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Should You Have an Indoor Cat or an Outdoor Cat?

WebMD discusses the positives and negatives of indoor and outdoor cats.

Outdoor Cat Health

Although it’s not the lifestyle vets recommend, LaRussell says keeping Odie outdoors has trimmed him down to what her vet says is an ideal weight. Plus she doesn’t have to clean the litter box as often as she once did.

If you do make the decision to have an outdoor cat, it’s important to take precautions to ensure that your cat is safe. “Whenever possible, try to get them in at night. Most problems, such as getting hit by a car or having a wild animal like a coyote after them -- it seems most of the problems occur at night,” says Bernadine Cruz, DVM, associate veterinarian at the Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Hills, Calif., and member of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

“If they won’t stay in the house, maybe put them in the garage and put out food and water.” Another option is to build outdoor cat houses to keep your cats safe and protected day and night. Calvin and Hobbes have their own little houses. “They have blankets in the wintertime and lots of food and water,” McWhorter says.

Every cat -- whether indoor or outdoor -- should see the vet at least twice a year for an exam and regular regimen of vaccines, and all cats need to have some form of identification, Cruz says. You can either buy a collar with a tag (but make sure the collar has a safety clasp that will release if your cat gets caught on something), or invest in a microchip that is implanted between your cat’s shoulder blades. Identification can increase the odds that your cat will be returned to you if he wanders away. “I’ve worked in emergency clinics when a cat comes in that obviously belongs to someone,” Cruz says. “I may not be able to get the owner immediately, but I know that owner cared enough to put the chip in and I’ll go that step further [to locate them].” Finally, make sure your pet is spayed or neutered to prevent an unwanted litter.

La Russell understands the dangers that Odie can encounter outside, so she makes every effort to follow all of these guidelines. “We don’t let him go outside when it’s dark,” she says. “We treat him for fleas every 30 days, and we take him to the vet for his regular check-ups.” Those check-ups include vaccinations for diseases such as rabies and feline distemper, as well as heartworm medications.

Indoor Cat Health

Although living inside is generally considered healthier, indoor cats need special care, too. The indoor cat diet, which often involves grazing on an open bowl of food all day, plus a sedentary lifestyle, can lead to obesity and may predispose a cat to diabetes. That’s why it’s important to keep indoor cats active by providing scratching posts, perches, and a variety of toys to get them running and climbing.

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