Why Is My Indoor Cat Obsessed With Going Outside?

Indoor cats have a good life, but sometimes they can be over interested in what is outside. From staring at birds all day to looking for escape routes, some indoor cats seem obsessed with going outside. We get some answers about why cats might want to go outside, and what owners can do about it.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: November 2, 2023 | 13 min read

Fluffy ginger tabby cat walking on old wooden fence

Indoor cats are known for enjoying the life of a domestic pet, but we often see them spending long hours gazing outside. Some kitties will seem to be obsessed with the great big world that lies just past the doors and windows. They may try every possible way to get outside, hiding by the door, ready to pounce when the opportunity for escape strikes.

Purr parents often wonder about taking their indoor cats outside. Is this a safe activity? People also wonder about training cats to walk on leashes, as the idea of letting a sweet, fuzzy indoor kitty out in the big, sometimes harsh world is a scary thought. It can be hard to know what to do when your indoor cat stares longing outside or develops a habit of sneaking out.

To set your minds at ease and answer some of these questions, we decided to look at one big question people ask, why is my indoor cat obsessed with going outside? We look at the big issues and answer some of the big questions surrounding the issue of inside cats going outside.

Why Cats Want To Go Outside

Though cats are domesticated, we must remember that they have wild animal instincts at heart. Felines are intrigued by the world around them, especially the parts they can see but cannot reach. Looking through the window at the world may be enough for some kitties, but it offers another path to mental and physical stimulation for others. The outdoor world is full of new sights, smells, sounds, and experiences. There is a huge draw for them there. Kitties who live inside have limited stimulation and may develop a keen sense of curiosity about what lies beyond the walls of their inside world.

Felines use their senses in a much different manner than we do. They are incredibly tuned into the world around them and will pick up on new smells, items, and people and can detect changes in family dynamics. It is not surprising that they are interested in going outdoors. In many ways, this is simply just part of their inquisitive, hunter nature.

Feline Senses

A powerful sense of smell is one of the most valuable tools that felines have. While they do not get as much attention as canines for their smelling abilities, this is actually the strongest and most highly used sense that felines have. With their noses, they can discern many different things about what is happening around them. Even cats that have lived their entire lives safely inside will notice the smells that waft in, and these can pique their interest.

Felines are well known for their incredible sense of sight. In fact, felines have a remarkable ability to see at night. Many owners have experienced this as their purr babies will increase in energy as the twilight hours move in. It is not uncommon to see kitties bounding across a dark house without missing a beat while their owners can’t see anything and are bumping into furniture. This is because felines have an incredible ability to see in low light. The structure of their eyes allows them to see far better in low light than us, another reason an evening stroll might intrigue them.

Along with incredible eyesight and powerful olfactory senses, felines also have highly tuned hearing. They can hear sounds that humans cannot because they are much higher range than our ears pick up. So, of course, they want to go investigate these sounds. Even when they have never been outdoors, they can still hear them.

These strong senses are part of why indoor kitties may try to get outside. There are several other reasons a cat might want to go explore the outdoor world.


Felines are born hunters, and even the most spoiled of purr princesses will jump in for a quick chase when a spider, fly, or stray beetle happens to get inside. Kitties can see and hear the birds, squirrels, outdoor cats, people, and the hustle and bustle out of the house. They want to get out to hunt whatever may be out there.

Chasing The Sun

Felines love a good nap in the sun, and it is common for indoor cats to have several cozy spots where the sun shines into the house. Outdoors is full of sunlight, and many felines who make it outdoors are more than content to roll in the grass and enjoy some sunlight that is not seen through window glass.

Fresh Air

Just like us, cats can feel cooped up and stuffy in a house all day. They may want to go outside simply to get some fresh air. Keep this in mind and find a safe way to leave windows open in your home, allowing fresh air to come in. Many kitties are content to sit in an open, sunny window and nap away the day. Felines are born to explore, so along with enjoying the benefits of fresh air, they will get to see fresh territory, which for inside-only cats, can be extremely exciting. Even a quick lap around the backyard can be a grand adventure.


Indoor kitties get bored easily. They are limited to entertaining themselves with what is available in the home. Sometimes inside, cats may try to go out simply because they are bored with all their entertainment inside. Additionally, kitties that spend all day watching squirrels climb in trees, observing as outdoor cats stalk the neighborhood, and the day’s action may feel left out. They may want to go out because they are lonely or simply tired of all their entertainment options inside.

Looking For A Mate/Companionship

Most domestic cats kept as pets today are spayed or neutered. However, this is not always the case. For intact felines, there can be a powerful desire to go outdoors and find a mate. Hearing, smelling, or seeing a new cat around outdoors might intrigue them, especially if they are reaching sexual maturity. This is a good reason to remind pet owners to be responsible and talk to their veterinarians about when to spay and neuter pets.


It is well known that felines like to explore. They are always looking for new places to explore in the home and trying to get into areas they are restricted from. This may seem like the ultimate playground for cats who are not allowed access outdoors. For some indoor kitties, the urge to go outside is simply their way of showing that they need to get out and explore. Inside, cats who find themselves lonely may try to escape outside looking for companionship.

Mark Territory

Felines have a natural desire to mark their territory. This is part of their protective instincts and the way that they communicate with other felines that a specific area is spoken for. Some indoor kitties will want to exhibit this behavior but are well-trained to use the litter box. They may try going outdoors to release this urge. Sometimes cats will start spraying inside, which is clearly a big problem. This is not a behavior owners want to allow to go on for a long time. If your cat is spraying inside your home, you need to talk to your veterinarian about what might be causing this behavior and what you can do to deter it.

High Energy Breed

There are a few feline breeds that are much higher energy than others. These include hybrids like the Bengal and Savannah. These kitties are extremely high-energy, and giving them outdoor time is extremely helpful for their overall mental and physical health.

Benefits Of Going Outside

Maine coon cat scratching on a birch tree trunk in the back yard.jpg
Because there are so many new and unknown things, most cats could spend hours outdoors happily exploring.

Letting an indoor kitty go outside is risky and should always be done under the close supervision of an owner. When done properly and safely, going outside can significantly benefit felines. They need the stimulation they get from going outdoors, and exposure to fresh air benefits both mental and physical health. Going outside allows them a healthy, safe space to express their instincts of hunting and stalking prey.

Spending time outdoors can help reduce some aggressive behaviors kitties exhibit, like scratching or urinating outside the litter box area. It also gives them a healthy outlet for any pent-up energy or aggression towards environmental factors, their owners, or even other pets in the home. There is also a stress relieving effect that felines feel when allowed time outside.

My Indoor Cat Wants To Go Outside – Is That Normal?

It is perfectly normal for your indoor cat to try to get outside. After all, they will spend hours looking out through the window and doors. They have every instinct in their body telling them they should investigate. It is not unusual for inside cats to be interested in going out or finding ways to escape quickly. Cats that are bored or who are not getting enough variety in their entertainment and interaction inside may start to show more interest in going outside. Additionally, new things like unfamiliar cats lurking around the house, wild animals, and even weather changes can cause cats to feel drawn to the great outdoors.

What To Do If Your Indoor Cat Gets Outside

If your inside fur baby manages to get outside and remember, it is likely that at some point throughout their lifetime, they will, and it is imperative to remember not to panic. Panicking, yelling, crying, and screaming their name will not help the situation and may even scare them off.

Instead of going into full panic mode, owners need to remain calm and start walking around and searching their outdoor property while calling their cat’s name. This is also an important time to inspect your yard for possible escape routes. Follow through on looking to see if a kitty got out of the yard through any gaps in the fences or gates. Felines are very skilled at sneaking through small spaces, so any decent-sized hole is a possibility of an exit route.

Shaking a favorite toy, kitty treats, or a bag of tasty kibble might help. Some purr babies will come running at the sound of a food container or can as it gets opened, so that is always a good thing to try. Leaving out a little bowl of food and water near the closest doorway is also a good idea, as that may attract your cat to return home.

Be diligent in your search. Look behind all stairs, sheds, playground equipment, and whatever unique backyard items you may have. Felines are very skilled at hiding, especially when they are scared. So, they may find a spot to hide, hoping to keep themselves camouflaged away from any unknown outdoor threats.

One of the best ways owners can prepare for a cat getting out is to try to prevent the problem. This means ensuring that all doors are closed securely and that pets cannot open them. Please make sure everyone in the family understands how important it is to close doors and windows behind them. Only ever allow a kitty to sit in a room with an open window that is secured with a screen while you are in the room.

How To Stop An Indoor Cat From Going Outside

Owners can take steps to help stop inside-only felines from getting out. Prevention is key, and owners need to pay attention. If a kitty gets out once, they have a high probability of finding a way to do it again.


Preparing ahead of time is probably a feline owner’s most powerful and effective option to keep their inside cat from getting out. Making sure there are no hidden entrances or exits that they can get out of and closing up all holes in fences, gates, and outdoor areas is also a good step.

Spay & Neuter

Kitties who are spayed and neutered are less likely to have the urge to get outdoors to mate or hunt. Taking this step at the appropriate age during kittenhood is helpful unless they are being raised for breeding purposes. Always talk to your veterinarian when your kitten is young to learn when the proper time is for this procedure. This can vary by sex and breed, so it is vital to have the conversation when your kid is still young. This likely will only happen once kittens are at least six months old.


There are certain fragrances and smells that felines do not like. These can be helpful in both keeping feral and stray kitties away from your home and deterring your inside purr baby from straying too far away. Felines do not like the smell of fresh citruses like lemon or orange, coffee grounds, lavender, citronella, eucalyptus, lemongrass, vinegar, mustard, rosemary, thyme, and menthol. Scattering herbs or using scented sprays in areas near the exits or just outside your home may deter your cat from trying to get out.

For example, putting an automatic citrus-scented air freshener near the door so it always smells like citrus is a very low-key way to discourage Mr. Fluffypants from going near that area.

Is It Safe For Indoor Cats To Go Outside

It is only safe for inside kitties to venture outdoors if their humans closely supervise them. Inside pets should never be left out unsupervised, especially in an unsecured, unenclosed area. They should only ever be allowed outdoors if their owners are close by, and preferably on a harness and leash if they are not in an enclosed space.

Owners must take note of how a cat escaped if they do manage to get outdoors. Pets who get out are putting themselves in great danger, as they are often scared and may find themselves in the street or very quickly far away from home. If your cat does escape, do everything possible to prevent that from happening again.


Some owners will build their purr babies safe, enclosed outdoor spaces referred to as catios. These are an excellent addition to any inside cat’s environment if owners are able to do so. Not every pet owner can do this, nor should they feel guilty about it it. It is, however, something that every indoor cat will enjoy. These spaces allow kitties to have fresh air exposure while in a safe, enclosed area. This can include yards, as well as climbing structures, and outdoor-only toys.

Create Indoor Spaces To Explore

Inside-only kitties trying to get out may need more to do inside. There are many tools beyond just ribbon chasers and catnip mouses to help. Most purr parents have heard of cat trees. These come in a wide range of sizes and with different elements, like condos, perches, toys, and wheels. Cat wheels are a hamster wheel type of tool that allow felines to run and exercise at a high rate. Also, owners can create a cat highway and climbing path with cat steps attached to the wall.

Walks & Supervised Outside Time

Believe it or not, many different feline breeds can be trained to walk on leashes. While this may have seemed ridiculous at one point in time, more and more pet owners realize the benefits of teaching their kitties how to walk on a leash. This allows these kitties to get plenty of safe outdoor exploring time. Some people even take their feline companions hiking up tall mountains and exploring many places beyond just the backyard. While cats will not walk as far as dogs, they definitely enjoy a good stroll around the yard or the block. Always keep the leash short enough so kitties will not get caught up in anything, and ensure they stay securely fastened in a harness and unable to wriggle out.

It may be worthwhile to look into pet insurance for your kitty, especially if they are a cat that is both indoor and outdoor. Outdoor cats pick up far more bacteria, germs, irritants, and allergens. They are also at a higher risk of injury and illness, as well as have a big chance of getting bitten or scratched by another animal. Insurance can help offset some of the care costs that come up.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all cats want to go outside?

Not all kitties want to escape outdoors. This is normal behavior, and not something owners should be very concerned about. Many inside-only kitties are perfectly content to watch the world through the window, while others will have a stronger desire to try to get out and explore. Owners who know their pet is trying to escape must immediately take steps to ensure that it does not happen.

Should indoor cats go outside?

Indoor cats can go outdoors but should only do so under close supervision. This is especially true for inside pets going outdoors for the first time. While they may be curious and have heightened senses, they are also very sheltered and have never been out in this world before. One small cat is no match for many things that exist just past the doorstep, so it is always important to supervise indoor pets when they go out.

If I let my cat outside, will she become an outdoor cat?

A kitty who goes out occasionally for walks or supervised playtime is not going to become an outdoor kitty automatically. Some felines are simply better suited for the outdoor lifestyle, and that will become apparent through their behavior and inability to coexist with humans. However, simply going outdoors will not trigger any kind of transformation into an outdoor cat. While there is always the chance that a pet who is not on a leash or secured will run away, it is doubtful that a walk or two will turn a friendly feline into a feral outdoor cat.

Can indoor cats survive outside?

Indoor kitties can survive outdoors in theory, as they do have natural hunting instincts, but this is a very tough transition to make. Most inside kitties live a life of comfort and do not have to work hard to get their food. When suddenly thrust out into an unknown environment with no guaranteed meals, these pets are at significant risk for injury or even death. Indoor kitties do not have to contend with cars, pedestrians, dogs, wild animals, weather elements, and other unexpected environmental factors that exist outdoors. So, while in theory, an inside-only cat can survive outdoors, this is a situation that depends on each individual pet and their unique circumstances.

Do indoor cats poop outside?

Some indoor kitties will go outdoors to go to the bathroom. Sometimes this is a trained behavior. Other times, it may be something they learn on their own. While this is certainly not common, for owners who allow their kitties to come and go inside and out freely, this may be a behavior that is picked up.

Final Thoughts

A feline curious about the outdoors is perfectly normal and almost expected for indoor purr babies to be inquisitive about what is happening in the world beyond the walls that make up their home. Though natural for felines to be curious, the outside world is harsh and is not necessarily suited for animals who are inexperienced with it. Because of this, it is essential to make sure your indoor cat cannot easily escape. If your feline friend is obsessed with going outdoors, there are safe ways to do this, but never allow your indoor cat out unsupervised. It generally is not safe to leave them out alone for any reason. Owners can provide a safe, enclosed outdoor space or train kitties to walk on a leash and harness.

There are many benefits to cats getting to explore outside, but it must be done safely. Suppose owners notice a change in behavior, like spraying inside, running into doors and windows, or repeatedly trying to escape. In that case, it may be time to talk to the vet and a trained feline behaviorist or trainer. Often felines communicate with us through their behavior, so a purr baby trying to get out may be bored, feel like they do not have enough attention, lack mental stimulation, or have something else going on. Cat owners should always do their best to keep indoor cats safe and secure at all times, even on those rare occasions when they are outside.

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