What Is The Difference Between Indoor And Outdoor Cat Food?

Disclaimer: The information presented below is for general informational & educational purposes only. Always consult with animal professionals in case of specific concerns.

Keep reading to learn more about how indoor and outdoor cat foods differ to best support your furry friend’s specific lifestyle and wellness needs.

As any pet owner knows, cats have very different environmental and nutritional needs depending on if they live indoors or go outdoors. While both indoor and outdoor cats have the same basic dietary requirements, their lifestyles are quite varied and so their food should reflect this. This can leave many cat guardians wondering – what exactly is the difference between indoor and outdoor cat food? In this post, we will discuss the key factors to consider when choosing the optimal food for indoor versus outdoor kitties. By understanding how their diets should be tailored to suit their lifestyle, you can feel confident you are providing your furry friend with the nutrition they need to thrive.

What Is The Difference Between Indoor And Outdoor Cat Food?

The difference between indoor and outdoor cat food lies in the formulation, addressing the specific needs and challenges associated with each lifestyle. Here’s a face-to-face comparison:

Caloric Content: Indoor cat food typically contains fewer calories as indoor cats are less active and prone to obesity. On the other hand, outdoor cat food has higher calorie content to fuel the higher activity level of outdoor cats.

Fiber Content: Indoor formulas often have higher fiber content to help control weight and minimize hairballs, a common issue for indoor cats due to self-grooming habits. Outdoor cat food doesn’t emphasize fiber as much.

Nutrient Composition: Outdoor cat food has higher protein and fat content, aligning with the dietary needs of more active cats. Indoor cat food may have lower protein and fat but increased levels of certain nutrients like Vitamin A and taurine.

Additives: Indoor cat food sometimes includes additional nutrients like omega fatty acids for skin and coat health, and probiotics for digestion. Outdoor food focuses mainly on providing a balanced diet with sufficient energy content.

Read more: What Is The Difference Between Kitten Food And Cat Food?

How Can I Tell If My Cat Is An Indoor Or Outdoor Cat?

To feed a cat, it is important to know what type is your cat so you can choose the right one. Determining whether your cat is primarily an indoor or outdoor cat can be done by considering various factors related to their lifestyle and behavior. Here are some indicators that can help you determine if your cat is an indoor or outdoor cat:

  • Activity Level: Indoor cats usually have a lower activity level compared to outdoor cats. They tend to laze around the house and are usually not as agile or energetic as their outdoor counterparts.
  • Interest in the Outside World: Outdoor cats show a keen interest in the outdoors. If you notice your cat often looking out of the window or trying to sneak out, it could be a sign that it is an outdoor cat.
  • Hunting Behavior: Outdoor cats often exhibit natural hunting behaviors. If you notice your cat often catching bugs or toying with small objects, this could indicate an outdoor nature.
  • Response to Noise and Strangers: Indoor cats may be more timid and startled by loud noises or strangers, whereas outdoor cats tend to be more comfortable with such disturbances due to their exposure to a variety of outdoor stimuli.
  • Physical Appearance: Outdoor cats might have a more rugged appearance, with rougher fur and perhaps even minor scrapes or scratches from their adventures, while indoor cats usually have smoother, cleaner fur.

Can I Feed My Indoor Cat Outdoor Cat Food Or Vice Versa?

Nutritional Requirements: Indoor and outdoor cats have different nutritional requirements due to their differences in activity levels and exposure to the outside environment. Hence, feeding them food not designed for their specific needs might lead to nutritional imbalances.

Weight Management: Outdoor cat food is typically higher in calories to cater to their active lifestyle. If an indoor cat, which is usually less active, is fed outdoor cat food, it might lead to weight gain or obesity.

Potential Health Risks: Suddenly changing a cat’s diet can cause gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting or diarrhea. Furthermore, if indoor cats are not accustomed to the ingredients in outdoor cat food, or vice versa, they may develop food allergies or intolerance.

Disease Exposure: Feeding outdoor cat food to indoor cats might expose them to pathogens or parasites that are typically found in outdoor environments, potentially increasing their risk of disease.

Behavioral Changes: Changing a cat’s diet might also impact their behavior. For instance, an indoor cat fed with outdoor cat food might become more energetic, leading to potential disturbances at home.

Likewise, an outdoor cat fed indoor cat food might not receive the calories needed to maintain their active lifestyle, leading to lethargy.

In conclusion, it is not advisable to feed indoor cats outdoor cat food, or vice versa, due to these potential health and behavioral risks. Always consult with a veterinarian before making any dietary changes for your cat.

What Are The Potential Health Risks For Indoor Cats Eating Outdoor Cat Food?

Feeding indoor cats outdoor cat food occasionally is unlikely to cause immediate harm, but it may lead to potential health risks if done regularly. The primary concerns are related to differences in nutritional composition between indoor and outdoor cat food. Here are potential health risks:

Nutritional Imbalance: Indoor cats have different nutritional requirements than outdoor cats. Feeding them outdoor cat food may lead to a nutritional imbalance, resulting in health issues over time.

Weight Gain or Obesity: Outdoor cat food is often higher in calories to support the energetic lifestyles of outdoor cats. Indoor cats, being less active, might gain weight or become obese if they consume this calorie-dense food.

Gastrointestinal Problems: Sudden changes in diet can cause digestive issues in cats, such as vomiting or diarrhea. If indoor cats are not accustomed to the ingredients in outdoor cat food, they may experience gastrointestinal distress.

Increased Risk of Disease: Outdoor cat food might expose indoor cats to pathogens or parasites that are typically found in outdoor environments, potentially increasing their risk of disease.

Allergic Reactions: Outdoor cat food may contain ingredients that indoor cats are not familiar with, potentially triggering food allergies or intolerance.

Are There Any Specific Brands That Offer Indoor Or Outdoor Cat Food?

Brands Offering Indoor Cat Food:

  • Hill’s Science Diet: They offer a variety of indoor cat food options that are scientifically formulated to support the health needs of indoor cats such as weight management and hairball control.
  • Blue Buffalo Indoor Health: This brand provides natural indoor cat food formulated with the finest natural ingredients, enhanced with vitamins and minerals.
  • Purina ONE Indoor Advantage: Purina offers an indoor cat formula that helps minimize hairballs and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Iams ProActive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care: Iams offers a tailored blend of protein and carbs for indoor cats to help them maintain a healthy weight.

Brands Offering Outdoor Cat Food:

Taste of the Wild Grain-Free: They offer high-protein, grain-free cat food that suits the energetic lifestyle of outdoor cats.

  • Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets: This brand provides a balanced diet for outdoor cats with a limited number of protein and carbohydrate sources.
  • Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free: This is a high-protein, grain-free outdoor cat food that mirrors the diet of outdoor cats in the wild.
  • Purina Pro Plan TRUE NATURE: Purina offers high-protein, grain-free formulas to fuel the natural instincts of outdoor cats.

How Often Should I Feed My Indoor Cat?

Indoor cats should ideally be fed twice a day. This schedule aligns with most cats’ natural preference to have multiple small meals throughout the day. However, the feeding frequency can also depend on the cat’s age, health, and specific dietary needs. Kittens require more feeding times per day—around three to four times—since they are growing and need more nutrients. Always ensure to measure your cat food so that the total amount of food given throughout the day meets, but does not exceed, your cat’s daily calorie requirements to prevent overfeeding and obesity. 

How Often Should I Feed My Outdoor Cat?

Outdoor cats tend to be more active and thus may require more frequent feeding or larger portions compared to indoor cats. Generally, they should be fed two times per day, but this can vary based on their age, health, and activity level. Kittens and pregnant or nursing cats usually require more frequent feedings. It’s also important to know that while outdoor cats may supplement their diet by hunting, this should not be considered a reliable or nutritionally complete food source. Therefore, providing a balanced and appropriate diet is essential for their health and wellbeing.

What Should I Consider When Choosing Cat Food For My Indoor And Outdoor Cat?

When choosing cat food for your indoor and outdoor cat, consider the following factors: 

Nutritional Value: Look for cat food that guarantees complete and balanced nutrition. The food should provide the right amount of protein, fats, carbohydrates, and essential vitamins and minerals.

Special Dietary Needs: Some cats might require special diets due to health conditions like allergies, urinary tract health, or weight management. If unsure, consult with your vet.

Age Group: Kittens, adults, and senior cats have different nutritional needs. Ensuring the food is age-appropriate is crucial for their health.

Quality of Ingredients: Opt for brands that use high-quality ingredients. Avoid foods with artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.

Brand Reputation: Choose brands that are well-reputed and known for their quality standards. Check for recalls or controversies associated with the brand.

Taste and Texture: Cats can be picky eaters. The food should be palatable and appealing to their taste buds.

Caloric Content: Outdoor cats are usually more active and may require a higher caloric intake than indoor cats. Be mindful of the caloric content of the food you choose.

Price: While quality should never be compromised, the cost is also an important factor to consider. Look for a product that offers the best value for your money.


In conclusion, while both indoor and outdoor cat foods may have similar nutritional benefits, the key difference lies in their ingredients and overall composition. Indoor cat food is specifically designed to cater to the unique needs of sedentary cats and prevent weight gain, whereas outdoor cat food focuses on providing energy for more active cats. By understanding these differences and selecting the appropriate food for your feline friend based on their lifestyle, you can ensure that they are receiving the best nutrition possible. Remember, a well-fed and healthy cat is a happy cat!