Cats have predatory natures, and many like to hunt. But do they belong outdoors? That's something that's definitely up for debate.

Some owners worry that their indoor cats are unhappy, but outdoor life is not without risk. Even veterinarians who have outdoor cats don't necessarily recommend that others follow suit.

That got us thinking about whether the average pet owner would be more likely than your average veterinary professional to allow his or her cat to roam free outdoors. We posed the question to groups of veterinary professionals and readers[i], and some of the results from each group might be more closely aligned than you'd expect!

Survey Results: Cat owners who keep their cats indoors

Does Your Cat Roam Free?

Both veterinary professionals and readers were likely to keep their cats indoors, with 76 percent of veterinary professionals and nearly 75 percent of readers answering negatively.

A small percentage in each group responded with "Other." A number of those who answered "Other" said they had some cats who were indoor and some cats who were outdoor, or if the cats were allowed outside, it was only while supervised or within a set area.

Among those who said their cats were indoor-only, 32 percent of veterinary professionals and 29 percent of readers responded that they knew their cat had, at one time, been an outside cat. Almost 58 percent of veterinary professionals and 51 percent of readers said that, to their knowledge, their cat had never been an outside cat, with a few answering "Other" and stating that their cat had been rescued from a feral situation as a kitten or young adult.

Survey Results: Most respondents believe their indoor cat is content

How Happy Are Indoor Cats?

Since the argument for allowing cats to roam free outside is often that the cat is unhappy indoors, we decided to ask those respondents with indoor cats whether their felines seemed content. Far and away, the majority of veterinary professionals (85 percent) and readers (74 percent) said yes, they believe their indoor cats are happy. Several more (7 percent of veterinary professionals and 14 percent of readers) answered yes but mentioned that their cat has an enclosed outdoor patio.

Just over 4 percent from each group believed that their indoor cat was not happy and wanted to go outside. Four percent of veterinary professionals and 8 percent of readers answered "Other," with many stating that their cats used to be allowed outside but circumstances changed, or that they had modified their outdoor time and now take them out on leash. That just might give some owners of outdoor cats something to think about!

[i]Results based on a survey completed in March 2014. Number of pet owner respondents: 1,025; number of veterinary professional respondents: 167.

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