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Is It Cruel To Keep a Cat Indoors or Are They Better off Outside?

a cat staring out the window with text "should you keep your cat inside?"

Keeping cats indoors versus outdoors is a longtime discussion amongst cat owners. People in favor of outdoor cats will often claim indoor cats feel imprisoned. So is it cruel to keep a cat indoors? The short answer is: Absolutely not. In fact, it’s preferred.


Cats can thrive while living completely indoors, even in small apartments. Indoor cats often live longer, fuller lives than free-roaming felines. They just need the right diet, exercise, and stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Here is how to keep your indoor cat content!



Can Cats Live Indoors?

Of course! In fact, cats should live strictly indoors whenever possible.


Cats are highly intelligent creatures, so it’s no surprise that people personify them. We sometimes wonder if they are daydreaming about an outdoor adventure or if they yearn to explore the unknown. We sometimes think, “Well, I wouldn’t want to live in a small apartment my whole life.”


But, it’s important to remember that cats are different than us. Cats are territorial pets that thrive when they have a safe environment to reign over. In fact, cats will often become stressed or scared when removed from their home because it disrupts their routine.


Inside a home, cats will find different spots that they favor. That might be on the windowsill watching the birds or stretched out on the back of the couch. You will need to provide your cat with tons of toys, climbing options, and scratchers to keep them occupied and stimulated. But trust me, they are perfectly happy to stay safe inside your home!


If you never let your cat outside as a kitten, they will most likely not be the least bit curious about the outside world. Instead, they will likely be a bit afraid of what’s out there. But, they will never grow tired of watching squirrels and birds from their favorite cat perch in your house.



Is It Cruel to Keep Cats Indoors?

Not at all! The American Humane Society, PETA, and other animal organizations actually recommend that you keep your cat inside at all times.


Even though it’s perfectly acceptable to keep your cats inside your home, you need to make sure they are getting the proper exercise and have a variety of activities to keep them occupied and entertained.


Do Cats Get Depressed or Bored Indoors?

Cats don’t become depressed or bored from being denied the outdoors. Instead, they become depressed and bored from being left alone too long or having a lack of activities.


Do cats get lonely? Absolutely! Since cats are so independent and easy to care for, many people think they can leave their cats alone for eight hours or more every day while they work. But, this is not good for your feline friend. While your cat can easily fend for itself (especially with an automatic feeder), cats can get very lonely without human company.


One study even found that cats spend most of their time alone waiting for us to return. They only feel comfortable enough to explore and relax by themselves when they know we are home. So while cats are totally fine indoors, they still need human interaction and plenty of stimulation. Think cat toys, play sessions, exercise, and various platforms to climb. You can also provide them with cardboard boxes!



a black and white cat playing in a box



What Are the Benefits of Keeping a Cat Inside?

There are many reasons to keep your cat inside, most of which are related to your cat’s health and safety. Indoor cats live longer lives, often 15 years or more, compared to free-roaming outdoor cats.


Less Chance For Disease

Outdoor cats are at a much higher risk of disease, especially feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV. This is a noncurable illness that can leave your cat sickly for months or years before they pass away.


When cats roam outside, they can get FIV from feral cat colonies. Getting bitten or scratched by stray cats can give your cat FIV. You’ll notice them getting very ill, including weight loss, fever, and conjunctivitis (pink eye).


Smaller Chance Of Pests

Cats who go outside are more exposed to worms, ticks, fleas, and other pests. Cats can get tick-borne infections, which can cause loss of appetite, depression, and aching joints. These infections can also make your cat very lethargic. Cats can get the following diseases from ticks:

  • Lyme Disease
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Haemobartonellosis
  • Tularemia
  • Cytauxzoonosis
  • Babesiosis




Safe From Wild Animals and Dogs

Cats who roam freely are susceptible to several dangers, including neighborhood dogs and wild animals.


Off-leash dogs might chase your cat away from its familiar territory, even injuring or killing your kitty if caught. Wild animals will often see cats as a snack. This includes foxes, coyotes, and even eagles.


Safe From Catnappers

Roaming pet cats are sometimes kidnapped by people, especially if your cat has a unique look or friendly disposition. Since cats are not considered property (like dogs) in most states, it can be very hard to locate your missing cat and get it back.


Safe From Cars

Whether you live in the country or city, outdoor cats are at high risk of getting hit by a car. The National Traffic Safety Administration reported about 5.4 million cats hit by cars in the United States each year. And since cats aren’t property, it’s sadly not illegal to drive off after hitting a cat (meaning the driver doesn’t have to report it or tell you).


Cleaner Fur

Outdoor cats will often have dirty and matted fur if you don’t keep up with all the dirt and debris that gets caught in their fur during their roaming. Longhaired cats are especially likely to get dirty being outside.


If you find yourself having to bathe your cat quite often, it’s probably best to keep them indoors. That way, you avoid damaging their fur and irritating their skin with frequent baths.


They Can’t Harm the Environment

While being inside keeps your cat safe from all the above concerns, it also keeps the local ecosystem safe from your cat! Cats are notorious hunters, often killing an abundance of birds, rodents, bugs, and lizards (usually for fun).


It’s estimated that cats kill 4 billion animals per year, including 500 million birds. This disrupts the ecosystem, and it’s why cats are considered an invasive species in Australia and other countries around the world. So next time someone says it’s cruel to keep your cat indoors, let them know it’s actually more wicked to let them roam outside, reducing other species as they please!



How to Keep Your Indoor Cat Happy

As you can see, there are several reasons why you shouldn’t keep a cat outside. All evidence points towards keeping your feline friend indoors whenever possible.


You might think their constant bird watching means they wish they could be outside, but trust us — cats are totally content being inside. But you should make sure they have the right environment to feel entertained, stimulated, and healthy.



a cat playing with an orange feather toy



Plenty Of Cat Toys

Even though your cat seems satisfied playing with your elastics and pens, you should provide them with a variety of toys that keep them occupied in different ways. The basics are toy mice, jingly balls, and other feathery, jingly playthings. Other great ideas are ribbons that hang from the wall and balls at the end of springy contraptions.


But you should also consider interactive toys that keep your cat busy. This could be motion-detecting robotic mice or puzzles with treats inside. These more unique toys will definitely preoccupy even the most mischievous and curious of cats. Plus, they offer more mental stimulation than some other traditional toys.


Another important type of toy to bring out every day is one that requires you to play with your cat! Think laser pointers, ribbons, and other toys that you can move and shake around. Your cat will love the unpredictable movements of the toys. Many cats will also do impressive leaps and flips! This is a great way to keep your cat active while bonding with them.


Use Catnip Spray on Toys

If your cat is a bit lazy, try spritzing CBD catnip spray on their toys. Most adult cats can’t resist catnip and will start rolling around and licking the toy like crazy. Many cats on catnip will also get the “zoomies,” meaning they will start racing up and down the halls without warning! There are many different ways to use catnip — find out what your cat likes best.


CBD is also great for indoor cats. It’s a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, which simply means it won’t get your cat high. That’s because there’s no THC, the cannabinoid in cannabis that causes intoxicating side effects. CBD interacts with your cat’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which controls their overall well-being and balance.


The ECS includes all of the major systems in your cat’s body, which means CBD will provide positive benefits for various functions, including physical discomforts, skin irritation, and mood. CBD will help your cat feel younger and more active while also ensuring they remain calm.


Plenty of Scratching Options

When cats grow bored, the first thing to suffer is your couch. Cats with excess energy and no outlet will usually start scratching up carpet and furniture. To stop cats from scratching furniture, provide them with plenty of other things to dig their claws in.


These acceptable alternatives include cardboard scratchers for them to stretch on, pieces of carpet hanging on the back of the door, or scratching posts next to your furniture. You’ll soon realize what your cat’s preference is. My current cat, Simba, loves to scratch cardboard and paper. Some cats enjoy the motion of stretching and digging their claws into a scratching post’s carpet-like fabric.


And Plenty of Room to Explore

Even if you have a small studio, cats are fine being kept indoors. Unlike humans, cats don’t think about square footage. They don’t dream about exploring and taking vacations. But you should make sure there are plenty of cat-friendly spaces inside your home.


Your home will become the perfect kitty oasis (no matter its size) if you provide them with cat trees, cat shelves, and window perches. Most cats enjoy being off the floor, which is why they are always exploring counters and other off-limit spaces. It’s not cruel to keep a cat indoors as long as the area is inviting for them.


Tall cat trees and fun wall shelves will allow your cat to explore in a safe and acceptable way. Some cats will consider it their domain and watch their family and territory from up above.


Exercise Options

Some cats are more active than others. If you notice your cat becoming destructive as they race around the house, you might want to consider an exercise wheel.


Wheels made specifically for cats are the right size to protect your cat’s back as they excitedly leap forward. This will ensure your cat is tuckered out and tired to knock stuff off your counter later that night.




Comfortable Spots

Favorite hangouts vary from cat to cat. For some cats, a comfortable spot is a puffy, fuzzy bed that offers plenty of room to hide. For others, it’s simply a cardboard box.


Provide your cat with a variety of places where they can feel safe and comfortable, and you’ll soon find out what they prefer. This is especially important if you don’t want your cat with you in the office or bedroom.



a young girl hugging her cat



Cuddles and Love

While cats are independent, they still love their family. Make sure you are spending time with your cat each day, especially if you only have one.


This can be giving them a good scratching session while they are on their favorite cat shelf or petting them while they sleep on your lap. Cats need attention and human interaction daily to be happy.


Healthy Food

Indoor cats are more prone to become overweight without a proper diet or exercise routine. It’s important that the food you give them is healthy and full of quality ingredients Many cheaper brands rely on “fillers” like carbohydrates, which are not nutritious to cats at all. In fact, fillers usually make cats obese or allergic to their food.


Instead, look for brands that have protein as the first ingredient. This should be chicken, lamb, salmon, etc. — not “chicken meal.” Make sure the food is as natural and organic as possible. It should also have important vitamins, including taurine.


You can also add cat CBD oil to your feline friend’s daily morning meal. This will boost their overall well-being and provide them with other benefits throughout the day. CBD oil will soothe some of their discomfort (allowing them to be more active) and reduce their stress (keeping your furniture safe from destruction).


Clean Water

Cats are picky when it comes to water. That’s why so many cats become dehydrated. If the water you’re providing your cat isn’t clean, your cat might purposely avoid it. Make sure you clean their bowl each day.


Cats also prefer moving water. That’s why you’ll see them playing under faucets. Try giving your cat a water fountain. They will be more likely to drink when they have fresh, moving water to lap up.


Can You Let an Indoor Cat Outside?

Sometimes indoor cats will curiously creep near the door. You should always find ways to keep them from slipping outside.


If you truly want to bring your cat outside, make sure they are on a leash or harness. This will ensure they can’t sneak off and get hit by a car. It will also keep birds and other animals safe. Still, I’ve known many cats who can slip out of a harness and run away, so always make sure you’re in a secure area.


The best option is to provide your cat with a window box or outdoor enclosure. You can find inspiration for these online! People will sometimes build a box outside of their window for their cat to sit in. This allows them to soak up the sun and watch the nearby bird feeder.


Outdoor enclosures let cats get some fresh air while keeping them safe from trouble. If you have a backyard, install a cat door that leads to a fun outdoor space your cat can’t escape from. Put climbing options inside to make it more fun and give them a better view of the squirrels as they climb nearby trees.



What is the Best Indoor Cat Breed?

So, now we know it is not cruel to keep a cat indoors. The Cat Fanciers’ Organization recommends that every cat breed be left in the house to keep them safe from threats, catnappers, and disease.


While all cat breeds can thrive inside (especially with exercise options and daily playtime), there are some breeds that are better suited for the house cat lifestyle than others.



This breed is known for being a bit lazy and making questionable choices. This means that the Persian can often find itself in danger outside. And when faced with a stray dog or car, the Persian cannot move fast enough to get away. But, The Persian is a cuddly and loving cat that is perfectly happy lounging on your sofa with you all evening long.



This hairless cat is very sensitive to harsh temperatures. Since it doesn’t have fur, the Sphynx can also get sunburned if they are exposed to the sunlight too long. Sphynx can also get oily, dirty skin a lot easier than furry breeds.


For these reasons, it’s always best to keep your Sphynx strictly inside. They love spending time with their family, meaning you’ll have a hairless feline to hang out with no matter where you are in the home.



The Ragdoll cat is known for being very cuddly and affectionate. But its friendly nature often means that Ragdolls are too trusting with strangers. They will also be too friendly with feral cats and other dangerous outdoor animals.


But, Ragdolls are great indoor pets because they are loyal and loving. This is a cat that’s notorious for flopping in your arms. They love being carried around the home.



a ragdoll cat laying on the couch proving it's not cruel to keep a cat indoors




This peculiar cat breed is full size except for its extremely short legs. While they can still move around (running sort of like a ferret), these cats still can’t climb or jump as well as other breeds. The Munchkin cat would not be able to outrun a dog or coyote.



If you’re looking for a loyal and social cat, look no further than the Siamese. This vocal feline is known for latching on to their favorite owners and involving themselves in whatever you’re doing. Don’t expect to brush your teeth or fold laundry without your Siamese!


This breed is a bit more active and mischievous than the others on this list. But you won’t find a more entertaining and loving cat. Make sure you don’t plan to be out of the house for eight hours or more every day. Your Siamese will become lonely and destructive.


British Shorthair

This round, blue cat is the perfect indoor companion. They have adorably large eyes, chubby cheeks, and plush fur. The British Shorthair is a hefty cat that loves hanging out with their loved ones. They might not like being held, but expect endless cuddle sessions!



This large, fluffy cat looks a bit like a Maine Coon cat in size and body. Despite their long coat, many people claim the Siberian is hypoallergenic. That’s because they shed less and produce less dander. This makes them a great cat to have indoors if you are allergic to cats.


Scottish Fold

This cuddly and plush-like breed is perfect for any family. They shouldn’t be allowed outside due to their sensitive ears. Despite their round appearance, the Scottish Fold is still pretty active. They love playing and exploring just as much as they love sleeping alongside their favorite humans.



Final Thoughts – Is It Cruel to Keep a Cat Indoors?

I think we answered the question: No, it’s not cruel to keep a cat indoors! Outdoor cats have shorter life spans than indoor-only cats. That’s due to generally worsened health as well as the many dangers that lurk outdoors, including dogs, wild animals, and cars. They are also exposed to numerous diseases and pests.


Outdoor cats are not only in constant danger, but they are a danger to the ecosystem. They kill bunnies, mice, birds, and reptiles without really needing to. This is why some regions have stated that outdoor cats are an invasive species.


Because of this, it’s usually recommended that your cat remain strictly indoors. Of course, that doesn’t mean your cat can’t enjoy an outdoor enclosure or window box! Or maybe even a walk on a leash if they don’t mind.


Indoor cats live long, healthy, and fulfilling lives when you give them the right food, attention, and exercise. Provide your cat with plenty of toys and play sessions. Make sure they have beds, cardboard boxes, cat trees, and scratching posts. And always spend time petting and hanging out with your cat! To know more about how to take care of your cats, visit these resources!

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