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How Long Can An Indoor Cat Survive Outside?

If you have an indoor cat and curious about letting it outside you may be wondering if it is ok and how long these cats, on average, are known to survive…

How long can an indoor cat survive outside?

Indoor cats are known to survive outside from 2 to 5 years. This is very different from being kept indoors. For example, an indoor cat can expect to live up to 17 years. This is mainly because of all the potential hazards available to an outdoor cat such as cars, other animals, etc.

So, now you know. But, will your cat remember where it lives? Can it survive outside in the winter? Can an indoor cat truly become an outdoor cat? Keep reading for these answers, and much more…

Can an indoor cat survive outside in the winter?

can an indoor cat become an outdoor cat

A cat looking outside through a window.

Cats can survive outside in the winter but if the temperature drops really low, for example, less than zero they are at risk. This means they can develop hyperthermia or even get frostbitten. Therefore, you need to be mindful of this before letting your cat out when it’s too cold.

Some cat owners have built outdoor shelters for their cats to accommodate them when it’s really cold. But, the best place is to keep them in your warm home until the weather improves, in my opinion.

Can an outdoor cat become an indoor cat?

An outdoor cat can become an indoor cat. But, not all of them will appreciate it. If they don’t they will be quite vocal about it. For example, scratching your walls, meowing loudly, etc. It will be obvious they are not happy if you see this.

To avoid this situation it’s better to ease them into it really slowly. And, bribing them with food and treats (Click here to see the reviews, on Amazon #Ad) is a good way to start.

Do cats remember where they live?

Cats do remember where they live. This has been proving many times by cat owners that let their cat out daily with a successful return. However, sometimes they can get lost. This may happen if they roam outside of their safe distance.

This may happen if they get chased by another cat or animal. This can force them to run for miles outside of their known zone and make them lose their bearings.

Do Indoor cats ever need to be let out?

Some Indoor cats never really need to be let out. The only exception is when they need to go to the vet, moving home, etc. However, this varies from cat to cat because some prefer to be let out sometimes.

If you have a cat that is mainly indoors and want to let it out but worried about it some cat owners use a cat harness and lead for this (click here to see my best one). This way they can keep control of their cat while it roams outside.

Can you turn an indoor cat into an outdoor cat?

Yes, this is possible. However, you need to make sure that you do it gradually and give it time. When I say gradually, for example, you may just open the front door, to begin with. So, she can look outside, that is the pace I mean, know what I mean?

Following this, it could escalate to letting them step outside, assisted. Maybe start with a small amount of time, then gradually work your way up. Later on, in this article, I will give you some more guidelines. Keep reading…

What are the advantages of keeping your cat indoors?

You may be thinking to yourself, why do people even keep their cat indoors in the first place? Good question, the reality is, there are several advantages. For that reason, I’m going to share a few with you now.

Lifespan is greatly increased

Firstly the expected lifespan of an indoor cat is raised significantly as opposed to being outdoors. But, why? There are many issues such as extreme climates, like snow, or even freak heatwaves can cause these issues.

Other risks that affect their lifespan include danger from other cats (like strays or feral cats – click here to see how Feral Cats deal with fleas) attacking them. Same can be said for other animals such as your neighbor’s dog or random wild foxes, you with me?

Even a simple family car can add to their lifespan risks. So, you may be thinking to yourself what sort of difference in lifespan are we talking about here? A lot, or just a few years?

To put this into context, the average lifespan of an indoor cat could be anywhere from 15 to 17 years. However, an outdoor cat could be as low as 2 to 3 years! So, as you can see, it is quite a big difference.

Should an indoor cat even be allowed outside?

Yes, in my opinion, it should be. And, the reason being, although there are distinct advantages of being inside (as we discussed earlier) there are good reasons why you need to make sure they get at least some exposure to the outdoors…

Mental Health Benefits…

Just being outside can stimulate and improve your cat’s mental health. The reason being, cats are not instinctively made to stay inside. Really, they should be outside hunting and keeping active, right?

So, it is not a natural behavior to be locked indoors 24-7. Therefore, your cat can get very bored,  even worse, this can affect their mental health.

Letting them out, even just a little bit, will help to keep them happier in the long run.

I understand it’s obvious that an indoor cat (Is there an age when they shouldn’t be allowed out? Click here) that has been deprived of doing its normal day-to-day activities will not be a great hunter.

In fact, it may not even know where to start. But basic exercise is needed and can be replicated using several alternatives, such as cat trees (click here to see my 3 Best Cat Trees), to keep them focused and Active

Best way to let your cat outdoors without her escaping?

Will my cat come back if I let it outside?

A cat outside.

You may be thinking to yourself, you understand the benefits of having some exposure outdoors (Why can’t dogs roam like cats? Click here). But, have some concerns. You do not want your cat to run for the hills when you let her out, right?

So, what is the Solution?…

If this is the concern, the best idea is to use a cat leash & harness (click here to see my 3 Best Cat Harnesses), this will allow your cat to get the benefit of going outside but keep you in control.

There are a number of cats harnesses with different styles and requirements so take your pick depending on your personal preference.

Other solutions include a wireless fence (click here to see the best one), or a more relaxed method, such as letting her roam free but tracking her movements using a GPS tracker (Click here to see the best one without monthly fees).

Why do you need to introduce outdoor activity slowly…

The reason you want to take your time and gradually introduce your cat to outside activity is that they are not used to being outside. You do not want to expose them to too much risk.

For this reason, it’s better to start with small intervals so that they can get used to it. As discussed earlier, even seeing outside and understanding how it feels is a start.

You also want to consider creating a schedule. A what now? Basically, work your way up to routine. So your cat will know when it’s acceptable to go outside.

Also, providing treats to your cat is a good way of enticing him to come back inside. In case you are concerned about ways to real him back in.

In the next section, I will explain some important pre-requisites to letting your cat out the front door.

Things you should do before you let your cat out the door

In this section, I’m going to explain a few things that you need to do before you even take a cat outside.

You mustn’t skip over this. Why? Because this will improve your chances of having a successful transition to getting your cat outdoors (Click here to see how to make your cat an outdoor cat). And keeping him healthy.


There are several vaccinations that your cat should have before they go outdoors. The best thing to do is to check with your vet. Make sure that you receive the latest vaccinations.

Be mindful that this is not a one-off activity. This should be an ongoing thing. To make sure that you are up to date.

These vaccinations will help your cat survive by preventing some avoidable diseases or infections.

Preparing Access to your property

It is a good idea to have good access to your property. Meaning some way that they can enter the property when they need to. E.g. if they get hungry, tired or just want to come back home for some reason. If not you may be left wondering why she is waiting at your door (Click here for the full article).

To achieve this you can use a cat flap (click here for my best cat flaps). These cat flaps come in various styles with different features. However, the best ones to consider have a method of validating if it’s your cat. For this, they tend to use a special chip. You can also consider using an internal cat door as well (Click here for my best 3).

Outdoor food and water

To be honest, providing outdoor food and water has its pros and cons. The negative things about it is other cats may steal the food and water and your cat may not benefit from it.

However, if you have a problem with installing a cat flap in your house or for some reason you cannot do this then this is the best alternative.

This is most important when your cat is new to going outside. Because they need to have access to food and water before they get into a regular schedule.

The best idea is to eventually get your cat into a routine so they know when to come in and expect to be fed.

Outdoor shelter

Again, if you do not have a cat flap for any access, then in addition to water and food, it is a good idea to have some outdoor shelter so they can hide somewhere if they need to.

Why? This includes times when it is extremely cold or very hot. Or, if they just want to have a safe place to relax and they can’t get into the house.

You may also want to consider providing some outdoor litter trays. This may sound a little bit weird to you because you think they can probably just use outdoor facilities, right?

The issue you may have with this approach is, you may find that your neighbors back garden becomes their new litter tray, do you get me? And, you may get an angry knock at your door (Click here if you see a random cat there) complaining about the mess. Therefore this will help to stop this from happening

Indoor cats that should NOT be allowed to go outside

In my opinion, any cat that has been declawed (Click here for the best clumping litter for declawed cats) should not be allowed outside unsupervised.

The reason I say this is because they have been stripped of their natural defenses. If they face any problems with rival cats or any other predators, they are toast!

This significantly increases their risks of being attacked and also gives them no way to support and defend themselves.

Lindsey Browlingdon