Where a cat spends the bulk of its time determines whether it is an indoor or an outdoor cat. People turn their cats out for different reasons, and sometimes the cat’s transition on their own. Regardless of who takes the initiative, how long can an indoor cat survive outside?
An indoor cat can survive outside for a few months to a year or more. The many dangers cats face outside might overwhelm whatever instincts an indoor cat has. Many other factors, like the season, the cat’s upbringing, etc., also contribute to the cat’s length of survival outside.
This article considers the possibility of domestic cats surviving in the wild and how long an indoor cat can survive outside. I also look into whether your cat will come back if you let him outside.
Can Domestic Cats Survive in the Wild?
Domestic cats are unlikely to survive in the wild on their own for a reasonable amount of time. Of course, some cats are an exception to this, and you can tell from the existence of feral cats.
The millions of feral cats in the United States prove that some domestic cats have learned to survive in the wild—they turned feral. Many cat lovers are on opposing sides of this issue, and each side has valid points to support their stance.
Some people believe that a cat’s domestication makes it unsuited to live in the wild, which may be true for some cats. However, domesticated cats are not without the skills necessary to survive in the wild, and the difficulty with survival arises from the lack of practice of these skills.
For the cats that figure it out and survive, some factors play a role in their adaptability, including:
A cat that spent some time as a kitten with an adult cat who knew how to hunt and showed it the ropes may not find it difficult to hunt for food. Even with every cat’s instinct to hunt, a mother or another cat must teach a cat before developing the skill.
Cats with more ‘wild instinct’ than others may brave the wild better than others. Some cats, like the Persian cat, are more docile, which may decrease their chances of survival in the wild.
Modern Persian cats also have inherent health issues that make breathing difficult, along with an unnaturally long coat that makes it harder to survive outside.
Some places like the UK have almost no predators of domestic cats, while the US has more predators like foxes and coyotes. The presence of predators makes it more difficult to survive.
An inside clawed cat has a higher success rate at catching small prey, and it will most likely survive. Claws are important for defense in a fight.
A declawed cat does not “know” it no longer has claws, and it will still attempt to catch small prey like mice and birds. However, its futile attempts will cause it to scrounge for food in garbage dumps.
How Long Can an Indoor Cat Survive Outside?
An indoor cat usually has a more comfortable life compared to its free-living counterpart, and its lifespan is longer. Indoor cats may live for 10 to 17 years, while outdoor cats have a life expectancy of two to five years.
While there is no specific duration for how long an indoor cat can survive while living outside, its lifespan would likely be reduced significantly.
Cats that live within the home are indoor cats, whereas those that roam outdoors freely are outdoor cats. An outdoor cat isn’t necessarily a feral cat, as many domesticated cats roam freely and return home at the end of the day.
As mentioned earlier, an indoor cat’s breed also determines its survival outside. While some cat breeds can survive for long periods outside, others are too docile to face the rigors of outside living.
Indoor cats lack the training and adequate exposure necessary to navigate the dangers of living outside. Some of these dangers are:
- Injuries from fighting other cats, attacks from dogs, and other predators.
- Getting hit by vehicles.
- Exposure to poisons like rat bait or antifreeze and environmental hazards like foxtails.
- Contracting parasites like ticks and fleas and the diseases they transmit.
- Injury, theft, or death from people with cruel intentions.
- Contracting deadly infectious diseases from other feral cats.
- Getting lost or picked up by animal control.
If your cat has spent no time outside, it will not know how to hunt for food, survive against the elements, or adequately defend itself. The cold in winter can be fatal to a cat that does not know how to seek shelter from the elements.
You can put your cat on a leash or harness and take it for walks or build an outdoor cat enclosure. These will provide an outdoor experience for your cat while keeping it safe
Will My Cat Come Back If I Let Him Outside?
All cats want to explore the outside world, including indoor cats. Deciding to allow your cat to venture outside with or without supervision might be scary for you. The thought of your fur baby not coming home also increases your concern.
Thankfully, your cat will come back if you let him outside, as long as you take the proper measures. Adequate training and preparation increase the chances of your cat coming home after being let out.
It would be best to understand the dangers that your cat faces when he forays outside before deciding to let him out. Some preparatory measures you can take include:
- Training your cat to respond to a name or signal when you call.
- Introducing outside exposure slowly and with supervision.
- Ensuring that he is old enough and settled enough (in a new environment) before letting him out.
- Installing a microchip or putting an identification tag on him if he gets lost.
- Neutering your cat eliminates the drive to mate and keeps him from searching for mates even farther than your area.
While the outside world is rife with risks and dangers, you can still allow your cat to enjoy a rich outdoor life while keeping him safe.