Cats: keep inside?

I have 2 cats used to going in and out by letting you know by standing near the door. We are mostly home, so we do their bidding! Over 3 years, one of them has not come back as usual and we had to hunt for her- she was at the bottom of a gully space near our property and we had to coax her out, it was scary.
We are leaving for five weeks- should we leave then inside even tho one of them will be very unhappy ( the one who got stuck). There have been 3 other times where she did not come back until 2 am ish. Concerning because there are coyotes here as well.

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Inside-only or not is a contentious topic where I live in the US (we have coyotes here also). Many people feel that it is borderline animal abuse to let a cat go outside, because of the risks it poses to the cat (predators, traffic, diseases) and to song birds. Others believe that cats are natural explorers and it is unfair to keep them cooped up.

I see both sides, but if your cat is used to going outside, you should probably train it to being indoors-only well before a pet sitter arrives. The cat could develop anxiety and behavior problems if not used to staying indoors and it would be unfair to leave a sitter to deal with those.

If you continue to let the cat go outside, warn the sitter of the dangers and of the cat’s history of going missing. Good luck.


Several owners I’ve sat for have had cat flaps which are closed at night so that the cats stay indoors overnight but are free to roam during the day. I do think that totally indoor cats develop a different character and can become a little neurotic. I did one sit where I was initially told that the cat was an indoor cat but when I got there, the owner said that he could sometimes go outside. However, the home was an apartment with a busy road outside and I didn’t feel comfortable letting him go out and there were times when he was quite unhappy about not being able to get out. So, I wouldn’t advise making your cats stay in for your sitters if they are accustomed to going out. Just be thorough with your instructions to the sitters before the sit and make sure they are aware of any possible problems/dangers.


If you tried to keep our cats inside for longer than a few hours they would be very unhappy, because they are used to come and go whenever they want.
They have their routines and anything that interrupts these might cause unwanted behavior.
I suggest to train the cat to come in at certain times, which is doable with lots of treats involved. I would use a special sound like shaking the treats box or something similar but definitely something without using your voice, otherwise this might not work with a sitter.
Like this you can be sure that the cat is indoors during the night.

My cat was missing once for three days some years ago and I only got him back, because it was my voice he answered to. I always hope that something like this will not happen while we’re away, but we wouldn’t want to “punish” him by keeping him indoors during our absence, because of the very slim chance this might happen again.

I have read that you can put a collar on your cat with a little bell. It not only warns prey so they can get away —many birds, that help with pollination and keep pesky insects in check are killed by pet cats, and people have an easier time finding their cats when they’re out of sight.

Ugggh, I am not sure I like this. I know it makes it easier to find the cat and also might chase away prey and predators but can you imagine what it is like to have this constant noise on you? How bad must it be for a cat with much more sensitive hearing abilities than humans?

I’d be interested to hear what a vet thinks of it. That article was about preventing the demise of songbirds at the hands of pet cats.
I realize I’m changing the topic from whether a sitter should keep a cat that’s used to going outside, inside, but in the interest of saving birds, here’s an article that suggests using a silent collar to help birds see your cat:

and here’s an advertisement for one of these brightly colored collars. It’s reflective so you’ll be able to see your cat with a flash light.

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I can totally relate to this. My 2 cats have always gone out during the day. When we started with THS, one of the cats starting coming home really late for the sitters and then for one sitter didn’t come home until the next morning. They contacted me and I was a wreck all night worrying about him. I would start out trying to have the sitters keep them inside, but let them know that if it is a nightmare (as I know how cats can be demanding) tell them it’s ok to let them go out. Alternatively, you could buy an outdoor cat condo that allows them to go outside during the day and keeps them safe. They aren’t cheap but loads cheaper than a vet bill. I also have used harnesses and cat leashes to let our cats outside while we are outside with them. Best of luck, I feel your pain.

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I agree with all of the comments on the problems in keeping outdoor cats inside.
This is Henry. He is an outdoor cat but on the day of our arrival the owners told us he had just been bitten and he was wearing a babygrow type of coat to stop him getting at the bite. They told us to keep him inside.
Well, Henry hated staying inside and was telling us several times in the day that he wanted to go out and kept staring out of the window. He would then look at us with pure hate. We were so sad so found a length of rope in the garage and made him a very long harness so he could tour the large garden. We took him out into the garden each day. He still hated us though as you can see from the photo.
The day after the owners returned, they told us that the bite had healed and off came the coat and out Henry went.
Henry will forever remember us as the sitters from (it won’t let me type the word but it is the opposite to heaven)!!


Agree that it’s unfair to do that to a sitter.

In my experience, I have done house-sits with outdoor cats, and it always makes me nervous. I’ve had hosts want me to keep an eye on them, or make sure they come in at night. Cats do what they want. I can’t make a cat come in if they’re out roaming the neighborhood and I have no idea where they are. On the other hand, if an outdoor cat were to be kept inside, they would be miserable, and it’s sad to see that. It seems like your choice is keeping your cat safe or keeping them happy :smile_cat: (or only letting them outside on a leash?).


Hello. I am responding from a sitter’s perspective on this question. I am not a cat owner, although have experience with cats due to my volunteer work.

I sat for a homeowner who had an outdoor cat. The cat was trained to come in when you called and shook the treats. However, I’ll admit I was always relieved when the cat came home. It did add some stress wondering if this would be the night the cat decided not to come home.

I am more than happy to let the cat out, but would appreciate the homeowner recognizing the risks of letting the cat out, especially where predators are lurking. The HO shouldn’t hold the sitter responsible if something does happen to an outdoor cat when the sitter is doing what the HO requested.

Animals can act differently without the homeowner, too. Our HO asked that the cat be put in the kitchen in the evenings. I had to bribe the cat inch by inch to get him there with treats. The HO was surprised, as he comes immediately when she calls for him.

Just something to consider when you have an outdoor cat from one sitter’s perspective.



I’m all for letting cats run free.

A cat might be satisfied enough by having access to a screened-in porch to “feel” like he’s outside.

Otherwise, I think it’s fine to let the cat roam free during a sit as long as you make it clear to the sitter that there’s no pressure or responsibility to make sure the cat comes back, and that you’re ok with the worst-case scenario.

We did a house-sit last weekend for a sweet young cat who had only just started staying out all night, and had done it just twice (in the week before the homeowners went away).
We made sure to ask the owner precisely what she wanted us to do If the cat wanted out in the evening (no cat flap so it involved opening the door). Should we let her out and take the risk she may not come home, or should we ignore her pleading little meaows and keep her in?
The owner said we should let her out if that’s what she wants. She did. So we did. She didn’t come back when we called her at our bedtime. We worried a bit overnight and listened out for her. She appeared at the door next morning as soon as she heard us preparing breakfast for the dog!
I think the homeowners have to be very clear in communicating what they want from their sitters on this, and sitters need to know the homeowners are prepared for the risks if the cats are out
Just to add… the next night the little beauty slept on the bed all night and we were so relieved!


I will absolutely not sit an outdoor cat, no matter how well trained the owner says it is. If there’s a “catio”/screened-in area or balcony, or the cat uses a harness, that’s fine. But no way will I let a cat out knowing it might not come back, get injured, or worse. The owner may not worry about what could happen to their pet when it’s out there, but I do. And I am not taking that on. So rather than wrestling with the choice, I will sit only for indoor cats.