The Pets Doc

Dr. Kevin Watkins, DVM

812-273-1803

Caring For Cats – Indoor vs. Outdoor

Q: My male kitten is 8 months old. We got him neutered thinking that would take away his urge to go outside. But every time we open the door, he makes a dash for it. Should I let him go out?

A: Because they are naturally predators, cats really do need the stimulation that the outdoors can provide. Of course, there are inherent dangers with outdoor life, and statistically outdoor cats live shorter lives. So that is an individual decision you will have to make.

Playing in the grass, climbing on vertical surfaces (e.g. trees, rocks., your cars), sharpening claws on trees, chasing butterflies or just hanging out with you when you are working in the garden are activities that stimulate cats’ natural curiosities and instinct. These things, plus just plain fresh air and sunshine, can make a cat’s life worth living.

If you cannot, or do not, want to let your kitty outside, you should provide reasonable alternatives indoors. Things like tall scratching posts offer not only a place to sharpen claws but also a vertical obstacle to climb. Cats think in three dimensions and love to be high up, looking down on us – practically and metaphorically. There are many accessories, easily found at pet stores, mail order catalogs, or on-line, that can be purchased for your kitty’s entertainment.

Another alternative to outdoor life is a good window with a view. You might consider putting a bird feeder just outside a favorite window perch. Window perches provide a vertical surface to navigate and offers some satisfaction for their natural hunting tendencies.

Additionally, some cats actually like to graze on greenery. Those of you, like me, who no longer have house plants know what I mean. But a small container of wheat grass or catnip can be kept inside for this purpose.

Indoor cats tend to live very sedentary lifestyles, and becoming overweight is a distinct possibility. Although some cats are amenable to leash training, most cats resist your efforts at forced exercise. So physical stimulation for your indoor cat becomes imperative.

A feather tied to the end of some fishing line attached to a willowy stick is one idea for a great and inexpensive cat toy. Another idea is a laser light pointer, which can be danced across the floor and walls for the cat to chase, again satisfying the hunting instinct. Not only is it great fun for the cat, it is extremely entertaining for you and me.

Regardless of your choice of indoor vs. outdoor, make sure all your cats are current on their basic vaccinations and consult with your veterinarian about additional vaccines and health precautions that may be necessary for an outdoor lifestyle.

Margo Watkins, Pet Behavior Counselor

Pawsitive Pet Behavior Blog