In short, we say yes! There are many pros to keeping cats indoors at all times – and the few cons can be managed.

The debate about whether cats should be kept indoors or allowed outdoors is a long-standing one. Vets, animal welfare organisations, cat shelters and rescues, cat owners, non-cat owners, even local councils, all have their views. So what do we think?

Cat People of Melbourne recommends that cats are kept indoors at all times.

We believe this is the safest arrangement for cats, giving them the best chance of having longer, healthier lives. This arrangement also protects other animals and wildlife.

We feel so strongly about this, that keeping cats inside or contained to the property is a non-negotiable condition of adopting a cat from us.

The benefits of indoor-only cats

The benefits of keeping your cat inside at all times are many. These include that your cat will be safe from:

  • cars
  • attacks and injuries from other cats, dogs or other animals
  • infectious diseases and parasites from other cats
  • eating toxic plants or poisons (such as a rat that has eaten rat bait)
  • attacks from humans
  • illnesses like skin cancer
  • extreme heat, cold or rain
  • getting lost and not being able to find their way back home.

Given these outside risks, the biggest impact of keeping your cat indoors is on its life expectancy. The average lifespan of an outdoor cat is around 5 years, while the average lifespan of an indoor cat is around 15 years. And who doesn’t want more time with their beloved furry friend?

Additional benefits include:

  • Other animals and wildlife will be safe from your indoor cat. It has been estimated that feral and roaming pet cats in Australia kill millions of birds every year.
  • Keeping your cat inside will reduce noise outside and other behaviours that may bother your neighbours.

And finally, the benefits for you are that you won’t have to worry about where your cat is or what may have happened to them while outside.

What about the cons of indoor-only cats?

Some people believe that it is healthier for a cat to be outdoors – it allows them to roam, climb and hunt, and provides them with greater stimulation.

However, you can maintain the physical and mental wellbeing of your cat by bringing the outdoors in, and still have all the benefits of keeping them safe from harm.

How to keep your cat happy indoors

There are many ways you can enrich your cat’s environment and give them ways to exercise their natural instincts indoors. For example:

  • When feeding your cat, you can mimic hunting scenarios by hiding small amounts of food or treats in multiple spots within your home.
  • Feed your cat food or treats using a puzzle mat or feeder to engage them when they eat.
  • Play with your cat as much as you can, including with interactive toys that allow them to do things like chase, catch and bite.
  • Have cat scratchers in the home so your cat can scratch and mark their territory.
  • Cat trees, cat shelves or other tall furniture (such as bookcases and wardrobes) will enable your cat to climb and jump.
  • Unless it is a hot day, keep blinds open to give your cat access to natural light and warm spots in the sun.
  • A cat enclosure or cat patio (catio) will allow your cat to be outside and get some fresh air.
  • You can try training your cat to wear a harness and taking them for walks.
  • Provide some visual stimulation with cat TV. There are many free videos on YouTube featuring birds, squirrels, mice and other animals that your cat can watch.
  • Establish some resting places near windows or attach a perch to a window so your cat can watch the outside world. You can even place a bird feeder outside one of your windows.

Finally, check with your local council

Check with your local council to see if they have rules around containing cats to properties (which means your cat needs to stay within your property at all times) or cat curfews (which means your cat needs to be home and stay inside overnight or at all times).

If this is the case in your local area and your cat is caught outside your property or outside during curfew, you may be fined.