Dr Justine Lee sitting near a Litter-Robot with cat
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10 Reasons Why This Vet Keeps Her Cats Indoors

Est. read time: 5 min.

Written by Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT

As an emergency critical care veterinary specialist and pet parent, I choose to keep my cats indoors. Why? Because letting cats go outside opens them up to a lot of potential dangers. It can also pose dangers to other animals, and even to you!

10 reasons why I keeps my cats indoors

Dr. Justine Lee holding a Siberian cat

1. Getting lost – or stolen

First, if you let your cat outside, they may not find their way home and be lost forever. Any sudden noises, a car honk, or barking dog can scare your feline family member and result in them getting lost or chased up a tree. 

I also don’t want my cats getting stolen (or “adopted”) by someone else. The well-intentioned neighbor may think your cat is lost and take them in as their new cat. If your cat spends any time outdoors, you can easily avoid this by making sure you have a breakaway collar and ID tag on your cat; I always recommend that your cat be microchipped also, as breakaway collars can fall off!

2. Trauma dangers

Being outside poses trauma dangers. Your cat might get hit by a car, attacked by a dog or coyote, injured by the neighborhood bully, or beat up by the neighborhood tomcat. This is the #1 issue that I see in the veterinary ER with indoor/outdoor cats. Unfortunately, trauma can result in fractures, lung bruises, internal bleeding, and even death. Plus, treatment may cost several thousands of dollars for repair. 

3. Poisoning dangers

Next, being outside also poses poisoning dangers. This is especially true if your cat munches on your neighbor’s tiger lilies or daylilies, digs around and finds some mouse poison, or is accidentally exposed to antifreeze in your neighbor’s driveway. (Did you know it only takes 1 tablespoon to potentially kill a cat?) Not worth the risk!

4. Infection or disease transmission

The outdoors pose infection or disease transmission risks that can potentially be fatal to your cat. Fighting with other cats can easily result in your cat getting the blood infection feline leukemia (FeLV) or kitty AIDS/FIV. Also, if your cat goes outside, the risks of tapeworms, fleas, ticks, and other parasites dramatically increase. If your cat goes outside at all, it’s really important that your cat be vaccinated and up-to-date on their FeLV and rabies vaccines, along with year-round flea, tick, and heartworm medication. We vets aren’t trying to upcharge you here—it’s truly because you don’t want a flea infestation in your house, or your cat spreading bubonic plague to you from fleas. Seriously. It still happens, especially in the Four Corner States.

5. Pet overpopulation

Letting your cat outside contributes to pet overpopulation if they are still intact (not spayed or neutered). As thousands of cats get euthanized due to pet overpopulation, you can help save a cat’s life by keeping your cat inside—at least until they are neutered or spayed!

6. Zoonotic disease spread

Yes, more disease spread. Cats can carry Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that results in the disease toxoplasmosis. If your cat defecates in your garden or your neighbor’s sandbox, it can spread to people. This can potentially result in severe issues, such as miscarriage and neurologic problems in humans—particularly in those who are immunosuppressed. 

7. Angry neighbors

Keeping your cats indoors makes for happier neighbors. Having a cat spray on landscaping or the foundation of a neighbor’s house, or defecate in your neighbor’s garden, doesn’t win them over. Sometimes, it can result in ill will towards you and your cat!

8. Shorter lifespan

Cats indoors likely live longer. While there aren’t a lot of peer-reviewed publications proving the average age that indoor versus outdoor cats live, in my experience, indoor cats live longer. 

9. Saving money on veterinary bills

If you keep your cats indoors, you’ll save money on veterinary bills. If you let one of your cats outside, they are more at risk for bringing home FeLV, FIV, or other infectious diseases. Your other cats—even if they are indoor only—should also be vaccinated and kept up to date on FeLV and rabies vaccines, along with flea and tick medications.

10. Birds and wildlife

Finally, indoor/outdoor cats are the #1 killer of songbirds. It’s estimated that almost 3 billion birds are killed in North America each year. I’m an amateur birder and love all types of wildlife. I have lots of bird feeders and I’m the granola/crunchy type who feeds squirrels, too. Knowing how well our feline family members can unleash their inner hunter, I hate to see wildlife killed by house cats. (For this reason, absolutely no bird feeders in your yard if you do let your cat outside—or you’ll get bad future pet karma.) 

So, why do I keep my cats indoors? Ultimately, cats that go outside are more at risk of harm or injury. In an upcoming post, I’ll discuss ways to keep your cats indoors happy and rules to follow if you decide to let your cats outside!

Dr. Justine Lee cuddling her black cat - 10 reasons why this vet keeps her cats indoors