When cats are outside, they get to be active, social and play both with other cats and alone. But are outdoor cats better off than cats that live inside?
When cats are outside, they get to be active, social and play both with other cats and alone. But are outdoor cats better off than cats that live inside?

Is it cruel to keep your cat indoors?

Or can cats live inside and be walked on a leash like dogs?

“Most cats are probably better off being able to go outside, but not all of them,” Bjarne Braastad tells sciencenorway.no. He is a retired professor in ethology, the study of animal behaviour, at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).

According to Braastad not all cats want to be outside. If the cat has only ever lived inside from when it was a tiny kitten, then it would be perfectly fine for it to live inside for the rest of its life also.

“Breed cats such as Ragdolls and Persians are fairly typical indoor cats, but if they first get used to being outside, they can thrive there too,” the professor says.

If you are looking to adopt a cat that has previously been allowed to roam freely outdoors, you will probably have to let it continue to go outside once it’s moved in with you.

“It is animal cruelty not to let them do what they like. They are used to being outside, hunting mice and warming their fur in the sun,” Braastad says.

<span class="italic" data-lab-italic_desktop="italic">Ragdoll</span> is a typical indoor cat breed. The photo shows two Ragdolls sitting in their cat tree.
Ragdoll is a typical indoor cat breed. The photo shows two Ragdolls sitting in their cat tree.

“Cats are not like dogs”

If you get a kitten, it can live a perfectly good life indoors, but it is advantageous if you let your cat go outside.

A cat that freely roams outside can explore the neighbourhood, hunt for mice and insects, and also meet other cats.

“If you live in a place with dangerous traffic conditions or you don't want your cat to hunt mice and birds, then you can train your cat to walk on a leash,” Braastad says.

This gives your cat the opportunity to explore and sniff around as it suits them.

“But you have to remember that cats are not like dogs, and you as the owner have to follow your cat’s pace. You might even end up in some bushes and thickets,” the professor laughs.

Indoor activities

So it is actually possible to have a cat that can thrive indoors. But how is this possible?

“It's important to let your cat be active. You can set up cat trees so they can climb, which can also be used as a scratching post for their claws. They thrive off the ground,” Braastad says.

According to the professor, if you often leave your cat alone for more than 11-12 hours, then you should consider getting two cats instead of one.

So is your cat better off indoors or outside? The answer is quite simple: it depends on what your cat is used to. Cats can have a good life both indoors and outside.

“It is possible to teach your cat to walk on a leash and travel on public transport. If you do that, your cat will be very easy to deal with too,” Braastad points out.

Indoor cats can also enjoy a life where they can walk on the balcony, as long as you have ensured that it cannot escape or fall from it.

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Translated by Alette Bjordal Gjellesvik.

Read the Norwegian version of this article on ung.forskning.no

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