Amanda M. Theodore, VMD, GVH Veterinarian
Your pet’s lifestyle makes a big impact on their health, and one of the most important lifestyle choices that cat owners make is whether their pets will live indoors, outdoors or some combination of the two. Where your cat lives will influence their diet and activity level as well as exposure to infections and predators. At every veterinary visit our team will ask if your feline is an indoor only cat or outdoor cat because knowing where your cat lives will help us tailor a health care plan specific to their individual needs.
An “indoor only cat” is a cat that never goes outside. If your cat goes out on a porch, in a fenced-in backyard, on the sidewalk with a leash, goes outside only for a short period of time under your supervision or sometimes they sneak out of the door, then they are not “indoor only” cats.
In many ways, being an indoor-only cat promotes a lower-risk life; these pets are not at risk of being hit by cars, eaten by predators (or being the predator – harming bird populations) and have lower exposure rates to certain parasites and infections such as FeLV and FIV. However, this does not mean that an indoor life equals a healthy life. Many indoor-only cats are sedentary, which increases the likelihood that they will become overweight, thereby predisposing them to diseases like osteoarthritis and diabetes. Additionally, many indoor-only cats do not have appropriate environmental enrichment and may have higher incidences of behavioral health problems, such as inappropriate elimination and destructive scratching.
If you are planning on having your pet indoor-only, here are some important considerations:
- Routine Wellness Exams: All cats need regular veterinary care! Routine well-visits should be scheduled yearly to keep your pet up to date on important vaccines and perform screening tests to check for early signs of illness which may not be apparent on physical examination.
- Parasite control: Indoor only cats can still get parasites like fleas, intestinal worms and heartworm. Using a safe and appropriate monthly preventive is important.
- Appropriate Diets: Select the right diet for your pet’s life stage and health needs and be sure to feed the appropriate recommended daily amount.
- Vertical space: Cats like to perch in high places, this allows them to feel safe and survey the room around them.
- Scratching: Scratching is a normal behavior; cats scratch to do more than sharpen their claws, it also lets them stretch and leave scent marks so even declawed cats need an appropriate place for this natural behavior.
- Litterboxes: Make sure to have enough – a good rule is to have one more litterbox than the number of cats in the home. Be sure to clean them daily!
- Exercise: Most indoor only cats are content to sleep most of the day, but encouraging play is a form of exercise and this helps keep them fit and healthy as well as stimulates them mentally, preventing boredom.
Here are some links to great resources for your indoor cat: