Would Cats Be Happier Outside?

Do our cat pals really need to experience time outside? This question has been the number one driver of Dezi & Roo, inspired by not only by my patients but also by my very own cats Dezi and Roo who are my first indoor-only kitties. Over my career as a feline-only veterinarian, I saw the transition from outdoor cats to indoor/outdoor cats to indoor-only cats and with that came some very noticeable differences in cats from their behavior to their health. This subject even inspired my book Indoor Cat: How to Enrich Their Lives and Expand Their World, which is meant to be an insightful guide into the POV of our whiskered friends to help you make informed decisions about your cat's lifestyle.

There's much to see outside our windows, from birds flying to leaves blowing to kids playing and cars driving. It makes perfect sense why window gazing is high up on the list of favorite activities for our cats. We place our cat trees and perches near windows, after all. We even attempt to recreate outdoor experiences inside with cat tv on YouTube. With all these flags pointing us directly to the outdoors, why then, don't we allow our cats the pleasure of being outside? Now don't get me wrong, there are pros of keeping your cat indoors, health and safety reasons being at the top of the list. But you can't have a pro/con list without looking at the cons.

bengal cat on a leash outside

And no, I'm not suggesting you should open the front door and toss your cat outside. But I will say giving your cat access to the outdoors can significantly enhance his or her quality of life. Here are a few benefits:

  • Physical Exercise: Outdoor activities help maintain a healthy weight and improve agility.
  • Mental Stimulation: The variety of sounds, smells, and sights outside can help reduce behavioral issues stemming from boredom.
  • Improved Well-being: Regular exposure to a supervised or controlled outdoor environment can enhance a cat’s overall happiness, mirroring their natural behaviors.

Remember when I said I'm not suggesting you toss your cat outside to fend for himself? As a feline-only vet, I am committed to the safety of all cats. There are a number of ways to let your cat be a cat on outside adventures while keeping him as safe as possible. Here are a few options to consider:

  • Leash Training: Yes, cats can be leash-trained! A harness and leash can provide a safe way to explore the outdoors together. While leash training can take some time, commitment and patience, it's definitely worthwhile to explore the option. Especially these days with multiple harness and leash options available on the market. 
  • Catios: Another fantastic option for safe outdoor time is a catio – a secure outdoor enclosure that allows your cat to enjoy fresh air without the risks of roaming free, digging up the garden or getting into typical cat trouble.
  • Supervised Play: Sometimes, simply supervising your cat during short stints in a safe backyard can suffice.

I want to make a disclaimer here. Just like when we take our dogs for a walk or to a dog park, we as parents are expected to observe the behaviors of our pet. If your dog is being aggressive towards another dog, you step in and separate them. You can most likely tell if and when your dog doesn't want to be pet. Well, the same things goes for cats. Say you're outside with your cat for supervised play and he's trying to make a run for the neighbors yard, maybe supervised play is not the appropriate option for him. If your cat bolts in the opposite direction when you open the door for outside time, don't force outdoor time on your cat. Listen to what your cat is telling through her behaviors and actions. Okay, let's resume.

To replicate the outdoor experience, look for enrichment toys that stimulate your cat’s predatory instincts, like our Wand Toy Wonderland bundle, where each attachment is designed to replicate rustling leaves, a lizards tail, and fluttering feathers. Enrichment toys make a positive impact on your cat’s life whether they go outside or not.

Like I've mentioned several times in this post, deciding whether to let your indoor cat outside is a nuanced choice that depends on a lot of things including where you live, the environment, safety, and your cat's personality. If you do choose to explore the great outdoors, doing so under supervision and with proper precautions is crucial. And, if you prefer keeping their whiskered friends indoors, ensuring your kitty has plenty of mental and physical stimulation is key to a fulfilled, healthy life.

Remember, whether inside or out, enriching your cat's world is the ultimate goal! If you'd like more insights into exploring your cat's perspective and enhancing his or her life, check out Indoor Cat: How to Enrich Their Lives and Expand Their World.

1 comment

  • jmuhj

    Your bot refused to pass me.
    Again, I am unequivocally opposed to letting cats roam outdoors. Having lost more than one beloved family member to the dangers of being allowed out, I as their guardian am responsible for them and their safety and wellbeing matters most.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published