Weighing the Pros and Cons of Letting Your Cat Venture the Great Outdoors
Sun, April 18, 2021

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Letting Your Cat Venture the Great Outdoors


Deciding on whether you want to let your cat outdoors or keep it indoors is a momentous decision regardless if you are a novice or a veteran cat owner. This does not have to stressful for you or your pet. However, you need to prioritize your feline’s well-being and weigh the pros and cons of letting it outdoors before making this life-changing decision.

Survey On the Management of Pet Cats (2018)

Phillip Roetman, Hayley Tindle, and Carla Litchfield of biomedical and life sciences journal PMC said the Cat Tracker Citizen Science Project in South Australia collected respondents’ data via an online social survey and tracked their pet cats using small GPS units. When asked if the respondents learned something new because of the project, 71% said they had.

More cat owners who participated in the project learned something (77%) compared to cat owners who did not participate in tracking (67%) and non-cat owners. When asked what the participants learned from the Cat Tracker project, the response themes included “where cats go and how big their home range is” (42.9%), “information about their cat specifically” (13%), and the perspectives of the community and owners on cats (9.2%).

Other themes noted by the authors were “the difference between cats” (6.7%), cat personality (5.4%), how cats travel (4.8%), how much cats hunt (4.4%), and how many roads felines cross and the dangers they are exposed to (2.9%). Before the survey, the respondents reported that their cat stayed within their property (13%) while others said their pet feline went 100 m the (29.5%), 1 km (5.4%), 2 km (0.4%), and “many kilometers” (0.8%) away from their property. Only 51% were unsure.

After the survey, only 17.6% reported their cats staying their property. Others reported that their cats went 100 m (52.1%), 1 km (11.9%), 2 km (4.6%), and “many kilometers” (3.1%) away from their house. Only 10.7% of participants were unsure. 71% of the tracking participants said the tracking results were interesting and surprising and of those, 31% stated the locations their cats visited, 24% were surprised and interested in the distances their pets traveled, and 13% cited the routes the cats had taken.

The report revealed that 27% of participants who had their cat tracked and 13% of those who did not have their cat racked reported changing how they managed their pet. When asked about the common change in behavior, the respondents answered keeping a cat indoors more often (84%), changing feeding patterns (11%), providing items such a bell, collar, and identification (5%), and letting their cats outside more often (4%).

When asked why they had changed the way they managed their cats, the respondents said it is to stop their cat from hunting and to protect wildlife (45%), to keep their cat safe (38%), and not wanting their pet to roam (23%). The authors concluded that similar projects can be launched to further study human-animal interactions and interactions with pets, to improve animal welfare, and minimize the negative effects of pets on wildlife.



The Advantages of Letting Your Cat Go Outside

Outdoor cats have more opportunity to get enough physical activity through climbing, running, or exploring. Your cat may also be less likely to gain weight when you let it explore the great outdoors. The outside world can help stimulate your cat’s natural curiosity and well-being and encounter new tastes and experiences. Further, it is also free to showcase its instinctive behavior like scratching. You may not appreciate this behavior when your cat tends to scratch furniture or curtains.  

The Disadvantages of Letting Your Cat Go Outside

Cars and busy roads can be dangerous to your cat. However, it can also be involved in an accident on a quiet road in the countryside. Cats also tend to hide under a car’s bonnet, increasing their chances of dying. It is also possible for your cat to wander and get lost while exploring its surroundings. Foxes, dogs, and rival cats may also pose a threat to your pet, though this depends on your location. Letting your cat go outdoors may mean higher exposure to parasites, poison, and disease like feline leukemia.



Taking Safety Measures to Ensure the Health and Well-Being of Your Cat

Make sure that your cat’s vaccinations are up to date. Regular treatment of flea, tick, and worming medication is also recommended. Have your pet neutered to prevent it from wandering too far and avoiding letting it out during rush hour.

You can also create a cat-friendly garden that can help your cat get some “outdoor time” without letting it outside of your home. If your cat tends to pee in your neighbor’s garden, talk with your neighbors and ensure that it has access to a clean indoor and outdoor litter area. Additionally, it is recommended to install a cat flap if you are not home to let your cat in or out.

Don’t let your declawed cat outside, cautioned the Animal Humane Society, whose objective is to advance animal welfare and create a more humane world for animals. Declawed cats will not be able to protect themselves from rival cats and other animals.



What If My Cat Gets Lost?

They may be hiding in peculiar places at home such as inside of your washing machine or tumble dryer, said Purina, a producer and marketer of pet food. If not, start with your garden. Call your cat’s name for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Try shaking a packet of dry food or its favorite treat to make your cat come to you.

If you spent hours looking for your cat, consider finding them in a neighbor’s garden, house, or garage. Be sure to ask for their permission first. Call your local animal rescue charities to check if your pet has been found by them or handed by a stranger. If your cat is microchipped, call your veterinarian and animal rescue centers to ask them to post about your missing cat on social media or create a poster. A microchip is a permanent form of identification to make it easier to find your cat.

Overall, it is up to you whether you will let your cat outside. Be sure that your pet feline is microchipped and up to date with its vaccinations. Opt to have a cat-friendly garden if you want it to get a taste of the great outdoors without letting it roam around.