Do indoor cats have a longer life expectancy than outdoor cats?

Original Question: Why don't you have any information on whether cats should be allowed to roam outdoors? I was told that that is the biggest single influence on how long a cat lives. - Scooper

Do indoor cats have a longer life expectancy than outdoor cats? Mar 5, 2018

Hi Scooper,

Thanks for your question. I appreciate you bringing up this topic.

This is a really interesting issue that many people will have varying opinions on. I’m reminded of a discussion on this with my classmates in veterinary school. We actually spoke about whether cats should live inside the house or outside the house. There were different opinions all around the room in fact I believe the class was basically split between these ideas. So for anyone considering letting their cat roam free versus keeping it inside, you have to look at the pros and cons of each.

Outdoor cats will certainly be more exposed to communicable disease and physical dangers. Every veterinarian has seen fight wounds that have become abscesses. There are also viral diseases that can spread in the cat population that is outdoors so it’s important to talk to your veterinarian about vaccination to protect them. They can also be injured by other animals, regular hazards like cars, they can get lost, stolen, or even just things that are poisonous. On the positive side they may have a more exciting environment to interact in which can improve their quality-of-life but still exposes them to these dangers. On a legal note, every cat owner is still responsible for anything that happens, such as if their outdoor cat bites someone and injures them. I think I can confidently say that most veterinarians would prefer that these dangers don’t exist in a cat’s life and would recommend cats to be kept inside.

Keeping the cat indoors certainly protects them better but also comes with its problems. Their environment is a little less interesting, they don’t get as much exercise and may become obese, they experience anxiety which can cause behavioural problems that make some people remove them from the home completely. The bottom line is that keeping cat’s indoors gives them a safe and controllable environment.

For all of these reasons, I believe that most veterinarians would recommend that cats be an indoor pet. I’m certain there are many people who disagree. What’s most important is that you address the issues as they arise and try to provide them with the best life and safest environment for them to thrive in your family.

Ultimately the choice is yours and you may want to speak to your veterinarian about the pros and cons.

I hope this helps.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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