Should you let your cat roam outside?

Photo: Susan Papazian

Should you let your cat roam outside? The dilemma of staying in or going out.

Cat welfare experts are often asked by cat owners for advice about whether to keep their cats inside or to let their cat roam outside. There are risks and benefits to consider for both indoor and outside cats. So, what’s best for your cat depends on your individual situation, and if the benefits to your cat’s well-being outweigh the risks.

Risks of letting your cat roam outside

  • Road traffic accidents
  • The spread of disease
    Unwanted pregnancies
  • fighting
  • theft
  • predation of local wildlife

Risks of keeping your cat indoors

  • Behavioural frustration
  • Unwanted behaviours
  • Potentially stress and poor health, especially in apartments/houses with multiple cats

So, what’s the best option for your cat?

There are benefits for both indoors and allowing your cat roam outside and that many risks can be reduced through owner management.  You need to consider for indoor cats – the amount of space (particularly vertical space for cats), enrichment such as scratching posts and toys to provide an outlet for natural cat behaviour and interaction with you for indoor cats. You also need to think about any perceived threats, such as children or other animals that will influence cat welfare when housed solely indoors.

You need to first weigh up the risks and benefits for your individual situation and then go with the housing option where the benefits to your cat’s welfare outweigh the risks.  Consider building a simple catio to allow your indoor cat be in a safe and secure space outside.

Recent research has investigated the risks of free-roaming cats in the UK being involved in road traffic accidents, as these are a common source of injury and fatality to cats. This research found that cats were more likely to be hit by cars in rural locations, with no effect of the age, gender, coat colour, breed or neuter-status of the victims. This is contrary to previous research suggesting that young entire male cats in areas of traffic volume, particularly those with a black coat at night, are at high risk of road traffic accidents.

Source: RSPCA Science update 57 July 2017 ‘Staying in or going out’