Unveiling the Lifespan of Indoor-Outdoor Cats

Average Lifespan

The average lifespan of an indoor-only cat is 13-17 years according to PawCBD. Indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats, with outdoor cats only living 2-5 years on average. This is due to the many risks faced by outdoor cats.

There are several factors that impact the lifespan of cats:

  • Indoor cats are safer from injuries, accidents, fights with other cats, and attacks from predators.
  • Indoor cats have reduced risk of infectious diseases spread by other cats, wildlife, or parasites.
  • Indoor cats cannot be hit by vehicles when crossing the road.
  • Indoor cats do not get lost as often.
  • Indoor cats receive more frequent veterinary care from their owners.
  • Owners can more closely monitor their indoor cat’s health and food intake.

Overall, keeping a cat indoors significantly increases their chances of living a long and healthy life.

Indoor vs Outdoor

There are pros and cons to keeping a cat indoors versus letting them go outside. According to Dutch (2022) https://www.dutch.com/blogs/cats/indoor-vs-outdoor-cat, indoor cats generally live longer, with an average lifespan of 15-20 years, compared to 2-5 years for outdoor cats. Indoor cats are protected from diseases, parasites, predators, cars, and other outdoor dangers. They are less likely to get lost or stolen. Indoor cats can be perfectly content if provided with enrichment like toys, cat trees, and playtime. However, some cats strongly desire to go outside, and keeping them in may cause boredom, frustration, or behavior problems. Allowing supervised outdoor time or building an enclosed “catio” can allow safe outdoor access.

According to East Valley Animal Clinic (2022) https://www.eastvalleyanimal.com/indoor-vs-outdoor-cats/, over 90% of cat owners keep their cats exclusively indoors. Outdoor access must be weighed carefully against risks like fights with other cats, getting hit by cars, or becoming lost. Overall, an indoor lifestyle is safest for domestic cats. However, some cats can transition to harness walks or other supervised outdoor time. Consulting a vet can help determine the best lifestyle for an individual cat.

Health Risks

Outdoor cats face many dangers and health risks that can lead to injury, illness, and even death. According to Vetster, some of the most common causes of death for outdoor cats include:

  • Infectious diseases such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), and rabies.
  • Parasites like intestinal worms, fleas, ticks, ear mites, and heartworms.
  • Predators including coyotes, foxes, birds of prey, and other cats.
  • Accidents such as getting hit by cars, ingesting poisons or toxic plants, or falling from heights.

Outdoor cats are also prone to abscesses, bites and scratches from fights with other animals, and weather-related illnesses. Studies show outdoor cats have a lifespan averaging only 2 to 5 years compared to over 15 years for indoor cats [1]. Keeping your cat indoors protects them from the many hazards outside.

Injuries and Accidents

Outdoor cats are at high risk for injuries and accidents compared to indoor cats. According to Outdoor Cat STATISTICS | My Kitty Findings, 5.4 million cats are hit by cars each year in the United States. The states with the highest rates of cats hit by cars are more populated states like California, Texas, New York and Florida.

Other statistics show that cats that roam outdoors are also more prone to animal attacks from other cats, dogs, coyotes and wildlife. One study found over 90% of cats presented to clinics for animal bites were unowned cats who spent time outdoors (Uncontrolled Outdoor Access for Cats: An Assessment of Associated Risks).

There are several ways cat owners can help protect their outdoor cats from injuries and accidents:

  • Putting a safety collar on the cat with ID tags
  • Only allowing supervised outdoor access
  • Providing an enclosed outdoor space like a cattery
  • Keeping cats indoors at night when risk is highest
  • Neutering male cats to reduce roaming and fighting


Outdoor cats are at a much higher risk of contracting infectious diseases compared to indoor cats. Some of the most common diseases outdoor cats can catch include:

Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) – This is one of the most common infectious diseases in outdoor cats, spread through saliva, urine, feces, milk, and blood. It suppresses the cat’s immune system, making them prone to other illnesses. Vaccination is highly recommended for outdoor cats (Cocoa Veterinary).

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) – Also known as cat AIDS, this virus weakens the immune system and is spread through cat bites. Vaccination can reduce the risk in outdoor cats.

Feline Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper) – A highly contagious and often fatal viral disease. The panleukopenia vaccine provides protection and is considered a core vaccine for cats.

Rabies – Outdoor cats are at risk of being exposed to rabies through wildlife encounters. Rabies vaccination is required by law for outdoor cats in most areas.

Parasites – Outdoor cats are prone to picking up internal parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms as well as external parasites like fleas and ticks. Regular deworming, flea, and tick prevention is a must.

Overall, outdoor cats require a full suite of core vaccines as well as routine screening for common feline diseases. Annual exams and preventative care from a veterinarian are highly recommended for maintaining the health of outdoor cats.


Common parasites found in outdoor cats include fleas, ticks, mites, and intestinal worms like roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. Fleas and ticks live on the outside of a cat’s body and feed on their blood, while worms live in their digestive system.

These parasites are concerning for outdoor cats because they can cause discomfort, skin irritation, anemia, and even transmit diseases between cats. Tapeworms, for example, are spread when a cat ingests a flea infected with tapeworm larvae. Intestinal worms can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss.

There are several ways cat owners can help prevent parasites in outdoor cats (1):

  • Use monthly flea and tick medication like Frontline or Advantage.
  • Give deworming medication as recommended by your vet.
  • Check your cat’s coat regularly for signs of fleas or ticks.
  • Use flea and tick prevention products in your home.

If your outdoor cat already has a parasite infestation, a vet can provide medication to kill the parasites. Thoroughly treating your home and yard may also be required to eliminate all life stages of some parasites.

(1) https://petcreeks.com/dangers-of-outdoor-cats/


Outdoor cats face many threats from predators. Studies show that coyotes, eagles, owls, raccoons, dogs and otters commonly kill outdoor cats that encroach on their territory (Cats and Wildlife Don’t Mix). Two cats were killed by an otter when the cats got too close to their nest (Cats and Birds).

Predators use various hunting techniques to catch outdoor cats. Coyotes and foxes have been observed luring cats with bird calls. Eagles and owls swoop down from the sky to snatch cats. Raccoons ambush cats at night. Even cats can kill each other in territorial disputes.

Keeping cats indoors is the best way to protect them from predators. Providing enrichment activities indoors also helps satisfy a cat’s hunting instincts. Outdoor cats should be brought inside at night when predators are most active. Supervising cats when outside and providing escape routes like cat doors can also improve safety.

Traffic Accidents

Statistics show that traffic accidents are one of the leading causes of death for outdoor cats. According to the ASPCA, around 80% of cats hit by cars are allowed outdoors unsupervised. Outdoor and indoor-outdoor cats face many threats outdoors, but fast-moving vehicles pose a significant danger. Even cats who are street smart can struggle to react quickly enough to oncoming traffic.

There are several ways cat owners can reduce the risk of traffic accidents for their cats:

  • Supervise outdoor time in a contained space like a cat patio or backyard with perimeter fencing
  • Walk cats on a leash and harness to control their proximity to roads
  • Keep cats indoors or build an enclosed outdoor cat run
  • Use deterrents like cat fencing to keep cats away from busy streets
  • Place bells on cat collars to alert wildlife and drivers
  • Keep cats inside during high traffic times like rush hour

While some cats enjoy outdoor access, the dangers posed by vehicles and other hazards make it safer to keep cats confined. With supervision and containment, owners can reduce the risk of tragic accidents involving cars and trucks.

Lost Cats

Outdoor cats are at a much higher risk of getting lost compared to indoor cats. According to Lost Cat Article, studies show that cats allowed to roam outdoors are 2.5 times more likely to get lost. Up to 30% of cats with outdoor access will go missing at some point in their lifetime. Some statistics indicate that around 60% of lost cats that go outdoors are never reunited with their owners.

There are several tips to prevent outdoor cats from getting lost:

  • Put a collar and tag with your contact information on your cat anytime they go outside
  • Get your cat microchipped in case the collar gets lost
  • Accompany your cat when outside on a leash/harness and closely supervise
  • Create an enclosed outdoor space like a catio for your cat to enjoy the outdoors safely
  • Keep your cat indoors at night when it is harder for them to find their way home
  • Spay/neuter your cat, as intact cats are more likely to roam and get lost

Improving Safety

There are several things cat owners can do to maximize the safety and lifespan of outdoor cats.

Supervision is key – don’t just let cats outside unattended. Go outside with them to monitor their activities and make sure they don’t wander too far. Some devices like outdoor leashes or containment systems can allow cats to enjoy the outdoors while limiting their roaming range.

Providing an outdoor cat enclosure or “catio” allows cats to be outside while protecting them from cars, predators, and other dangers. Cat enclosures should have high fences, a covering to prevent climbing out, and sturdy construction.

Training cats to come when called can improve safety. Give them a special call or whistle and reward them for responding. This allows you to bring them in quickly if needed.

Make sure cats have a safe place to retreat if frightened. Providing an insulated outdoor cat house stocked with bedding gives them a place to hide.

Use deterrents to keep cats away from unsafe areas. Things like cat repellent, motion sensor sprinklers, or scat mats can discourage them from leaving your yard.

Get cats microchipped and make sure their collar has ID tags. This will help retrieve escaped cats.

Spay/neuter cats to reduce roaming instincts. Avoid leaving food outside, which can attract other animals.

Keep cats indoors at dusk and dawn when coyotes and other predators are most active. Bring cats in before it gets dark outside.

Scroll to Top