I'm glad you asked this question. There are a lot of stances on the topic, but I think it really depends on the circumstances, the cat, and other factors.
I have one of each: an indoor cat, and a cat that is allowed outside.
When I first got Ruby from the shelter 5 years ago, she was strictly an indoor cat for---2 years. Why? Location. There was no way I would let her out when we lived near a road and there were tons of other animals around. It just wasn't safe. However, she had been a stray and was intensely focused on getting outside and would sit by the door and cry. Outdoors was 'where it was at' for her.
Once we moved to our present location, we started a trial period of letting her outside. We live miles from anything on a dead end, unpaved road now (and boy, do I love it.) In warm weather, she may stay out for a few hours; in cold, she usually goes potty and comes back in within 10-15 minutes.
We sometimes do keep her indoors for several weeks during early summer because some years, grouse nest behind the garage and she will raid their nest if she finds them. Most of the time, she can be seen sleeping on the picnic table, pouncing on leaves, or getting in the way of gardening/weeding/mulching. She's very good at that.
Our indoor cat only makes half-hearted attempts to go out and she's a little physically challenged, so we're more than happy to keep her in.
My feeling is that letting a cat outside exposes them to risks. Sometimes the risks are too great in my opinion, and they should be kept inside no matter what. However, I feel that in our present circumstances that it is an allowable, and not irresponsible, risk to keep our indoor/outdoor cat happy by letting her come and go during the day. JMO.
That being said, I grew up in the suburbs. We always had cats, we always let them outside, and we always were getting new cats to replace the ones that had gotten run over in the road. It was just disgusting and tragic. We never had more than 2 or 3 cats at a time, and I was able to count 17 cats--that I remembered owning--in as many years. :sad: RIP kitties.
My Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/allezany/
Rommel at www.dogster.com/?229253
MooShu at www.dogster.com/?229250
LucyLoo at www.catster.com/?229801
Ruby at www.catster.com/?229807
Last edited by shannonRN; October 27th, 2005 at 01:50 PM.