Whether or not your cat will be an indoor or outdoor cat is a very controversial issue. There are several considerations that you should weigh when thinking about this. Knowing the implications of your choices is helpful when thinking about the health of your pet long term.
Indoor cats, on average, live much longer and healthier lives than outdoor cats. Like everything in dynamic systems, this is not universally true but outdoor cats have many dangers to contend with in the world. Hit by cars, gunshot wounds, larger animal attacks, and catfight injuries are extremely common reasons for outdoor cats to end up at the clinic.
They are also at a much higher risk of contracting infections diseases like FIV and FeLV. They are more commonly exposed to fleas that they may bring into your home as well.
This is the reasoning behind many rescue groups asking for you to make any adopted cat an indoor animal.
As a practicing vet, I know that there are many families that intend for a cat to be indoor-only but over time the pet has such a strong drive to explore the world that they relent and accept that the animal will have a mixed indoor and outdoor lifestyle.
As the grown-up in the house, it is your job to take a look at the risks and rewards of this choice and if you decide to allow your pet to spend time outside then take as many precautions as possible to protect them.
You can test them for FeLV and FIV and make sure they are on an appropriate vaccination schedule. You should consider getting them on a robust flea and heartworm preventative schedule. Make sure they are chipped with an ID under their skin so if animal control finds them, they will make it home.
If you allow your pet to spend time roaming outside you may also run into struggles with them leaving your property. As a society, most of us find it unacceptable to have our space invaded by other people’s pets without being asked.
If your pet is urinating or defecating in other people’s yards, they may find this unacceptable. Also, your cat may be causing stress for the indoor pets that can see them from windows or while out in their own yards. It is not unreasonable to expect some friction with your neighbors if you allow your cat to roam.
If you can contain your cat in a safe outdoor space, then this will minimize the risks of them getting in harm’s way during their time outside.
While most health care professionals advocate for an indoor lifestyle because of all the previously listed reasons, there are situations where an outdoor lifestyle is unavoidable.
There are cats that are intended as barn cats from the start or cats with such a strong drive to go outside that their owners must accept the risks that come with this lifestyle. Again, these cats will likely live shorter lives but there are numerous reasons this may be the choice that works best for the household.