What Is The Difference Between Indoor And Outdoor Cat Food? Pros and Cons

What are the nutritional requirements of your cat? How is indoor cat food different from outdoor cat food? How to choose what type of food fits best for your cat? These are important questions that a pet parent should address to ensure that their kitty is taking all required nutrients and is healthy.

Diet and nutrition are crucial aspects of your cat’s care. These components determine whether she grows into and remains a healthy adult, or if she is malnourished, weak, and has a shorter life expectancy. As a result, you must be assured that you are feeding her the proper nourishment for her age, size, and current health.

Throughout the course of evolution, cats have retained their carnivorous status. They naturally consume animal tissues rich in proteins, arachidonic acid and taurine. These are essential elements that should be present in both indoor and regular cat foods. However, commercial cat food is rich in starch which is scarcely present in animal tissues. Cats are known to have lower tendency towards starch digestion. Therefore, diet rich in starch or sugar is most likely to participate in the onset of different health problems.

While indoor and outdoor cats can eat a similar diet, an indoor cat who is less active than her outdoor counterpart may be more prone to weight gain. As a result, it’s vital that you keep an eye on your cat’s weight and consider feeding her a meal made specifically for indoor, inactive cats.

Indoor cat food: An overview

Indoor cats have limitations like staying inside of the house, supervised walks and little or no connection with outside world. Meanwhile outdoor cats are allowed to roam freely. They can roam in the streets for hours and can come in and out of the house willingly. This difference makes both of the types slightly different from one another with distinct nutritional requirements.

1.      Protein deficient diet

The indoor cat food is specifically designed for the lifestyle of such cats. For instance, it is low in calories, high in fiber and has varying protein content. The most critical dietary component in cat feed is protein. Cats are predominantly obligate carnivores thus need to get their protein requirements from animal protein. The animal protein in some indoor foods is replaced with plant filler ingredients. It can create problems like protein deficiency in cats.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Omnivores and herbivores have adapted to synthesize their own amino acids that helps in digestion, body repair and growth. While cats cannot synthesize these significant amino acids on their own. Thus, cats ingest the needed amino acids from meat sources. Cats are highly dependent on food for many amino acids. Unlike, other species cats need two additional amino acids for survival. These amino acids are named as arginine and taurine that is obtained from animal tissues.

Taurine, an amino acid in cats is particularly essential for heart and eye. It also promotes normal reproduction and growth in cats. The absence of taurine results in different health issues in cats like blindness, heart failure, abnormal development of brain and reproductive failure. The deficiency of arginine increases the levels of ammonia in blood, causing problems like seizures and death.

Thus, it is important for indoor as well as outdoor cats to eat food rich in protein content. Protein deficiency can lead to a number of health problems as discussed already. The plant based proteins present in indoor foods have lower biological availability in cats.

2.      Low carbohydrate content

Indoor cat food has lower calories to complement their inactive life style. It is a good choice for overweight or obese cats. Veterinarians usually suggest low carb and protein rich diets for diabetic cats. Many clinical studies suggested the benefits of high-protein and low carbohydrate diet in mitigating the insulin requirement of diabetic cats. However, food for outdoor or indoor cats with any underlying health condition should be consulted with the veterinarians.

3.      Hairball digestion with fibers

Shedding is one of the most common problem in indoor cats especially in long fur breeds. They spend most of their time grooming and resultantly swallow a lot of hair. The hairballs are hard to digest and therefore results in hairball vomiting. The undigested hairballs can potentially block intestinal tract and may lead to death in serious situations. The problem to this solution is fiber-rich nutrient which is facilitated by indoor food. The food with high-fiber content helps to digest and excrete the hairballs without causing other health problems. Sometimes veterinarian suggest to avoid fibrous indoor food in case of stomach problems like diarrhea.

When to feed your cat indoor food?

There are many reasons to feed your cat indoor food. The strictly inside cats have sedentary lifestyle. Their daily activities include a vicious cycle of eat and sleep, particularly when they don’t have any friends or toys to play with. This type of lifestyle results in frequent hairballs and weight gain. Therefore, in such situations vet usually recommends to strictly follow indoor cat food diet. The food should be palatable for the cat. A cat is more likely to eat and get all necessary nutrient if food is likeable.

Outdoor cat food: An overview

Difference in calorie count is one of the main distinguishing factor between indoor and outdoor cat food. The latter contains relatively higher amount of carbohydrates with more calories per serving while the former food type has calorie cutbacks.

1.      High-protein levels

The outdoor cat foods are protein rich when compared with indoor formulas. It is good for active cats that spend a lot of muscle energy in playing or running down the streets. The cat food with high-protein is essential for the development of muscles, helps in digestion, supports immune system and provides energy. The dietary protein is broken down into amino acids during digestion. The cats are unable to easily digest diet with plant-based proteins like herbivores or omnivores. Therefore, protein from animal sources without any filler plant ingredients is most suitable for cats. Many brands use preservatives and unhealthy fillers that makes outdoor food unsuitable for cats.

2.      High carbohydrate levels

These calorie rich food are not suitable for inactive cats. It is a common misconception that carbohydrate rich food act as a direct risk factor for the development of feline diabetes mellitus. However, research showed that there is no direct relationship between high calorie intake and development of diabetes. Instead, high-carbohydrate diet is a significant risk factor that increases the chance of obesity and which plays a significant role in the development of diabetes in cats. The cats that eat carbohydrate rich food are more prone to fat accumulation and weight gain over time. Hence, such food is not recommended for indoor cats as it may result in excessive weight gain.

When to feed your cat outdoor cat food?

Outdoor cat food is not always a bad choice for your cat especially if your cat is very active. The young and growing cats are extremely playful. They spend their day running around the house. Similarly, the cats that are allowed to get out of the house and roam freely on the streets all day needs a lot more energy when compared to strictly indoor cats. In such situations it is fine to feed your cat outdoor food as most of the calories from food is anyways going to get used up or burned. Sometimes vet also recommends outdoor cat foods for underweight cats to help them gain weight.

Food Allergy

To determine a cat’s food sensitivity, the meal should be one that they have recently been exposed to. If a cat has never been exposed to food before, it cannot develop a hypersensitivity to it. There hasn’t been much investigation around here, so there could be more common allergens that we haven’t discovered yet. Therefore, it is not possible to foresee if your cat is allergic to indoor or outdoor cat food. Each cat must be monitored individually to assess whether there is a chance of development of allergic reaction to a particular food or not.

Food allergies, like all allergies, are incurable. Instead, they are controlled by avoiding foods that cause allergic reactions. After your pet has been diagnosed with a food allergy, you can choose to keep feeding him the same food you fed him during the food trial for long-term maintenance.

Wet and dry food

Both indoor and outdoor foods are available in different forms including wet and dry food types. Outdoor feeds come in wet, uncooked, freeze-dried, and kibble forms, much like indoor formulas. There are some advantages of wet food like it is available in cans that provides limited and calculated servings. It helps to monitor the amount of calories you are feeding your cat. This helps to maintain the weight problems in obese or overweight cats.

Dry cat food is less expensive than canned cat food, so it’s a good choice for individuals on a tight budget or those who feed community animals. Dry food does not require refrigeration and can be left out for far longer than canned meals. If you free-feed your cats, this is an excellent alternative, but any food that isn’t consumed by the end of the day should be tossed.

You can use a combination of both to balance the benefits and drawbacks of the two options. This could be especially useful for cats who require a lot of water but prefer dry food than canned food. You may be able to guarantee the advantages of both eating regimens by combining them or supplying canned at one time and dry at another.

Choose right food for your cat

The best choice of food for your cat is what works best for you and your cat and also has all necessary nutritional requirements. The main difference between indoor and outdoor cat food is the calorie content, as well as the enhanced hairball control that indoor meals give. You must read all the ingredients before choosing food for your cat. If your cat is healthy and active then outdoor cat food is a good fit for you both.

It is also advisable to switch between food types to see what your cat prefer the most. Cats can be pretty picky eaters that makes it quiet challenging to find the food they love. This mission is accomplished once you have solved this puzzle and put all the pieces (pet’s personal preference, nutritional demand, and healthy food) together. If your cat shows signs of allergic reaction to any food you must immediately consult your veterinarian.


A thorough comparison between the two different food types allows you to choose what suits best for your cat. The finest food for your cat is one that is excellent in quality and meets their caloric requirements. The most significant distinction between indoor and outdoor cat food is the calorie amount, as well as the added hairball control provided by indoor meals.

Your pet’s best feline food will be tailored to their lifestyle and nutritional requirements. For a cat with normal weight and good health, an adult support diet, for example, should suffice. If your cat is overweight, a low-fat diet regimen may be the best option.

A renal diet has been prescribed to kittens with renal disease, while a urinary eating regimen may be more appropriate in felines with lower urinary plot infection. If you’re still unsure about what your cat requires, consult your veterinarian.

Moreover, indoor feline meals have been available for a long time, and some claim to reduce waste volume and odor. In most cases, actual healthy principles are incorporated into the creation of these eating plans. Indoor formulas, on the other hand, may not be appropriate for every indoor cat, so talk to your veterinarian about your feline’s dietary needs. You can also buy their meals on Amazon or Ebay.

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