3 beautiful tabby cats who love to stick their faces in her morning lattes. She is passionate about helping others develop a deeper understanding of their beloved felines and learn more about fostering.

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