LIFESTYLE

Is it better for cats to be indoor or outdoors?

What do you think?

People enjoy having cats as pets for various reasons. Cats provide affection and companionship, and their purring can be soothing and comforting, helping to reduce their owners’ stress and anxiety.  

But is it better for cats to be indoors or outdoors?  

Geelong city council’s new cat rules

Starting November 1, Geelong City Council will join a growing number of local governments requiring pet cats to be securely contained 24 hours a day.  

Councillor Elise Wilkinson stated, “On average, roaming and hunting pet cats kill 186 mammals, birds, and reptiles yearly, including 115 native animals. Our pets are essential to us—they’re part of our family and vital companions. It’s crucial to protect both them and our wildlife.”  

Other councils, particularly in Victoria and the ACT, mandate that cats be kept inside overnight.  

State and territory laws

While councils manage pet-related issues, state and territory laws significantly influence their authority. For example, state laws in New South Wales and Western Australia prevent local councils from requiring cat containment. 

However, the NSW legislation outlines cat identification regulations, prohibitions on cats in certain public places, and procedures for addressing nuisance behaviour exhibited by cats. These regulations aim to manage and control cats to prevent disturbances, protect wildlife, and address issues related to nuisance behaviour. While the regulations may indirectly influence owners to keep their cats indoors to comply with certain restrictions, such as the prohibition of cats in wildlife protection areas, they do not specifically mandate indoor confinement for all cats at all times.

indoor cats
(Credit: Getty)

Benefits of keeping cats indoors  

  • Protection of wildlife: Indoor cats do not hunt and, therefore, do not threaten wildlife. This is especially important in Australia, where cats can significantly impact populations of native birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects, many of which are vulnerable or endangered. 
  • Safety: Indoor cats are safe from various outdoor hazards such as traffic, predators (like dingoes and aggressive dogs), snake bites, and venomous spiders.  
  • Health: Indoor cats are less likely to contract diseases and parasites specific to the Australian environment.  

Challenges of outdoor cats  

  • Wildlife impact: As mentioned, outdoor cats pose a significant threat to Australian wildlife. Cats are natural hunters and can significantly impact populations of native birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects.
  • Risks and hazards: Outdoor cats face more significant injury, disease, and predation risks.  
indoor cat sitting on a heater
(Credit: Getty)

Is it cruel to keep cats inside?  

No, it is not cruel to keep cats indoors as long as their physical and mental needs are met. The RSPCA and WIRES advocate for keeping pet cats indoors, emphasising that cats can be very happy if provided with an environment that safeguards their health and offers positive experiences.  

How to keep your indoor cat happy  

  • Litter trays: Provide one litter tray per cat plus one extra (e.g., three trays for two cats). Place them in different, quiet locations. 
  • Grooming: Regularly groom your cat with their favourite brush to prevent mats and reduce hairballs.  
  • Vertical space: Cats love to climb. Create vertical spaces with ladders, shelves, or cat furniture, allowing them to reach high places like the top of a wardrobe or fridge.  
  • Warm spots: Ensure your cat has warm places to curl up.
  • Windows: Set up stands or perches near windows so your cat can observe the outside world.  
  • Safety and seclusion: Provide multiple safe and secluded spots like cat baskets or igloos lined with soft blankets. 
  • Scratching posts: Provide vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces to satisfy your cat’s need to sharpen their claws and protect your furniture.  
  • Outdoor enclosures: Consider installing a modular pet park or other enclosed outdoor setups to give your cat a safe outdoor experience without risks.  
  • Toys: Use inexpensive toys like ping-pong balls or scrunched-up paper.
  • Playtime: Spend time petting and playing with your cat daily to keep them happy and engaged.  
  • Cat TV: Play videos designed for cats, available on YouTube. These videos show birds, fish, and other movements that can mesmerize and entertain your cat. 

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