Keeping your cat in the house protects it from cars, aggressive conspecifics, and other dangers. But what risks are indoor cats exposed to? And how can they be avoided? This guide provides the answers.
In general, indoor cats have a longer life expectancy than outdoor cats: on average, house cats live three to five years longer – also because the risk of getting injured or run over is naturally greater outside. Nonetheless, there are also some risks that can affect the quality of life of purely indoor cats.
First of all: How long and healthy a cat lives naturally depends on many different factors. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to know about possible risks, even as a keeper of indoor cats, in order to avoid them.
Many cat owners believe that their velvet paws are threatened with greater dangers outside: cars, infectious diseases, falls, poisonous food, or unwanted pregnancies, for example. That is partly true, admits veterinarian Dr. Margie Scherk a. However, cat owners would often underestimate the effects of a life that takes place exclusively indoors on cats.
“The fact is that cats were not bred to be in the house 24 hours a day, and many do not get used to living closely with people – they are forced to,” the vet made clear at the 2018 Veterinary Conference in Chicago.
And living in limited living space puts the velvet paws at greater risk of other ailments, especially chronic diseases. The main reason for this is an inactive lifestyle, explains “Science-Based Medicine”. For example, too much food and too little exercise, like stress, would cause many diseases.
Warning: Typical Risks for Indoor Cats
A study from 2005 examined which risks are particularly common in indoor cats:
- Inactivity, lack of fitness
- Behavioral problems such as marking, scratching, obsessive behavior
- Household hazards such as burns, poisoning, falls
- Obesity and diabetes
- Lower urinary tract disorders
- Skin problems
- Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesion
Stress and separation anxiety can also bother cats. And just like in nature, they are also exposed to potentially toxic foods and plants in the home. It is therefore always better to keep an eye on the cat – or to eliminate possible sources of danger completely.
The good thing: to a certain extent, the risks for indoor cats can be prevented or mitigated.
These tips can help:
Enable Indoor Cats to Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
In order to make life as an indoor cat as safe and healthy as possible, Dr. Scherk has two tips in particular: Minimizing stress triggers and creating a varied environment. Also important: carefully monitor the cat’s diet so that it does not overeat. In combination with sufficient exercise, you help ensure that your cat maintains healthy body weight.
- Provide a safe environment for your cat.
- Provide her with sufficient resources: food, water, litter boxes, scratching posts, and places to play and sleep.
- Allow your cat to act out its hunting instinct.
- Find positive encounters with your cat that make them feel safe.
- Some cats enjoy the company of fellow cats – but this is not a panacea and depends entirely on the temperament of your cat, whether it perceives other cats as competition.
“If we don’t let the cats outside, we have to make sure they get all the supplies they need,” said Dr. Shear. Incidentally, there is no general answer to whether it is better for a cat to live inside or outside. Therefore, cat owners – but also the veterinarians who advise them – should weigh the risks of both lifestyles with regard to their physical, emotional, social, and environmental needs.