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Weigh In: The Great Indoor vs. Outdoor Debate

Stray Cat

Roughly 75% of Americans claim their cats are indoor only.

But, in many European countries, it’s culturally considered cruel to keep cats inside! Shocking as that might sound to those of us in the US who wouldn’t consider letting our cats outside, cultural norms are very powerful. In fact, some shelters won’t adopt to you unless you let your cat go outside.

Last year at a large industry trade show, attended by international companies, I spoke with a company from the UK that manufactures cat flaps (doggy doors for cats). He told me he was surprised at how poorly cat flaps sold in the United States compared to Europe, where everyone has them for their cats to come and go as they please.

We want to know where you stand on letting your cat go outside. Do you? Or would you?

If you lived in a culture that deemed it cruel to keep your cat indoors, would that change things?

Tell us your thoughts.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Sue

    Jun 24, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I live in Florida and have 2 cats. They are inside/outside cats. When I am home I leave a door unlatched but shut so bugs don’t get in. If they want to come in or go out they do. I don’t think it is harsh to let your cat out unless you live in a city.

  2. Catherine

    Jun 24, 2015 at 10:27 am

    I live in Belgium, so I have the European way of doing it. My cat showed up as kitten in my garden. I always let him out, he loves it so much. Of course I worry, especially about the cars in the street but his happiness comes first. We lived in 3 different homes, every time I had the double glazing replaced to accomodate a flap door (the glass guy loves me!!!) When we moved, he had to stay indoor to accomodate for 3 weeks, he kept crying and tried to climb up the chimney!!!!!
    It’s funny you raise the subject as we may have to move to the US and I had noticed that there people keep cat indoor so the cat issue is my major concern should we move.

  3. Betsy Matteis

    Jun 24, 2015 at 11:20 am

    I’ve had both indoor and outdoor cats. Several years ago I basically had a feral cat colony in my backyard with 7 cats that were all outside. Of course I caught them and had them all fixed, but none of them were interested in living inside a house. Right now I have 2 indoor cats who prefer living inside. They do have access to a screened in patio where they can get sun and watch the birds and squirrels.

  4. Theres Bushey

    Jun 24, 2015 at 11:28 am

    I would love to bring my cats outside; DEFINITLY on a lease but I won’t. I don’t want them to get used to something that could easily kill them. They can look out the windows, sliders, screens but no outside. Fast moving streets, tons of woods, red tail hawks always lookin’ for something small. I actually put myself in the road to stop traffic when kitty slipped out, looking for my cat to run home. I thought of buying the cat run all screened in but ya know, ticks, ticks, ticks-New England. Nope, they sleep in our bed and are as clean or dirty as we are. I don’t even think I would let them out for any reason.

  5. Wendy Erskine

    Jun 24, 2015 at 11:49 am

    How would you like to live in prison when you have done nothing wrong?

    • Marianne

      Jun 25, 2015 at 3:46 am

      If you lived in a city, would you open your front door and let your 5 year old kids out to roam free without supervision?

  6. Virginia L. Fabritz

    Jun 24, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    No, absolutely not. Cats should be kept inside. If you have the money and a house, you can make a safe enclosure for your cat. Apt. complexes don’t allow you to do that. Also, your cat will live longer. It has been proven.

  7. Jeanne

    Jun 25, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    I’ve lost 2 cats to a thief/neighbor. One didn’t want come home, so I let her stay there, but when she got sick the person kicked her out of her house and didn’t tell me. When the cat show up on my back porch blanketed with fleas and skin & bones…I was fuming with rage & confronted this person…she said it wasn’t my business any more…I wanted to spit in her face. I bathed my cat & put some flea prevention on her…fed her & made apppointment with vet for next morning but was too late…she died that night in her sleep… I cried I put dog poop all over her porch. The other cat she stole over a Christmas holiday, when I confronted her, she lied & when I threatened to call the police, she said she had my cat but wanted me to pay for the vet bill she incurred…I told her to sue me, since she stole my cat in the first place & let a judge decide. Never had any problems, but other cats have gotten out & never seen them again….so I do not let my cats out…period!!!!

  8. Pat McFatridge

    Jun 25, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    I have always lived in single family homes, in small towns, and I have always had a cat, or two!! Sadly I have lost cats to traffic, traffic, and more traffic!! At least one disease. so it’s not really safe out side, but still I let my cats out!! I just don’t think a cat can have a quality life cooped up in a house 24/7 agree or not agree!! I am not really looking for approval, I don’t care what you think, it’s my life, and my cats life!!

  9. Helena T.

    Jun 26, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I live in rural southern Minnesota. When we adopted out first couple of strays I was far too nervous to let them out due to traffic and the possibility of other families taking them in (I can’t keep collars on my cats to save my life). Eventually I calmed down and the weather wasn’t -20F all the time. I began letting them outside, first with me watching (especially when we had one of our many slews of kittens before we found homes), then by themselves.

    We’ve had to say goodbye to many cats over the last couple of years because of traffic, freezing temperatures and unfriendly dogs, but such is life. 🙁 I don’t deny them outside except in cases of health concerns (post-surgery or illness), freezing temperatures, or because it’s dark (we have foxes and packs of coyotes). They’re tiny little, furry, snuggly predators that need to go and hunt things. Who am I to tell them they can only watch the birds from the other side of the glass and eat the hard brown dots I give them?

    Our cat, Hilde, sits by the door every morning like a little puppy waiting to go outside and play.

  10. Crystal Rose

    Jul 8, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    I’m fine with people keeping barn cats but I actually thinking it’s very irresponsible to let your cat outside when you live in the city/burbs. There are so many dangers out there. If you wouldn’t let a small child run around outside where you live then don’t let your pets do it.

  11. Vicki

    Jul 29, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    I have 2, 5 yr old males bothe recuse I live in the city my guys are strictly indoor. I have a lot of guilt as they sit in a window or doorway watching birds ect. Recently I got harnesses and leashs, we are working on it and next spring I will work on are screened area for them. But No, not on there own, to much traffic.

  12. Marilyn Sumner

    Jul 29, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    My Cat drives me crazy with her whining if I don’t let her out for awhile. This time of year, that means fleas and flys coming and going in and out. She loves being out but it is just too hot so I set my timer so I won’t let the time get away from me. Ten minutes, that’s it.

  13. Romana

    Jul 29, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    As someone who is raising her cat in Europe, the norm is that cat is supposed to go out, unless it is an apartment building. Even in the cities, whenever possible the idea is that cats need more stimuli than we can ever provide for them indoors. The flip side is that, unless you are very sure of your surroundings, the danger to the cat rises exponentially with each new problem. We all know what the problems are: neighbors who don’t like cats (can even resort to poison), dogs who don’t like cats (most don’t with the exception of the cats they had been raised together), cars, and all those illnesses we vaccinate them from.

    One problem, you cannot vaccinate against FIV. My wonderful kitty was loved by the neighbors (she liked to hunt, no mice traps needed), the dogs could not catch her: she’d be up on the walnut tree so high that for any other cat you’d need to call the firefighters to get her down. She was vaccinated properly, but there’s no vaccine for FIV. Even though she’s a spayed female, somehow she got it. No one knows when she had got it (she’s a rescue kitty, so it’s possible that she had got it from her mom or before she was rescued). All I know is that from now on she has to stay indoors. Believe me, it is a difficult transition. I am doing it because it’s her only chance to survive, and because I don’t want to see my neighbo’s cats infected as well.

    This is just one true story. It is up yo you to decide whether cats should be allowed outdoors or stay indoors. My word of advice, given that they really do feel better when allowed outdoors, do some cheeking and exploring of the neighborhood and make your own judgement. And whatever you decide, you’ll have to live with that.

  14. Nina

    Jul 29, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    I believe cats should be allowed to go freely outside but in today’s times a cat could get hurt. So I take my cat out on a leash and we go where he wants, he climbs trees, balances on fences, chases rabbits and squirrels. And he is safe. Cats do like harnesses and leashes.

  15. Brenda

    Jul 29, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    My cat is 9 and has been an indoor kitty all his life. He does go out on the patio occasionally, but really has no interest in going out other than that.

  16. Susan

    Jul 29, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Over the years, I’ve both seen and have had cats hit by a car, snatched up by owls or Hawks, attacked by neighborhood cats or coyotes, get lost or stolen, and get treated badly by humans who don’t like cats and don’t want them in their yard. I agree it is in a cat’s nature to be outdoors hunting things, but in this day and age, it’s not always safe – especially in my neighborhood. I have a gated courtyard with cat fencing where I let my cats go out, so they are outside but still protected. I don’t fault anyone for letting their cats out, but I won’t let mine roam free. I don’t know about other countries, but I’ve noticed that catios (enclosed patios for cats) are becoming extremely popular. I personally think that is the way to go, if you have the ability to have one.

  17. Carmen

    Sep 12, 2015 at 10:26 am

    I think it depends on where you live and the personality of your cat. Some cats don’t want to go outside. Some cats can’t wait to get outside.
    Some areas aren’t safe for our kitties, some areas are great.
    I’ve had cats my whole life, and all of them have been let outside because I could let them and felt safe doing so. There were also times when I lived in an apartment building and couldn’t let them out.
    But if you do let your cat outside then you must also be conscious that accidents can happen. Just like in our own lives.
    There is no right or wrong, it’s a preference.

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    Oct 31, 2015 at 1:58 am

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