What if My Indoor Cat Wants to Go Outside?

This is a dilemma faced by many a cat owner. Should you give in and just let your cat go out? It’s a really important question!

Here, we’ll help guide you to an answer.

Black and white cat standing on hind feet with front paws on glass panel of closed door. Asking to be let out

This article is part of the VerveCat series on the indoor vs outdoor cat debate.

If you haven’t already, read up on the pros and cons of letting your cat go outside, as well as the article about options and solutions to keep your cat safe and healthy. That information will help you make an informed decision.

The TL;DR of the Indoor vs Outdoor Debate

Although there are real benefits for a cat to be allowed outside, the evidence for the risks is very clear:

Unsupervised outdoor time (i.e., letting your cat roam freely outside) will expose your cat to many more risks and dangers than they would otherwise face. Because of this, unsupervised outdoor cats experience more injury and illness, and die younger, on average, than those that stay indoors. And those aren’t the only arguments for not letting your cat roam outside.

Also, despite the benefits of keeping your cat indoors (i.e., safety), that comes with risks as well, so do be sure to educate yourself on all the pros and cons for indoor cats, too.

Your Indoor Cat Wants to Go Outside

First of all, it’s natural of course for a cat to be curious about or really want to go outside. It’s also not a requirement for their happiness and wellbeing.

There are two scenarios here. The first is that your cat has always been strictly an indoor cat, but she’s really begging to go out.

The second is that you have a cat that has been used to going outside in the past. This is often a challenge that comes with adopting a previously-outdoor cat.

Scenario One – Your Cat Has Always Been an Indoor-Only Cat

For the first scenario, you should make an informed decision based on the pros and cons, and benefits and risks, of letting your cat outside.

Personally, I think the evidence makes it clear that if you aren’t willing to keep your cat strictly indoors, you should figure out a secure (e.g., window box, catio, leash+harness) or supervised (i.e., cat in your sight at all times) solution for letting your cat have some outdoor time.

Scenario Two – Your Cat Has Been Used to Going Outside In the Past

This second scenario is trickier. (And much of the indoor solutions section applies to Scenario One as well.)

You still have the same pros and cons to consider in terms of indoor-only vs. outdoor. But if your cat has been used to going out previously, they’re probably being persistently annoying in begging to be let out.

They may also be trying to bolt out the door every chance they get.

If you want to make some outdoor time possible, educate yourself about the pros and cons, along with the options for doing outdoor time safely.

If you decide to go strictly indoors for your cat, you’ll probably need to put in some work over time to gradually weaken the desire to go out. Here are some things you’ll need to consider:

  • Thoroughly optimize your home to be cat-friendly with lots of vertical, climbing, scratching, and window viewing options.
  • Learn how to use positive reinforcement behavior training with your cat.
  • Commit to training your cat for behaviors that replace wanting to bolt out the door and go outside (e.g., tossing a favorite treat away from the door each time you go out, so your kitty is distracted).
  • Commit to engaging in play, interaction, and positive reinforcement with your cat every day. Make them love being inside with you.
  • Satisfy hunting instincts with play and a regular rotation of toys to maintain novelty.
  • You might also consider setting up a cat safe room in the interior of your home. Engaging your cat in this space (or even elsewhere in your house) at the times they most want to go out can help break the pattern.
  • If your space and budget allow for it, a window box or catio are great options.
  • Train and educate family members and housemates so that consistent practices and routines are in place.

You can succeed with this if you’re patient and committed, and you’re willing to really learn about using positive reinforcement training and optimizing indoor spaces for cats. Your cat will likely gradually become less insistent and obnoxious over time.

Final Thoughts

If you’re wondering if you should let your indoor cat go outside, you definitely need to think it through so that you know the risks and benefits involved.

Because of how dangerous it is to allow a cat to roam freely outdoors, your safest play is to optimize the cat-friendliness of your home. And if you want to give your cat some outdoor time, decide on a solution that involves either a secure screened enclosure or human supervision.

If you’ve got a cat that is already used to going outside, it will take learning, work, and patience on your part in order to make the transition to indoors-only. But it can be done.

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The information provided here is not meant to replace professional guidance from your own veterinarian or cat behavior specialist.

About VerveCat

VerveCat.com launched in Fall 2023 and aims to grow into a comprehensive source of information, resources, and reviews for every part of feline companionship. Whether you’re an experienced cat owner or just getting started on your cat life journey, we’re glad you stopped by and hope you’ll find things here to help you along the way.

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