Indoor Pets vs. Outdoor Pets: A Comprehensive Analysis

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The rivalry between indoor and outdoor pets is as old as pet ownership. However, one thing is sure: both viewpoints want the best for their pests while balancing the owner’s lifestyle. I’m a seasoned vet tech who has owned indoor and outdoor pets, so I know the pros and cons of each lifestyle. Before writing this guide, I dug out my decade-old pet journal and gathered my findings throughout my pet ownership years. Coupled with my daily experience treating indoor and outdoor pets, I’ve analyzed each pet ownership lifestyle so you don’t have to. Let’s delve in.

Overview of Indoor Pets 

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According to the 2021-2022 APPA pet survey, 70% of American households have pets, and nearly half of these homes prefer to keep their animals in the house. 

Keeping indoor pets helps us ensure their health and safety while closely monitoring them. It is also a more convenient arrangement for people who live in small apartments and houses without yards. However, this lifestyle still has cons, like pet odor, urine accidents, and excessive fur. 

Cats are more accessible indoor pets because they aren’t noisy and are generally low-maintenance. After setting up food and water, you can leave your cats alone for a day or two. For dogs, owners might choose a strict indoor lifestyle (complete with treadmills and pee pads) or occasionally let them out to relieve themselves. 

Growing up, our family cat, Garfield, was indoor-outdoor. So, he would spend the day touring the neighborhood and return home before nightfall to be let out again in the mornings. 

Pros of Keeping Indoor Pets 

  • Less likely to get in an accident
  • Less likely to get injured or killed in animal fights 
  • Less likely to be taunted by people
  • Not exposed to certain diseases
  • Longer lifespan
  • Aren’t hunting local wildlife

Cons of Keeping Indoor Pets 

  • More likely to be obese
  • Inadequate mental stimulation
  • Behavioral issues 
  • Inappropriate defecation/urination 

Overview of Outdoor Pets 

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The most common reasons for keeping outdoor pets are space and maintenance. Keeping your dog strictly indoors would require you to bathe and house him in your home, not to mention he’d relieve himself in there. 

Many owners also keep their dogs outside to “guard” the house, but several studies prove the practice does more harm than good. Isolated dogs pick up bad traits like excessive barking, escaping, digging, and aggression. 

From frustration, these dogs sometimes lash out at their owners. Inevitably, a bad-tempered dog is hard work, which leads their owners to give them up or put them down.

On the other hand, keeping your cat outdoors endangers him and the environment. Cats have strong hunting instincts, which leads them to kill millions of squirrels and birds yearly. Outdoor cats are also prey to humans, coyotes, and stray dogs.

Unfortunately, outdoor pets have their lifespans slashed by 5-10 years.

Pros of Keeping Outdoor Pets

  • Mental stimulation 
  • Exercise
  • No litterbox issues 

Cons of Keeping Outdoor Pets

  • Taunting and poisoning
  • Animal attacks 
  • Heat stroke 
  • Escaping and neighbor attacks
  • Traffic

3 Ways to Keep Your Pet Safe Outdoors

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Sometimes, keeping outdoor pets is a result of circumstances and not choice. If this sounds like your situation, here are a few ways you can keep your pet safe outdoors:

1. Vaccinate and Deworm

Outdoor pets interact with stray and feral animals, and these interactions can spread disease. For instance, parvovirus spreads by direct contact and contaminated surfaces and feces. 

You can immunize your pet by vaccinating it to prevent contagious illnesses. Animals also benefit from regular deworming, as they eat garbage scraps. 

2. Spay and Neuter

Spaying your pets is essential for their health because it protects them from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases like Brucellosis. Sometimes, dogs and coyotes mate to produce a coydog hybrid canine. However, coydogs are still wild animals.

Unwanted pregnancies can also increase the population of unprotected stray animals if they’re not immediately adopted. So, your male outdoor cat or dog can father hundreds of animals every year. You can prevent over 67,000 births in six years by spaying one male and a female dog.

3. Create a Safe Space 

You can add an extra layer of safety by creating an outdoor enclosure for your pet to rest and hide. For example, animals always fight, and your doors might not be open when they run back for safety. Also, by creating a safe space, you can provide shelter during snow and rain.

Frequently Asked Questions 

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Is it Better for Dogs to Be Inside or Outside?

Dogs sometimes fare better outside than cats, but not when isolated all the time. They are social animals who thrive in their owner’s company and can become destructive when isolated. That being said, it is better to keep a mostly indoor dog than a mostly outdoor one.

Do Vets Recommend Indoor or Outdoor Cats?

Most vets advise keeping cats indoors because they tend to live longer and be healthier than outdoor cats. Outdoor cats also pose a significant environmental threat by hunting local wildlife. Coupled with the risk of theft and abuse, keeping your cats outdoors isn’t worth the hassle. 

Why is it Important for Dogs to Be Outside?

The outdoors is refreshing for dogs, just like it is for humans. It allows them to sniff, roam, and explore while exercising their mind and body. So, it is never a good idea to confine your dog inside at all times.

Wrapping Up the Indoor-Outdoor Debate

The decision to keep your pet indoors or outdoors is purely personal because factors like your accommodation and lifestyle come into play. However, it remains a fact that outdoor pets are more likely to get injured or killed than indoor pets.

If you can’t keep your pet indoors, I suggest keeping it somewhere you can easily supervise and possibly getting a microchip. If it roams, you should also round it up before nightfall.

Indoor pets are just as loved as outdoor pets, and with strict dedication, you can keep them just as safe!