Study: Safety is the Biggest Reason People Keep Their Cats Indoors

Caitlin Dempsey


A gray tabby cat trying to catch a bird at a bird feeder.

While environmentalists urge owners keep their cats indoors to reduce predation of native species, a recently published study found that the primary reason that owners keep their felines inside is safety.

Compelling reasons for keeping cats indoors and limited to supervised outdoor access are:

  • reducing predation of wildlife
  • protecting cat-human transmission of diseases, parasites, and bacteria like toxoplasmosis and bartonella
  • avoiding neighbor problems, such as noise complaints and cats defecating or spraying in garden beds and children’s sandpits
  • keeping cats safe from harm or death, such as getting hit by a car, being attacked by dogs, being bitten by a snake, and being exposed to diseases and parasites.

Researchers in Victoria, Australia interviewed 1,024 people in Victoria, 220 of whom were cat owners, to see which of the reasons for keeping cats indoors were the most persuasive.

The researchers found that, for cat owners, the threat of a cat’s predation on wildlife was not found to be a significant predictor of confinement behavior. Instead, concern for their cat’s safety was the primary reason for keeping their cats indoors. Studies have shown that the average life expectancy for indoor cats is significantly higher than it is for outdoor cats.

Of the 220 cat owners, 54% kept their cats contained. The small study found that the primary reason voiced for containing their cats was concern over their welfare.

While 90% of these respondents were aware of the impact of free-roaming cats on wildlife, this wasn’t a motivating factor in their decision to have indoor only pets.

A gray tabby cat trying to catch a bird at a bird feeder.
Cats that are allowed to roam will hunt small rodents and birds.

Of the remaining cat owners, 17% allowed their cats to roam freely 24 hours a day and 30% allowed their cats to roam during the day time only.

The authors of the study attributed the lack of concern over feline predation of wildlife by free-roaming cat owners due to the underestimation of those owners on the kill rates of their cats.


van Eeden, L. M., Hames, F., Faulkner, R., Geschke, A., Squires, Z. E., & McLeod, E. M. (2021). Putting the cat before the wildlife: Exploring cat owners’ beliefs about cat containment as predictors of owner behavior. Conservation Science and Practice, e502.


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Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey holds both a master's in Geography from UCLA and a Master of Library and Information Science. She is the editor of and an avid researcher of geography and feline topics. A lifelong cat owner, Caitlin currently has three rescued cats: an orange tabby, a gray tabby, and a black cat.