Cats are lithe and athletic animals that enjoy exercise. Many cat lovers believe that it is cruel to keep a cat restricted to the house all its life. However, other owners may consider that the risks of allowing their cats outside are unacceptably high, or they may live in high-rise apartments with no access to the outdoors.
If all circumstances are equal, it is up to you to decide whether to keep your cat indoors or out. There are advantages and disadvantages to both lifestyles, but don't impose any sudden changes on your cat once it has adapted to one or the other. If you want an indoor cat, make this decision when you first bring your kitten home or find an adult whose habits fit in with your own.
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These cats can roam freely, run, climb, and chase birds and mice. Consequently they are less likely than indoor cats to become bored, frustrated, or obese. On the other hand, they are more at risk of street accidents (especially kittens and elderly or deaf cats), fight injuries, and diseases transmitted by other cats. Pedigree cats may become the targets of thieves. It is highly distressing when a cat is missing and the owner does not know whether it has been stolen, taken in by another household, or even killed. Suburban and rural cats are at lesser risk, but can still incur injury, hypothermia, or heatstroke. It is advisable to have a “pet door” that allows the cat to come and go as it pleases and seek shelter from storms, or during spells of cold or hot weather.
An indoor existence keeps a cat safe from all such hazards but raises potential problems of a different kind. All too easily, the cat lacks stimulation and activity, leading to behavior problems such as aggression or furniture clawing. Unneutered toms may spray urine in the house, and unspayed females may urinate more frequently when in estrus, in addition to becoming restless and howling all day.
You can make an indoor cat's environment more interesting by building an activity center or indoor gymnasium out of strong cartons with holes cut in the sides, large cardboard tubes to run through, and a climbing tree or ropes to clamber up. A scratching post is a must if you want to spare your furniture. If you live in a high-rise apartment, put screens in the window frames to stop the cat from crawling out through an open window.
Indoor cats tend to spend more time interacting with you through play and physical contact than cats that spend much of their time outdoors. However, keeping a cat indoors will not necessarily guarantee a high-quality relationship.