Free Range Or Housing?

Even before you adopt a cat, you should think about whether the animal should be allowed to roam freely or become a pure house cat. Here you can read about the advantages and disadvantages and what you need to bear in mind for the different types of housing.

The cat is the most popular pet in Germany. While many cats roam the gardens as free roamers, others spend their lives in houses and apartments. Both ways of life have advantages and disadvantages. Read here for which cat each form of housing is more suitable.

Cat Keeping: Pure Housing Keeping

It is possible for cats to be kept purely as an apartment and, if certain requirements are taken into account, also species-appropriate:


It is important that the apartment is large enough for a cat and, above all, has a varied design. For example, several small rooms are more exciting for a cat than a large living area. The apartment must offer enough space for scratching posts, play and climbing facilities, a quiet feeding area, and an undisturbed place for the litter box.

Stimulation and Play Opportunities

In every cat, there is a little hunter that needs to be mentally and physically challenged. If kept purely as an apartment, many climbing, scratching and hiding places are a must. In addition, the cat owner should be willing to play interactively with their cat several times a day.


Cats are very social animals and not really loners. If you decide to keep them purely as an apartment, it is best to take in two cats that get along well. So the cats are not alone in your absence and have a fellow cat to play and run around with.

Cat Attitude: Free Run

A cat that is allowed to go outside is exposed to a lot of environmental stimuli. She is in her element as she sneaks through gardens and streets. After a move to a new home, however, your cat should first fully acclimate before being allowed outside. Depending on the character of the cat, this can take four to twelve weeks.

Conditions For Release

In order for your cat to be allowed to go outside, the following requirements should be met:

  • The cat must have all the necessary vaccinations.
  • The cat must be neutered (both male and female!).
  • The cat must be microchipped and registered in an animal registry.
  • The cat must be protected from parasite infestation.

Opportunities and Dangers When Going Outside

For a cat, being outdoors safely is a great adventure that stimulates all of its senses. Outdoor cats are more active than indoor cats and are less prone to obesity. Also, an outdoor cat never really gets bored. Outside the experiences adventures, inside the house, he eats, cuddles, and recharges his batteries.

How safe it is for a cat to go outdoors depends heavily on the environment in which the cat moves. The life expectancy of outdoor cats is significantly lower than that of pure house cats. This is due to the following risks:

  • road traffic
  • Territorial disputes with other cats
  • Danger from other animals (e.g. loose dogs)
  • parasites
  • poisonous plants
  • unprotected pools of water

Another thing to consider is that you have little control over what your cats eat outside. Especially when cats are dependent on medication or are only supposed to eat certain diet food, going outside can become a problem. A cat flap makes it easier to get in and out. Many cat flaps can also be adjusted so that you can decide for yourself when the cat is allowed outside and when not.

Check your cat for injuries and wounds after each release. Especially with long-haired cats, these are not easy to recognize at first glance and are only noticed when they have already become infected.

Alternatives to Release

If unsecured outdoor access is too dangerous for your cat, there are a few alternatives to allow your cat the adventure of fresh air, at least to a limited extent:

Cat-Proof Balcony

A cat-safe balcony should be available for indoor cats if possible. Be sure to secure the balcony with a net and set up cozy observation posts outside for the cat. Non-toxic plants provide a little scent experience.

Outdoor Enclosure

If you have your own garden, you can build a really great outdoor enclosure for your cat there. Make sure the enclosure is high enough for the cat to jump and climb.


A catio (a “terrace for the cat”) is another great way to provide the cat with fresh air and outdoor stimuli. Catios are suitable for terraces and larger balconies, as they usually have a minimum size of 180cm x 80cm x 170cm (L x W x H). There are no limits to your imagination when it comes to setting up.

Linen Walks

Leash walks with cats are also possible. Here, however, it is important that you first practice wearing a harness and leash with your cat in the apartment before the first excursion into nature is planned.

Release or Housing: Make a Decision

Even before you buy a cat, you should think about the type of housing that you can offer your cat and consider this when choosing your future roommate.

Cats that have been used to being outdoors for years should not be denied access in the future either. Likewise, cats that have spent several years in the apartment should not simply be put outside the front door.

The character and breed of the cat also play a role. Breeds that are particularly active and freedom-loving, such as Maine Coons or Norwegian Forest cats, should not be denied access, while quieter breeds such as British Shorthairs or Persians can also feel comfortable being kept indoors.

Posture Influences Behavior

A survey of owners of a total of 500 pairs of cats has provided interesting results on how housing conditions affect the animals’ overall behavior. These are the findings of the study:

  • Cats that are allowed to roam safely tend to be more attached to their owners than cats that are only indoors.
  • The cats are particularly cuddly and can enjoy a secure free run. Only then do the indoor cats and finally, the free-range animals follow.
  • According to the study, free-range animals are castrated 1.8 percent less frequently than house animals. With fatal consequences for animal welfare. More than two million strays are already living in Germany. Responsible cat owners never let their cats outside unneutered.
  • Outdoor cats are kept more often than indoor cats in families with children, dogs, and other small animals.
  • Cats with a secure freewheel mark the least.
Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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