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  • Indoor cats live much healthier lives than outdoor cats – and can live over 10 years longer.
  • Indeed, outdoor cats face risks such as injuries, poisonous plants, fleas, predators, etc.
  • If you want to let your cat spend time outside, you can train her to walk outside with a harness.

It’s a long-standing debate: is it better for your cat to always stay indoors or should they spend part of their time outdoors? While it may seem like you’re doing a good thing for your pet by letting it roam, it could actually be harming its health and shortening its lifespan.

Here’s why you should keep your cat indoors.

Why you should keep your cat indoors

cat on the couch

Indoor cats are in a much safer environment.

Jennifer DiMatteo/Insider

“Having your cat indoors provides a safe environment for them and peace of mind for the owner,” says Dr. Kimberly Simmons, veterinarian and CEO of Simmons Consulting Group.

Because of this added safety, indoor cats live much longer than cats that spend a lot of time outdoors, says Dr. Travis Arndt, veterinarian and director of the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America.

In fact, indoor cats live about ten to 15 years compared to outdoor cats that live an average of two to five years, according to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine.

The big difference in lifespan is due to the risks that outdoor cats face, such as:

  • Injury or death after being hit by a car
  • Encounters with wild animals like feral cats, dogs or coyotes
  • Infectious diseases such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or feline leukemia virus (FeLV)
  • Ingestion of poisonous plants
  • Fleas and ticks
  • Heartworm disease due to mosquito bites
  • human cruelty
  • Exposure to toxins such as rodenticides

It’s especially important to keep your cat indoors if they have health issues, says Simmons. This is for two main reasons:

1. Your cat is always at home, so you can give her medication on a regular schedule or at specific times of the day.

2. Cats with weakened immune systems may be at greater risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from an infection.

Indoor Cat Health Risks and How to Prevent Them

back cat

An ideal weight for a typical cat is around 10 pounds, but it can vary.

Rachel Slack/Initiate

Indoor cats can also face their own health risks.

“Cats that are kept indoors are at higher risk for obesity,” says Mikel Delgado, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant at Feline Minds. This is because indoor cats generally have fewer opportunities to exercise and may be prone to overeating if they are bored.

Cat owners should take this seriously as obese cats are at higher risk for diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Cat weight varies by breed, but for most cat breeds, an ideal weight is around 10 pounds. If your cat is much lighter or heavier, talk to your veterinarian about the best way to resolve weight issues.

Boredom can also cause your cat to misbehave — “he may also start entertaining himself by scratching furniture and tearing up other objects around the house,” says Simmons.

What Cat Owners Can Do

cat window

Letting your cat have access to a window can help satisfy their birdwatching instincts.

Alexandria Dumar/Insider

“We need to make indoors fun for cats by providing activities that engage all of their senses and allow them to express normal feline behaviors such as climbing, scratching and playing,” Delgado says.

This can include cat toys like:

  • food puzzles
  • Climbing structures
  • scratch pads
  • catnip toys
  • Windows for bird watching

“We also need to give them the proper time and attention, such as daily play times and gentle handling,” Delgado says.

If you feel strongly that your cat should have time outside, there are a few safe ways to get him outside, including:

  • Use a pet stroller
  • Teaching Your Cat to Walk Outside in a Harness
  • Build a safe outdoor enclosure like a catio

You may be tempted to kick your cat out if he has too much energy or is destructive around the house. However, Delgado recommends seeing a veterinarian or behavioral specialist to help work on your cat’s behavior instead.

“I can’t think of a reason why a socialized pet cat should be forced to live outside,” Delgado says.

Insider’s Takeaways

Overall, keeping your cat indoors is the safest option – it protects it from predators, wards off disease, and prolongs your cat’s life.

“As long as you provide them with activity, exercise, and love, you can ensure that your cat will stay healthy and bring you years of joy,” says Simmons.