How Long Do Outdoor Cats Live? Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats
Caring for any cat is fulfilling, whether he's an outdoor or indoor kitty. Unfortunately, outdoor cats tend to have a much shorter lifespan than indoor cats. Of course, there are always exceptions, and this can vary among individual cats. And in some cases, outdoor kitties can even be trained to be indoor cats! Here's a look at the pros and cons of outdoor versus indoor cats.
How Long Do Outdoor Cats Live?
Outdoor cats tend to live an average of two to five years, sometimes longer. In contrast, indoor cats can live to be 17 years or older.1 The average life expectancy for indoor cats, however, is closer to 14 years.2
Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats: The Pros and Cons
Outdoor cats face more dangers than indoor cats, and this is why their lifespans tend to be shorter. They're in danger of being hit by cars, ingesting something hazardous or encountering predators. You're also more likely to notice health issues with your cat sooner if she's living indoors.
However, indoor life isn't without disadvantages. Indoor cats are more likely to gain weight because they aren't as active as their outdoor counterparts. That weight gain can lead to all sorts of health issues, so you need to watch her food intake closely. Indoor cats are also more likely to get bored, so they need lots of mental enrichment in the home.
Can an Outdoor Cat Become an Indoor Cat?
If you want to help an outdoor cat become an indoor cat, it's important to know if he's a feral or a stray cat. Feral cats have never been cared for by humans and act terrified if you come near. Ferals are unlikely to adjust to indoor living. Stray cats might act similarly at first, but at one point, they've known human companionship. They'll eventually warm up to you if you give them food and spend time outside with them while they're eating. Let the stray cat make the first move, allowing him to sniff your hand before you try to pet him. With time and patience, your bond will grow.3 Eventually, you can allow him inside for increasingly longer visits. But if you have another cat, get the stray cat a vet checkup first.
How to Make an Outdoor Cat's Life Happier
Some outdoor cats simply can't adjust to indoor living. But you can still enjoy taking care of them and watching all their playful antics outdoors. You can make your outdoor cat's life happier with a few small changes. When the weather is warmer, help her stay cool by leaving treats and food in a shaded area, like a covered patio. Try leaving out a cool bed for her, like the Coolin' Pet Cot with a canopy for shade. Dehydration is also a worry, so set out a Coolin' Bowl in the summer and the Thermo-Kitty Cafe in the winter.
When the weather's colder, help your outdoor cat stay warm with a heated, water-resistant shelter, like the Thermo Outdoor Kitty House or the Thermo Outdoor Multi-Kitty A-Frame. These also come in unheated varieties for warmer climates.
How to Safely Give an Indoor Cat a Taste of the Outdoors
Can an indoor cat become an outdoor cat? Indoor cats are accustomed to air conditioning and lots of snuggles, so it's best to keep them inside. However, you can give your cat a safe "taste" of the outdoors. For starters, set up a catio or an outdoor cat-safe tent for him to play in. Train him to walk on a cat harness and take him outside for a stroll. Or carry him on your walks in a Travel Bike Backpack.
Indoor cats love when you set up bird feeders in your backyard. Give them an EZ Mount Window Bed to watch their "cat TV" from. Other cats may prefer a comfy Mod Dream Pod to snuggle up in and a Hangin' Cat Condo to climb. Don't forget interactive scratcher toys like the Creative Kitty Tunnel. Play with her every day for exercise and try clicker training for further enrichment.
Unfortunately, outdoor cats do tend to have shorter lifespans on average than indoor cats. But not all cats are meant to be indoors. Consider your cat's quality of life; is your outside cat happier overall? Regardless if they live inside or outside, it's important to develop a strong bond with your kitty, making the most of every moment and creating sweet memories that last a lifetime.
1. Watson, Stephanie. "Should You Have an Indoor Cat or an Outdoor Cat?" Pets.WebMD.com, 6 June 2021, https://pets.webmd.com/cats/features/should-you-have-an-indoor-cat-or-an-outdoor-cat#1.
2. Coates, Jennifer. "How Long Do Cats Live?" PetMD, 25 January 2018, https://www.petmd.com/blogs/thedailyvet/jcoates/2011/aug/how_long_do_cats_live-11496.
3. L.C. David. "How to Win the Trust of a Stray Cat." PetHelpful, 22 March 2021, https://pethelpful.com/cats/How-to-Gain-a-Stray-Cats-Trust.