The Differences Between Indoor and Outdoor Cats

One of the things that makes cats such special companions is they can enjoy living anywhere. If you live in a high-density apartment, you can make sure your cat is just as happy as one that lives in a more suburban or rural area, where they may be able to go outside and explore their surroundings. If you do let your cat outdoors, be sure to keep their safety in mind and take any necessary precautions.

When it comes to taking care of your cat, the environment where they spend the bulk of their time plays a big role in how you feed and care for them. Both indoor and outdoor cats’ basic nutritional needs are the same, meaning they require the same vitamins and minerals and as obligate carnivores, they also require animal proteins. But there are other factors Pet Lovers need to consider to keep their animals healthy and happy.

Energy Differences for Indoor and Outdoor Cats

The biggest difference between indoor and outdoor cats is the amount of energy outdoor cats burn compared to their indoor counterparts. Outdoor cats have a reason to constantly move their bodies – they’re running, jumping, climbing, stalking and exploring their environment. They don’t have the opportunity to rest as often as indoor cats, and a result, burn far more calories.

It’s important to note that none of this means indoor cats are inactive or lazy. When your indoor cat is jumping around on the furniture or counters, they’re still getting exercise. And there are all kinds of ways you can provide enrichment in your indoor environment, to further enhance their lives.

What is Enrichment for cats?

Enrichment for any animal is being able to perform their preferred natural behaviors. These activities are known as species-specific behaviors, and any time an animal can accomplish them, it’s enriching to their life. The aim is to create a home for your cat that has enrichment opportunities all over, so your cat can channel their natural behaviors appropriately.

Some examples of enriching behaviors for cats include:

  • Hiding – Many people think when their cat is hiding, they’re afraid or angry, but hiding is a species-specific behavior. Creating places in your home where cats can hide is a great way to enrich their lives.
  • Climbing – It’s no secret that cats love climbing, so providing plenty of ways for indoor cats to get up high is a great idea. There are all kinds of cat trees and specific shelving units available for purchase, but Pet Lovers can also arrange their furniture in such a way that cats can use it to do some vertical exploration.
  • Hunting – In the wild, much of a cat’s time is spent hunting, so finding a way to simulate the hunt at home is tremendously enriching for the animal. Using something as easily available as wand toys are a great way to provide this experience – you can drag the end along the ground or up in the air, allow your cat to chase it, catch it and bite it if they want. They feel as if they’ve completing a hunting cycle, and that’s the ultimate enrichment.  

What is the Best Nutrition for Outdoor vs. Indoor Cats?

ACANA™ Indoor Entrée recipes are specifically crafted for the needs of indoor cats. This includes a poultry-based recipe and a fish-based recipe. Each one is crafted with 65% animal ingredients1 and includes three key health benefits to help support your indoor cat’s wellbeing, including weight management and digestive health. Our Indoor Entrée with fish recipe also helps support healthy skin and coat, and our Indoor Entrée with poultry recipe helps control hairballs.

For outdoor cats, recipes rich in animal protein like our Highest Protein Grasslands recipe are perfect. This recipe is crafted with 75% animal ingredients1 including duck, free-run2 chicken and eggs. This protein-rich recipe also helps support key health benefits for your active outdoor cat including digestive health, healthy skin and coat, and healthy heart and eyes.

Hairball Control

Another major difference between indoor and outdoor cats is indoor cats often have more hairball issues. This is because they’re not getting the natural fiber that outdoor cats do through eating materials like grass. Thankfully ACANA™ Indoor Entrée poultry recipe includes fiber from oat groats, miscanthus grass, lentils, chickpeas and lentil fiber to help control your indoor cat’s hairballs.   

Additional Feed Tips

Here are some other simple ways to provide your cat with a more enriching feeding experience:

  • Separate feeding stations
    • Cats prefer to eat alone, and they’re often very conscious of where other cats are when eating. If you have multiple cats, instead of feeding all your cats in the same spot, spread out the locations so they’re able to relax while they eat and not worry about another cat taking their food.
  • Don’t put their food against the wall.
    • Instead of putting your cat’s feeding station against the wall, so they have their backs to the rest of the room when they eat, put it a foot or so away from the wall, so the cat can eat with its back to the wall. This allows the cat to keep an eye on their surroundings while they eat and takes away the stress that another cat or animal is coming to take their food.

By providing a healthy and enriched eating experience for your indoor cat, you’re bringing them closer to their outdoor counterparts and giving them a more natural and sustaining life!

1Approximate and derived from the unprocessed state of the ingredients.

2Our free-run chickens and turkeys are not housed in cages and are able to move in a barn without outdoor access.