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Are indoor cats as happy as outdoor cats?

basscat

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Yes, and I bet Gibs can really scream when he wants something. :)
It's the tabby turd, not the Gibsy turd that fusses like that. Gibs squawks when he wants attention, but, when it comes to wanting stuff and acting up? He's much better behaved in that regard.
 

basscat

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I pity the hawk that takes on a full grown cat, not just because of the cat's size but also because they have claws.
Our little 7lb fluff ball hunter ended a Redtail Hawk that was harassing her. She caught it in a mid air dive. She was in a cone for two weeks while her wounds healed up, so......I'm not sure if it was really worth it.
We would feed her on the back porch. She would take pieces of kibble from her food bowl, carry them to the porch railing and set them down. Then hide within pouncing distance and not move a muscle for hours. Waiting on a bird to come get that kibble.
We think she learned that food baiting trick from the dog.
She was an "outdoor cat only" for many years. Now she's inside or outside depending on what she wants to do. She's the smart cat and the only one we let roam wherever she wants. She's 18 now and has slowed down a bit, but still sharp as a tack.

As for the bobcat? He has never seen a Coyote as far as I know. But if he so much as hears one yapping/howling a mile away? He heads straight up to the highest thing around. I have no idea how he knows that....
 
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Dacatchair

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I don't really think there is a one size fits all answer to this. it really depends on the cat, whether it wants out, what the outside world has to offer in the way of temptations, whether the cat can be kept happy with a lower risk alternatives, and how likely or unlikely it is that a cat will have seriously bad experiences if it is allowed out.

As humans most of us strongly value our freedom, and once our kids achieve some degree of competency we allow them to go out in the world and accept that living a full life comes with risks of accidents, poor choices and pain and suffering. And there is a general consensus that wild animals are better off left living in the environments they evolved to live in, even though wild animals generally die pretty horrific deaths and most carnivores living in captivity have longer lifespans than their wild brethren. So the present trend to pressure cat owners to ensure our pets live lives that are free of even the possibility of suffering, seems like a peculiar double standard. Especially in a situation where a cat really wants out, and when the practical safer alternatives have been exhausted. The desire of a captive animal for freedom is in itself a form of suffering.

There is debate in the science community whether our so called domestic cats are really rightly considered domestic animals,. Even though they are happy to share our homes and even our beds, up until the invention of kitty litter in the 1950's, the vast majority of cats have been free to choose where they live and to come and go as they pleased, and up until very recently our domestic cats came from family lines that descended, unbroken, from free roaming AKA wild cats. Even if some cats choose indoors and have for many generations, many more preferred outdoors, and the choice has been left to the cats. There is lots of wild animals that have close interdependent relationships with other animals.This doesn't mean they are no longer wild. Not sure how it makes such a huge difference if the interdependent relationship involves a human as opposed to a cow or a whale. Genetically our domestic cats are virtually identical to their wild ancestors, and unlike almost all other domesticated animals, cats are not by nature herd animals they are hard wired to follow the lead of the alpha animal that we as humans have replaced. Cats are domesticated like bed bugs, except they are bigger, smarter and have a lot nicer social skills, and it is usually a mutually consensual relationship...

I am living with an indoor only cat that wants out. My ongoing ethical dilemma is do I actually have a right to prevent my cat from doing what he wants, which would bring him many joyful experiences, because he might also run into trouble and suffer? And how certain should I be that he *might* have a bad experience, to be justified in preventing him from all the good experiences?

I have read a lot on the topic of how to provide an indoor only cat with all the things they need to be happy and I have done it all and more and it really has not worked... I got a second kitten so he would have a companion,( which did help) my indoor living space is full of climbing shelves. The combination of enclosed open air porches, free standing enclosures and walk ways through bushes and up into trees all around my house provide close to 1000 square feet of outdoor areas, and even though my cats are indoor only, this is a rural area and they catch mice and other things on a regular basis. I play with them both for 1/2 an hour, several times a day and work out of my home so I am available to provide attention 24/7. My cat that wants out is also harness trained, and will keep up with me on a brisk 2 mile walk through a nearby forest trail. But he still wants out. For a couple months, I have tried not bringing him out at all. and while this reduced his body language asking me to go out with him, when I watched him he was still spending most of his awake time pacing his enclosures and longing to be catching the mice that were just out of reach... Bringing him out into the yard with me while he is on a leash is something he enjoys a lot, but at best I am only able to do this a couple hours a day, which is not enough and he often begins acting even more desperate to go out right after we come back in. And now this it even more difficult because the younger cat who is generally content to be indoors or in his enclosures, will begin to howl like his heart is breaking if I am out in the yard with the cat that wants out, but managing 2 cats on leashes is a substantial risk in itself, and I can't be out working in the vegetable garden or doing needed yard work with 2 cats on leashes. Trying to keep control of a cat is not at all the same as trying to keep control of a dog or a couple dogs...

At this point I am suspecting the easy peasy "all cats can be happy indoors/ in enclosures/ on a leash" is either a sales pitch from people selling things and/ or propaganda from extremist anti cat groups. Because in my experience this just is not true...

For me, this ethical dilemma s further complicated because I live in an area with no coyotes or other predators likely to bother a cat, a sparse human population, an overabundance of non indigenous rodents and rabbits, and the vast majority of free roaming cats in my area live long happy and healthy lives, and seem no more likely to die in an accident than my human neighbours... but my cat is not a random bred cat, (spay and neuter programs here have made kittens so scarce, my kittens came from breeders) So my cat that wants out comes from many generations of indoor only ancestors who's breeding was controlled by humans and the traits selected were not necessarily the best qualities for outdoor survival. So even though my cat that wants out is highly intelligent and super cautious, to the point of being paranoid, I still have concerns he no longer has what it takes to navigate the world free from human protection, and he might quickly find himself in a situation where he is very unhappy.... My main concern is my neighbours cat is territorial and thinks my cats are invading his yard... (our yard) As far as I have heard, my neighbours cat has never done more than pull out fur, but my cat that wants out is very hyper sensitive, shy and submissive so it is easy to imagine him getting run out of his own yard. Which would not be happy for him at all....and I want to protect him from that. And even if my neighbours cat was not a problem, eventually another neighbourhood cat probably would be.

So now my plan is to try and put a cat proof fence around the main part of my rural yard and orchard. This is going to be both expensive and a major job, and from what I read many people who attempt to do this are not successful. And it is possible my cat will still want out...

I guess my point is, as humans we seem wired to want to set up everything to be just perfect, but like a rubric cube, when we think we have the answer, when looked at from another angle it really isn't... People who claim to have all the answers are often not being entirely honest. And usually our lives are a mixture of happy and unhappy no matter how we try to set things up to be just happy...
 
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amethyst

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Our little 7lb fluff ball hunter ended a Redtail Hawk that was harassing her. She caught it in a mid air dive. She was in a cone for two weeks while her wounds healed up, so......I'm not sure if it was really worth it.
Mystic, the cat I lost this summer, actually killed and ate a redtailed hawk once. No damage to her either, so she must have gotten very lucky.
 

pearl99

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I think it depends on the cat. Years ago I had a cat that was possibly a Norwegian Forest Cat mix. She adored the outdoors, when I had indoor/outdoor cats. Even in 5 degree temps. She had a coat that could withstand that. She disappeared after 12 years and I wish I had kept her as an indoor only. She was also happy seeming indoors. I hate to think of her getting eaten by a coyote, they had been seen in the area.
I now have a cat that was a stray, probably semi-feral. When I adopted him he had wounds, was terrified...he's adjusted well to indoor only (which is what I do now) and has absolutely no interest in going outdoors.He seems to be so happy to have a lap and be scratched, and runs to my lap whenever I sit down. He does like looking out the window, but he will not escape out a door to the outside, he looks so content inside.
Some cats have different temperaments. IMHO I'd rather have them miss catching mice and playing in the leaves than get killed by poison, wildlife, cars, attacked by another cat- the outdoors doesn't seem worth that kind of death.
Also, I have a bird attracting yard, want to protect the baby birds. And the grown birds.
I think it can go either way and people need to do what works for them.
 

Texaskitty

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Are indoor cats as happy as outdoor cats? I know that outdoor cats don't live as long, and an indoor cat is safer. But I see some of my indoor cat look longlingly outdoors. Are we robbing them from living their lives to the fullest, despite the dangers?

Bill Maher said of this issue, “Married men live longer. Yes. And an indoor cat also lives longer. It's a furball with a broken spirit, that can only look out on a world it can never enjoy. But it does technically live longer.”

My great- grandmother, who just loved cats, has always worried that people were begning to treat cats like hothouse plants. I would be one of the people she complained about because I always wanted my cats to be safe, but in wanting that for them, maybe I cheated them.View attachment 306436
Hi, I've wondered that too. At our house, there's tons of windows, and we have something like a table or perch in front of all of them, so they roam around all the rooms and look at everywhere. The cat tree is in front of a window too. And we don't restrict them about where they can climb (place is catproofed). A portion of our kitchen counter is theirs, with their water fountain on it. And the two kitties have each other's company and tons of toys. I leave the TV on for them too, with an aquarium DVD. They seem happy and energetic. I don't want them outside, it's so dirty and dangerous out there and they are so clean and safe inside. Here's a pic of the cat tree at one of the windows (it was night so our curtains were closed)
Tiki in cat tree.jpg
 

Dacatchair

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I am curious about the variables and why some cats want out. Like most things it is probably a combination of factors, some we can identify and try to replicate and other maybe we can't.

One of the things I notice my cat LOVES to do is roll around on a particular spot of grass. I have no idea why, but suspect other cats have rubbed there and it is like internet for cats. My other cat that is happier indoors also will roll around in the same spot, but after a while the spot seems to loose it's appeal, and they find another one. It is often the first places my cat wants to go, so something important to cats is going on there, but I have no idea what. I think there is things in a cats world that we as humans probably are not capable of understanding or recreating indoors...

I know mice that are out of reach are a large factor for my cat that wants out. I bought him a couple frozen mice as a treat from the pet supplies store, and after he ate them, he became completely obsessed with the plastic bag they were carried home in and could smell it for a week and would spend hours trying to figure out how to get at it, even when I put it into a cupboard. Unfortunately, at $5 a mouse this is not something I can afford to supply him with unless I grow my own and do argon gas euthanasia...

Seeing me spending a lot of time outdoors doing small scale farm type chores is another factor. I notice the areas he wants to hang out in are the same ones I spend the most time, and the enclosure in a unused side of the yard is rarely visited.

Another factor may be whether or not a cat perceives itself to be in any danger. I live on an island and there isn't a much that is dangerous to cats. Dogs are not allowed to free roam as they tend to form packs and run sheep. But my neighbour has a dog that was getting out last summer and coming over and barking at the cats, and I noticed my cat that wants out would stop asking for a few days after this dog had been in the yard. He also decides to go back to the house if there is anything going on on a road 300' away. If we lived in a busier /scarier place, I suspect he wouldn't want out at all.

But probably the biggest factor is just his personality. He is highly intelligent, restless and constantly wants things he is imagining would be entertaining. He will repeatedly bang on the clicker we use for clicker training when he wants to play clicker training games, and he invites me to play with trilling noises and graceful leaps. He also will get very intense about wanting to join me if I close the door on him when I an trying to work. My cat that is happier confined doesn't like to be separated from me either, but he doesn't seem to think about things he can't see, and he only tries to get me to provide the desired outcomes if I have something he wants and he can see it. In other words, I think my cat that wants out has a better imagination about how things could be improved, and is better at abstract thinking than my cat that is happy indoors. Maybe?
 

Luc

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My cats go out every day because I do not believe in confining them within an apartment for the rest of their life. If you are considering letting your cat out you might want to read this.

We live on the second floor, but the cats are trained to go out every day together.

A happy cat eats sleeps grooms and hunts. It makes me giggle when people complain about a cat killing other smaller animals...it's a cat ! I already sterilized my cats ( unlike humans they do not need to have sex for fun, just to reproduce ).

Am I supposed to scream and yell at the cat because at times they come home with a small bird ( very rarely ) or a lizard ? Should I declaw them so there is no damage to my furniture ? How about buying a stuffed cat that makes a meowing sound when I turn it on and I can turn off whenever I am tired ? Should I take the cats less often to the vet than they need so I can save some money and time ?

If I can not give my cats the best I can then why getting them in the first place ? Just because ? For the company ? Certainly I truly enjoy petting my cats I love them very much and they are my cats but they are not here and do not exist to make ME happy. It would be great if they were to adapt to my lifestyle and all my wishes but it would not be fair. It is not all about me, but it's about me AND them.

If it were for the cats they would go in and out non stop all day and all night, I know because I tried, but it drove me insane. So they go out at least once a day and they are happy while I am stressed out. After going out they stay home maybe a little annoyed but this time I am happy because they are safe.

Unfortunately this compromise has a very high level of risk because I never know when and if they will safely come back home.

They are chipped, vaccinated and sterilized both male and female have an elastic collar with a tag. They are given pipettes against fleas. I let them out only after they eat so they do not go looking for food, nor need to approach a person to eat.

If you let your cat out a very important thing to do is to take out the little bell that often is attached to the elastic/ break away collar because it will make a sound. It will advertise the cat position to both humans and animals, some of them are lethal. With the bell the cat is exposed to even more dangers, it takes away his natural ability to move stealthy and undetected. Not good.

I let my cats go out during the day or even at night ( no coyotes here ) because their vision and sense of hearing works best and there are less people, dogs and cars and yet I know that every time they go out something horrible might happen.

Even today the male cat has been out all day no idea where he is or what is doing, it makes me feel sick. I hope he'll come back soon. The female is different. She is almost always close by, and when she goes out it is not for long so we let her out more often. At times she likes to follow me for a few minutes while I take out the trash and we come back right away.

At times the male has been attacked by larger cats, after the vet patched him up he could not wait to go out again. Eventually he got street smart and when he spots larger cats my cat runs away and wow he is soo fast ! Or he stays under a car and for the aggressive cats is too much of an inconvenience to go after my cat. Although rarely he still gets ambushed or gets locked in a near by garage he has more experience and is more alert of his surroundings.

During the summer the male would stay out for 24 or more at first we were worried but then we realized that he was not far, during the warm summer nights he was sleeping right outside !

My cats were adopted when they were 2 years old. Letting the cats out is very dangerous, they have been going out for 6 years.

In the morning they seem only to care about going out even more than eating. We place the food by the front door and when the food is gone we open the door.

In the house there is zero entertainment for them. We had it before but after going out the cats do not care about toys. There is absolutely nothing we can buy for them to distract, occupy or entertain them in the house that comes even close to what happens after they go out.

Here is a little summary:

when they go in the garden, every time they looove to smell everything. They can detect if was cold or hot, if there has been a change if another animal has been there and for them it is equal to reading the morning newspaper. They'll investigate unfamiliar noises. They like to run over a short distance, play/ambush each other, chase birds and lizards and everything that moves. They like to hide, eat grass, dig holes and climb on trees. Other times they just sit or nap under the sun for a while and do not go anywhere. It might not sound like much but all activities are crucial for their well being. At times after the male disappears for a while and then suddenly shows up, the female will approach him and they gently touch the tip of their noses.

What I described is only a part of the benefits. Both cats are very balanced and happy. To me, this dangerous and rewarding compromise it is worth it and priceless.

Are indoor cats as happy as outdoor cats ? Absolutely not, not for my cats. If they were as happy they would not want to go out every day and every time.

The answer depends on the situation, the cat, the owner, the environment maybe some cats might be just as happy, however if given the option cats do like to go out.

In the pictures below you can see Carlito the male cat looking from the window waiting to go out. Cali the female while relaxing in the garden. And them together safe and sound in the house :-)
Carlito.jpeg Callista9.jpg Cgatti.jpg
 
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Tik cat's mum

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I have pondered this and I do think cat's are happier if they can roam when they want,that was the cat I grew up with. I now have a indoor cat only.Due to having two cat's hit and killed by cars and various injuries caused by fighting other cat's. I know my boy wants to go out but I live very near a main road and industrial units so I selfishly keep him inside and out of trouble. I don't think he is unhappy as it's the only life he's known. He would just be happier doing his thing.
 

Luc

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Not everyone can or is able to let their cats out. My friend too lives by a very busy street and he ended up taking the cat out on a leash. At the very beginning he took the cat to a nice quiet big park but the cat was very stressed out and unhappy. The cat was constantly looking for a place to hide for protection. My friend learned that the cat must make a link and have a physical connection from the house ( safe place ) to the outside world so that he SLOWLY venture outside as little or as much as he likes.

This takes a lot of patience, unlike dogs cats do not really "walk". They like to sit, stand and watch everything around them, but with the help of a clicker and treats, my friend takes his cat out on a leash during the evening/ night within the apartment complex and he watches him at all times. Either he lets the door open while the cat sits by the door, or they both go downstairs for 10-15 minutes and the cat is able to smell some stuff and eat a little grass.
 
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canucksfan1

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yeah i guess cats are happy to be home wherever that is.
i can see why some cats have to be indoor cats reading this thread.
living in Canada BC ive seen golden eagles-owls carry them away & those birds can carry a 15lb cat like nothing.
we got laws here where its illegal to kill coyotes-foxes even on your own land so they just breed like crazy & its common to see them running around town.
my baby Taz has lived a long indoor-outdoor life probably by being wily & i.ve seen her bluff dogs-coons long enough to getaway but she couldve also been just as dead as any cat so i'm thankful to have her if she wants either indoor or outdoor.
 

Talien

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Like many others have pointed out it depends on the Cat, and mine are a mixed bag.

Fresca loves to go outside and she will try to run out the door every chance she gets. I take her for walks on a harness and she enjoys it.

Callie wanted nothing to do with outside at first but eventually started to like going for walks on a harness, but now she's back to wanting nothing to do with outside.

Patch wants nothing to do with outside, I would guess because she was dumped off around where I live and was starving. She can't hunt very well with only one eye so she's quite happy being an inside Cat.
 

Dacatchair

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On the topic of the various dangers that a cat might encounter....

According to 2 vets I talked to, birds of prey, whether eagles, owls or hawks can't carry more than 6 lbs, so smaller cats and kittens might be in danger but a 15 lb cat is not likely to be. (Many small dogs and new born lambs are under 6 lbs)

This is reiterated on the Alaska Government website.

Eagle Flight and Other Myths, Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Years ago an eagle tried to carry away one of my free range chickens, and somehow my indoor outdoor couch potato cat got involved. I only saw the last part of this but the eagle was on the ground shrieking and the chicken was making chicken getting killed sounds and my cat was making cat fight sounds. The eagle flew off, leaving a puffed up swaggering cat and a pile of chicken feathers. The chicken came out from the bushes an hour later and neither the chicken or the cat had been hurt and hopefully the eagle was OK too.

Probably talking to local vets is the best way to find out about local dangers and how many cats fall victim to them.
 
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