Dirty? Yes, contrary to what most people believe about the indoor lifestyle, in my professional cat groomer experience, the indoor cats are dirtier than the indoor/outdoor cats. Before you pou pou my statement in disbelief, read further.
All animals appreciate being clean. It's vital to their long term health. In a natural environment, on their own time, cats will seek out light rainy days, roll in snow, sit under downspouts, and are not adverse to the occasional swim. They do this to rinse away impurities and simply because it feels good. So the old myth about cats grooming themselves was largely helped by the fact that they seeked bathing themselves regularly, and didn't reply just on spit. Unless a indoor/outdoor cat has mishaps with unnatural products, like motor oil, or has extra long hair, they can stay in relatively decent condition during their prime years, needing a bath only occasionally.
An indoor cat does not get the opportunity to rinse away the layers of food, or litterbox debris. In fact the natural oils in the hair plus salvia can just keep building up until dirt and loose hair get stuck together creating mats. The indoor environment also means indoor lighting and thus, shedding year round. Your feline roommate is also slathering themselves daily with saliva which has five known allergens. Would you live with someone who never properly bathed? This is why so many cats are attracted to water dripping from sinks. They want to be clean. The trend to keep cats indoors puts the onus on us to regularly have them properly groomed and bathed so they can be as clean as they naturally like to be.
Keeping cats indoors is a prudent decision because the indoor/outdoor lifestyle is fraught with dangers like feline viruses, vehicles, predators, getting lost, and malicious humans. "Catios" are a great, safe alternative for the cats who love the outdoors. Indoor cats live an average of three times longer. As a responsible pet lover, I wouldn't let a dog roam free, and neither would I let a cat. My pets are bathed regularly because they share my living space, they stay clean and healthy, and I can enjoy cuddling them anytime!
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Janet Wormitt, CFMG CFCG
Cat-a-lyst and Ad-vo-CATe