House Cats vs. Yard Cats

by CruiseReady

The view of a long time cat lover on indoor cats and outdoor cats and which kind is best for each environment.

Did you know that an indoor cat can live three or more times longer than an outdoor cat? It's true!

Veterinarians say those kept inside are also usually happier and almost always healthier than those who are not.

But there ARE cats that are made for the outdoors. That's right, made, rather than born. Those are the ones you'll want to have ‘living’ on your lawn, in your garden or on your patio.

Our healthy, happy, and very spoiled furbaby lives inside, but he does get outside time - under closely controlled conditions, of course. And we expect to have the pleasure of his very special company for many years to come.

We've learned a lot over the years about the proper way to pet and play with him, what he is saying to us with his body language, and more. And, lucky for everyone, a cat behaviorist has boiled a lot of this essential knowledge down into short instructional videos, some of which I've inserted on this page.

So, read on to see some of the reasons many pet owners are adamant about keeping their real kitties inside, and browse some hand-picked examples of yard cats that are made for full time outdoor exposure.

Image: Author's personal photo

A House Cat In the Yard

A House Cat in the Yard
A House Cat in the Yard
Walker, Florida Feline

Two Kinds of Cats

Indoor and Outdoor Cats

When it comes to where our feline companions should live there is a bit of debate. some say always indoors, others say forever outside, and others are somewhere in between.  

Being a life long ailurophile, and someone who has done a bit of study on the subject,  I say there are two kinds:  House cats and Yard cats.

A Particularly Striking Yard Cat

Cat Themed Bird Bath

This is just an amazing piece of cat yard decor.  I found it while searching for something to replace my old concrete bird bath, which has seen better days.  I'm really taken with it, and think it's probably one of the most striking pieces of yard decor for a cat lover I've seen in a long while.

This one is two feet tall, designed by artist Don Drumm, and handcrafted in North Carolina.  The maker says the (removable) frosted glass bowl can withstand most weather conditions, even an occasional light freeze.  

It's actually pricier than what I had had in mind, but I'm thinking it could be worth the investment.  What do you think?

House Cats

vs. Yard Cats

Inside and Outside Cats

Image: my own, all rights reserved

Here's a photo of two cats.  The one on the left belongs indoors, and the one on the right can safely live outside.   They both happen to live inside at my house, though.

There are plenty of really cool kitties that you can buy, some shown on this page, that are made for your lawn, patio, or garden.  

Real live kitties fare better inside, however.  

Inside cats live an average of seven to twelve years longer than outside ones.    The lives of those who who live outside are shortened and diminished by a multitude of things, including:

  • Diseases contracted from feral cats
  • Being hit by cars and trucks
  • Exposure to dangerous chemicals and other things in trashcans
  • Injuries from attacks by snakes and wild animals
  • Ingesting plants that are poisonous to cats
  • Poorer general health due to constant exposure to weather
  • Constant risk of infestations of fleas and ticks can make them miserable

There's an informative article posted on Petco's website that makes a good case for the fact that house cats really are just that.  Reasons to Keep Your Cat Indoors argues that, having been domesticated over 4,000 years ago, the species is now dependent on US, with the indoors now having become their 'natural' environment.


My Kitties Live Inside

And Enjoy Long Lives

My furbabies have always lived IN.  Their lifespans certainly bear out the fact that indoor cats live long lives.  Sadly, we lost Sir Walter to diabetes at the young age of fourteen.  His mom, Pandora lived to be 18.  Then, there was Patches. I enjoyed her companionship for a little over 22 years.  

Veterinarians and other animal experts tell us the life expectancy of an outdoor kitty is around 5 or 6 years. And, for a completely feral, it's 2 to 4 years.  That's a big difference!

Fortunately, for those like me who adore cats, and who want to enjoy a fur baby or two in their yard, there are plenty of feline themed bird baths, wind chimes, and garden statues, as well as cat welcome mats, bird feeders, and more to satisfy our need for yard cats.

For You and Your Kitty

Cuddle with Cat Throw Pillows

Mother Cat and Kitten

Cute Yard Cats
Cute Yard Cats
Cute Yard Cats

Words of Wisdom from a Cat Behaviorist

Jackson Galaxy Tells All

Ok - maybe not all, but a whole lot.  

Have you heard of Jackson Galaxy?  He's the star of the "My Cat from Hell" show on Animal Planet TV.  He bills himself as 'musician by night, cat behaviorist by day,' and solves all sorts of crazy kitty problems.   If you are an ailurophile, and haven't had a chance to catch this program, you should definitely put it on your to do list!

If you've got a hellish problem with your cat, you might find the solution in one of the program's episodes.  But, even if your furbaby is a little angel, you're likely learn something that will enhance the quality of his or her life - and yours, too, believe it or not.

Here are four installments from his seven part series of video shorts, called "Jackson Galaxy's Words of Wisdom."  Each installment is around one and a half to two and a half minutes, and well worth watching.  

The four videos are:

  1. How to Properly Pet Your Cat (yes, there IS a wrong way)
  2. How to Properly Play with Your Cat (They not only want, but NEED playtime, and once again, there's a right way to do it)
  3. How to Read your Cat's Body Language (Kitty is telling you something, but what is it?)
  4. How to Bond with Your Cat (and don't we all want to do just that?)

For all seven videos, a couple of full episodes of the TV program, and more, see My Cat from Hell on the web.

Yard Cats with a Function

Fun Gift Ideas for Cat Lovers

Put These Kitties to Work in Your Outdoor Spaces!

If, like me, you have a practical streak, satisfy it by a decorative item that also has a purpose.  Each of these kitty themed items actually DOES something. For instance, one helps you feed the birds, while another tells you which way the wind is blowing.

More Resources

Articles of Interest to Cat Owners

My Real Live Yard Cat

Is an Indoor Cat

Photo Credit:  my own, all rights reserved

Meet Walker, Florida Feline.  Yes, he's an indoor cat, but sometimes we take him out and he decorates the yard for a bit with his presence.  Have a look at that picture... he's good looking, and he knows it.  Isn't that obvious?  So, for that moment, anyway, he was a yard cat.

He does get some supervised yard time each day. He really perks up his little ears when he hears one of us say, "Let's go outside, Walker!"   And then, he runs to the door.

He loves his yard, too.  He knows the rules, and - amazingly enough - follows them willingly.  He is allowed outside only under the following circumstances:

  1. During daylight hours.
  2. In the back yard only.
  3. Under our supervision, never alone.

He enjoys laying in the warm sunshine, taking 'grass baths,'  and has fun chasing butterflies and grasshoppers. But, what really excites him are the birds, lizards, and squirrels.

One squirrel in particular seems to be fascinated with Walker, too.  It often scurries down from the tree, and runs along the fence top, chattering at him.  Walker chatters back, tail twitching excitedly.

So, you see, our boy gets plenty of stimulation from the outdoors, but with minimal risk.  When it's time to come in, he comes back in with us to the safety of his home.  And, he's a happy, healthy  kitty.  Statistically speaking, if he lived outdoors, we probably would have lost him by now.


These Felines Are Just for Looks

Cat Yard Decorations

Unlike the ones in the first grouping of feline yard decor items, these cats don't come with a particular function - except for one that all ailurophiles appreciate - an aesthetic one.  That's right, they add a bit of fun and/or beauty to the environment, just like the real thing!

Any one of these items would make a nice gift for a cat lover.

What's Your Opinion

Should You Keep Your Pet Cat Inside?
  Display results
I am clearly biased on the subject. Hence, this article,

Outdoor Time Is Important for Indoor Cats

Catios are Increasingly Popular

Even if your cat lives indoors, some outdoor time is good for him or her.  In fact, some cat experts insist that they actually need it.

But, you still need to keep them safe.  You could do what we do.  We take our furbaby outside several times a day, and stay with him, keeping a careful eye on his every more, and making sure no harm comes to him.  We're also constantly watching to make sure he doesn't go beyond the back yard.

However, some pet owners make special outdoor enclosures for their kitties.  These catios, or cat patios, are usually are accessible via a cat door, so that the kitty can go in and out at will, yet still be safe from predators and other harm.  Catios range from very basic to quite elaborate.  Whatever the design, they get a lot of use by their beneficiaries!

Here's a montage of a number of different felines enjoying their catios.

Front Yard Cats

for the Ailurophile in You

Here are some fun front yard cats that will be admired by visitors and passers by alike.  

Don't miss the doorbell.  That's something that even the most ardent ailurophile probably doesn't have.  It's a little tiny work of art that also serves an important function.

Updated: 01/07/2017, CruiseReady
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DerdriuMarriner on 08/19/2017

CruiseReady, The 2017 garden trends report by the Garden Media Group mentions the importance of catios.
I've seen people with harness leashes for dogs. Do you know if cats tend to respond well to them?

CruiseReady on 04/03/2016

Sad to hear you've lost so many cats... ours is also a real scaredy cat. and only goes out in the back yard with an escort. He does love his time outside, though, and is fascinated with the squirrels.

BrendaReeves on 04/01/2016

I've lost four indoor/outdoor cats where I live. The cat I have now is a scaredy cat so she won't leave the backyard. I don't let her out during the morning while the birds are feeding. She stays on the deck most of the time sunbathing.

CruiseReady on 07/21/2015

You are so right. Cats, like us, are true individuals, with personal preferences galore!

WriterArtist on 07/20/2015

I think it is important to understand your pet's requirements - whether your cat wants a short outdoors stroll or is happy inside. It is amazing how different their behaviours could be.

CruiseReady on 07/20/2015

Ours doesn't have a catio, either. But is always under constant supervision when he goes out into the back yard. I suspect he would appreciate the safely of a catio, though.

jptanabe on 07/20/2015

One of my cats would probably appreciate a "catio" - she loves to go outside but likes to have human company, to keep her safe. She's already 15 and just a little cat, so I try to join her outside for my cup of tea whenever the weather permits! Our other cat goes off on his own adventures every day, but also comes to join our "tea time." I suspect he'd have to learn the advantages of a catio - doesn't like cages - before appreciating it.

CruiseReady on 07/07/2015

He is! (But his high maintenance, too)

blackspanielgallery on 07/07/2015

Your cat looks like a great little pet.

CruiseReady on 07/07/2015

Oops! I meant Jackson Galaxy! My apologies.

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