Dear Doctor: Indoor-Outdoor Choices


Q. I know that pet cats are supposed to live exclusively indoors for their safety as well as for the protection of local wildlife that cats prey on, but it just seems so restrictive to me — to the point of making a cat miserable. Are there any options for letting a cat outdoors?

Lionel Deverdun
Shreveport, Louisiana

Dear Mr. Deverdun,

A. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) sees it the way you do — that some outdoor activity for indoor house cats is the “best option.” The caveat, the association says in a position statement, is that the outdoor activities should be safe ones. It maintains that this “keeps the cat away from most dangers and yet provides a more stimulating environment with potential for more normal feline behavior.”

The AAFP’s suggestions: walking the cat on a harness and leash (see Catnip, May 2020) and creating an enclosed outdoor space such as a catio — a patio for your pet that brings the air and sunshine in and lets him a little closer to his natural environment for bird watching and the like. Even a fenced-in area can work for some cats.

When entirely indoor-living is the only option, the cat should have plenty of environmental enrichment with toys, your attention, food puzzles to make mealtime more interesting, high places to hang out, and hiding places  to get away from it all.


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