The great debate: indoor cat or outdoor cat. Some think it’s cruel to confine a tiny predator to the inside, some think it’s dangerous and irresponsible to let a cat roam. Throw an unpredictable predicament like asthma into the mix and the whole debate grows into an even bigger monster.
There are many pros and cons for both feline habitats, but personally, I believe inside is the best place for my asthma cat. This is partly because I’m an overprotective mother type and partly because Sparrow is too ridiculous for the outside world. Whether you choose to let your little asthmatic live as an indoor cat or an indoor/outdoor cat, there are, as always, a few things to consider.
The (Not So) Great Outdoors
Cats are by nature explorers and sometimes they’re not as smart as they think they are, which means they are prone to get lost. The world is a big, uncontrollable place, and outside your cat is exposed to all of the obvious dangers like dogs, cars, people who don’t like cats, people who do like cats, other cats. In urban areas, cats are more likely to come into contact with fleas, parasites and dangerous garden and industrial chemicals that can seriously affect their health.
There’s also a greater risk that your cat will be exposed to asthma triggers while out and about. Getting up close and personal with the pollens, smoke and other nasties in the air will no doubt be a part of an outdoor cat’s life. Asthma is an unpredictable beast at the best of times and by letting your cat out you run the risk of him having an asthma attack in an unfamiliar place, increasing his stress levels and making the whole situation much more vulnerable. Having said that, the world is not a horrible cat-killing place but you do need to consider these things to help keep your cat safe in the big world:
- DO NOT let your cat out unless his asthma symptoms are under control. If he’s been having coughing attacks or showing signs of difficulty breathing, keep him inside until it has passed and his condition is stable again.
- Proper identification is a must for any outdoor cat. Microchips are great, but a collar with an identification tag is much more useful should someone find your cat. It’s a good idea to customise your cat’s tag to say ‘I’m Asthmatic’ and include your phone number so if someone finds your cat having an attack they know what’s going on and who to call.
- Keep up to date with your vaccinations and be a responsible pet owner by getting your cat spayed or neutered.
- Be aware of the regulations in your area for cats being outside – where I live cats are required to be inside from dusk to dawn. Check locally to see if your area has any such restrictions.
Life on The Inside
Inside-only cats live on average 5 years longer than inside/outside cats, though is largely due to the fact that inside cats are not getting run over by cars or trains. If your cat is young and energetic he may become bored living indoors, so you’ll need to make sure your home has plenty of places to climb, hide or run and lots of things to play with.
Inside life provides a much more stable, predictable and controlled environment for an asthmatic cat. Inside cats are more affectionate and just plain nicer than street cats, plus you have more control over the environmental triggers that set off your cat’s asthma attacks.
As an inside cat’s human you become kitty’s main companion so you will need to make time to interact every day. House cats run a greater risk of depression, obesity and excessive hairballs due to their confined lifestyle, but there are many ways to combat this:
- Give your cat plenty of space – ideally, an inside cat should have access to several rooms.
- Make sure there are plenty of places for kitty to rest – it’s best to provide a variety of different shapes and sizes. Somewhere enclosed and hidden, somewhere down low or at floor level, somewhere up high with a good view.
- Provide scratching posts and surfaces for your cat to strengthen his muscles and play with his claws. Having something vertical and something horizontal works best.
- Daily exercise is a must! Click here to read about the best exercise for cats with asthma. I have a collection of squishy stress balls that I fish out from under the couch and kick around for Sparrow to chase, as well as a variety of different toys that do different things.
- Cat TV is interesting, educational and FREE! Just open the curtains and let kitty sit in the window to observe the world from the safety of inside.
- Change up the toys frequently to keep things interesting. Make sure your daily play time includes running, jumping and chasing.
- Scatter a few crunchy treats or pieces of dry food around the house to encourage your cat to explore and hunt.
The choice of letting your cat out or keeping your cat in is entirely up to you – there is no right or wrong answer. Consider the pros and cons and then make the best decision for your cat’s safety and happiness.
How do you keep your inside cat entertained? How do you make sure your outside cat is safe? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…