Currently there is no definitive knowledge regarding whether being an indoor-only cat is any better or worse than being one who has access to the outdoors. It is important to make sure that you are meeting all of your cat's needs whether they are an indoor cat or not. However, compared to cats who have the freedom to go outside, indoor-only cats will have additional needs that must be met to keep them healthy and happy.
Cats can adapt well to an indoor life if they are kept in this environment from an early age, but cats that have been used to going outside may find it more difficult to adapt. We would not recommend keeping a cat that is used to going outside, as an ‘indoor-only cat’, unless it is for health reasons. If you rehome a kitten and intend to keep it indoors, you could consider adopting a sibling-pair so that they can keep each other company.
For an active animal like the cat, an indoor environment can become predictable and boring, and can lead to stress, inactivity and obesity. So it’s important that you provide your cat with everything it needs.
When keeping an indoor-only cat you should:
- Provide it with a litter tray in a quiet place and make sure that you clean it out regularly. Cats are often reluctant to use a dirty tray or one that is in a busy part of the home.
- Make sure your cat has enough space. Indoor-only cats should have access to several rooms.
- Allow your cat access to two types of resting place, one at floor level, enclosed on three sides and another that is higher with a good view. It is important that the higher position is safe and will not lead to your cat falling from a height, as this could cause serious injury.
- Provide scratching posts for your cat at several locations around the home so that it can mark its territory, strengthen its muscles and sharpen its claws.
- Make sure your cat has opportunities to exercise each day to stay fit and healthy, by providing suitable indoor activities to keep it active.
- Provide and create new ways for your cat to stay stimulated and active, both physically and mentally, as one of the main problems with an indoor-only lifestyle is that cats can become frustrated and bored.
- Remember that because your cat will not have the freedom to interact with people or other animals outside, you will become its main social companion. You will need to make plenty of time to interact with your cat. You should not leave your cat alone for long periods during the day.
It is important to remember that although an indoor-only lifestyle may appear safer for your cat (as it is protected from any dangers outdoors), the indoor environment can be equally dangerous and cats can be injured as a result of household accidents. So you must take care and make sure that your home is a safe and suitable environment for a cat.
Understanding your cats' needs
For information on how to look after your cat, whether it is an indoor-only cat or one that has access to the outside, read our pages on the welfare needs of cats.