Internationally 41 percent of cat owners keep their cats indoors full-time

This study is interesting because it looks at the attitudes of cat owners in respect of keeping them indoors full-time on an international basis. We know that geographically there will be variations in attitudes because some countries have more space in them than others. 

For example, the UK is heavily urbanised with a resultant increase in possibility of road traffic accidents killing cats. This should drive cat owners to keeping their cats inside all the time. Set against this, in countries like the United States, which is much less urbanised there are more predators of domestic cats (e.g. coyotes) which is another factor for keeping cats indoors.

Full-time indoor cat
Full-time indoor cat. Picture in the public domain.


In round terms, the 5,000 cat owner survey found that getting on for 50% of domestic cats are kept inside for their safety. The main safety factors are road traffic accidents, being attacked by a predator or stolen by thieves. The survey, which is published on the MDPI website is entitled: Indoors or Outdoors? An International Exploration of Owner Demographics and Decision-Making Associated with Lifestyle of Pet Cats. It was conducted in the UK at the School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, Nottinghamshire and the Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education.

One interesting finding was that in the US and Canada 80.6% of domestic cat are kept indoors at all times which is much higher than previous figures discovered in previous studies. Those studies reported that 63% and 60% of cats are kept indoors in the USA. In other words the figure is around 60% whereas this new study indicates 80.6%. Previous studies regarding Australia New Zealand indicated 44% of 46.5% of cats are kept indoors respectively. This study found in Australia and New Zealand 42.2% of cats are indoor-only.

A major factor with respect to Australia and New Zealand is not so much road traffic accidents driving cat owners to keep the cats indoors but an enhanced attitude of protecting wildlife from predation by domestic cats due perhaps, in part, by government campaigns to protect native species.

There is a generational shift in attitude between the more elderly cat owner and the younger cat owner. Younger cat owners in the age bracket 26-35 years old tend to keep their cats indoors whereas cat owners in the age range 46-55+ tend to be predisposed to allowing their cats to be indoor-outdoor cats. 

This would point to a greater sensitivity amongst younger cat owners towards domestic cat safety as set against allowing domestic cats to express the natural desires and going outside. The issue, here, is whether this admirable desire to keep cat safe is supported by allowing them to be healthier both mentally and physically which tends to be a product of being free to roam. It is that perpetual balance between safety and welfare which tests cat owners.

There is clearly a general trend towards keeping cats indoors full-time because there is a general trend towards higher human population numbers which leads to greater urbanisation which in turn, as you can imagine, leads to an increased danger from road traffic accidents. There is no doubt that the trend over the past hundred years has been towards indoor cats. I'm sure that you can imagine that in the 19th century there are probably almost no full-time indoor cats at all in countries like the UK. The overriding influence is road traffic accidents killing cats.

What I take away from this study, which you can read in more detail by clicking here, is that there is a strong trend towards indoor-only cats globally but this trend varies from country to country due mainly to the human population densities of these countries which increases the risk of harm through road traffic.

There is also a need, I believe, to a shift in attitude as to how to entertain for-time indoor cats and ensure their mental and physical well-being through substitutes to being allowed to roam naturally during which they are able to express the natural desires and motivations.


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