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Indoor Vs. Outdoor Cat Food – Differences & Best Options!

Indoor Vs. Outdoor Cat Food – Differences & Best Options!

The life of a cat that spends all its time indoors is very different from a cat that goes outside or spends all of its life outside. While many cats enjoy the freedom that comes along with living outside, there are also a lot of dangers involved with living outside for cats. One of the biggest differences for an outdoor cat is not having a stable source of food. Cats that live indoors know where all of their meals will be coming from, making their lives much easier.

Cats that live indoors can eat a mixture of wet or dry cat food as recommended by a veterinarian. A cat that lives outdoors should still be fed wet or dry cat food, but they may also supplement their diet with food they catch and kill out in the wild on their own.

Some vets recommend a lower-calorie cat food option for cats that spend all of their time inside, as they believe the cat is not burning as many calories throughout the day compared to a cat the roams around outside. We’ll dive into more in our comparison of indoor vs outdoor cat foods. You’ll discover the pros and cons of each, and which one is right for your cat.

Is it Ok to feed an outdoor cat indoor cat food

It is ok to feed an outdoor cat the same food as a cat who lives indoors full time. Many times cats will eat the same food regardless of where they spend their time. The reason an outdoor cat might eat different food is because they need bigger portions.

After all, they live a very active lifestyle running around outside. They may not eat as regularly if they live primarily outdoors and don’t necessarily return home for set meal times during the day. Due to their irregular mealtimes, an outdoor cat may eat more food than another cat when they do show up for their food.

What is the difference between outdoor and indoor cat food

The main difference between outdoor and indoor cat food is the calories in the food. An indoor cat that lives in a smaller apartment may be ok to eat a portion of lighter cat food with reduced calories to ensure they do not become overweight.

Another big difference between outdoor and indoor cat food is that indoor cats are much more prone to getting hairballs because they shed more throughout the year. Certain cat foods that are made specifically for indoor cats are formulated to prevent hairball formation, while that formulation is not necessary for cats that mostly live outside.

Typically, cat foods formulated for indoor cats will have higher amounts of fiber, as this helps the hairballs move through a cat’s digestive tract more easily.

Most cat owners do not need to put their cat on specific indoor-only cat food unless it is specifically recommended to you by your vet. If you are unsure of which formula is best for your cat, the vet will be able to provide individualized guidance for your cat.

Do outdoor cats need more food than indoor cats 

Outdoor cats usually do need more food than indoor cats due to the higher amount of calories they are burning daily. Outdoor cats specifically may require food with more protein than an indoor cat because the protein gives them energy and fuels them as they run and hunt throughout the day.

For the most part, you will notice outdoor cats are not as likely to gain weight so that they can eat more food on a daily basis with no change to their body. An indoor cat may struggle more with portion control than an outdoor cat, as the food is often out in their food dish throughout the day, making them want to graze and eat all day long even when they may not be truly hungry anymore.

What is the healthiest food for an indoor cat

There are a couple of specific cat food formulations that are often recommended as the best of the best by vets. These include Iams ProActive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care Dry Cat Food and the Hill’s Science Diet Adult Indoor Chicken Recipe Dry Food. The best cat food recipes are easy on your cat’s digestive system and offer the correct ratio of fiber and protein that they need to stay healthy. 

Wet cat food is a more expensive type of cat food than dry food, but it is often recommended to indoor cats with weight problems as it can keep them from gaining too much weight. Dry cat food is much easier to dispense as it can be loaded into an automatic cat feeder if you are not home to feed your cat, but it usually contains more calories than wet cat food options. Often it is suggested to feed your cat a blend of both wet and dry food in combination to keep your cat at its healthiest weight.

Pros And Cons Of Indoor Cat Food

When it comes to indoor cat food, there is a lot to like about it. However, depending on your cats age, size, and living conditions; the are some conerns. Below is a helpful table showing the pros and cons of indoor cat food.

Pros Cons
Relatively inexpensivePrescription brands are more expensive
Formulated for UTI preventionThe cheaper options tend to be loaded with fillers and artificial flavors
Formulated for hairball controlLess Protein; leading to deficiencies in some cats
Avaiable in many flavors
Lower In Calories (less chance for weight gain)

Pros And Cons Of Outdoor Cat Food

Outdoor cat food is formulated much differently than indoor cat food. At first glance, it seems good that cats get more protein; however they will need it. There are also some negatives to it as well which we detail in the table below.

Higher levels of protein compared to indoor cat foodLoaded with fillers and preservatives compared to indoor cat food
A wide variety of flavor options for picky eatersMore calories than indoor cat food (this can lead to feline obesity)
Designed for cats with higher levels of activity

Determining Which Is Best – Indoor Or Outdoor Cat Food

Determining whether indoor or outdoor food is best for your cat come sdown to how your cat lives. Generally, if your cat is outdoors, highy active, and has a large frame; you’ll want to give them an outdoor diet.

However, if your cat is on the leaner side, less active and mostly indoors; then you’ll want to give them an indoor solution.

Of course, all cat foods are not created equal, and this is the case no matter what type you give your cat. Generally, you should stay away from the really cheap cat foods. Paying the extra few bucks for high quality cat food (or making it yourself) is a much better option. Cheap cat foods loaded with fillers can cause your cat to have major health issues in the longterm.

It would be best if you stuck to reputable brands such as:

  • Purina
  • Hills (especially for prescription diets)
  • Iams
  • Wilderness
  • Royal Canin
  • Blue Buffalo

Each of these brands have budget options, so those should be avoided. Instead invest in some of their lines that offer natural flavors.

Occasionally, there are situations where an indoor cat may need an outdoor diet (or visa versa). In this case, only do this if it’s vet recommended. For example, this might be the case when indoor cats are dealing with nutrient deficiences and need that additional protein. Likewise, outdoor cats who are not quite as active as one would expect should move to a lower-calorie indoor food.

Things To Consider

Regardless of where your cat spends their time, their nutritional needs do not change overall. Whether your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat, they should be eating a similar diet with the same type of food for each meal.

The whole debate about indoor vs. outdoor cat food is really something that experts have long debated, with some people arguing that the only real benefit to the different food types is to prevent an inactive indoor cat from becoming overweight. 

In general, a cat that lives indoors is going to be healthier overall because all of its nutritional needs are being met, and living indoors is much safer for cats. Outdoor cats face many more dangers out in nature, between increased risk of being hit by a car, attacked by another animal, eating something poisonous, or catching a fatal illness. An indoor cat is undoubtedly much more sheltered, and indoor cats live longer on average than cats that have spent a lot of time outside.