Cat Myths and Misconceptions

Is a black cat bad luck? Awww c'mon, you don't believe in that tripe do you? But can you dispute the well-known "fact" that cats use their whiskers to keep their balance? Well...yes, you can! This list is only a small taste of the many cat myths and misconceptions that abound in western culture alone, so let's begin our mission to separate the fact from the fiction!

Myth #1 - Cats Have 9 Lives

Cats do have 9 Lives if they dine on that cat food brand every day, but do they physically have 9 lives? Of course not. Cats have one life so it's important to schedule veterinary appointments for regular check ups in order to keep that one life in tip-top shape! Vaccines, dental checks, nutritional consultations, etc. are ways to keep cats living long. Take my word for it, my cat lived into his twenties!

Myth #2 - Feeding Cats "Healthy" Table Scraps is OK

You may think table scraps are okay to feed cats but they can add up to a whole lot of calories for your feline. Cats require balanced nutrition minus any ingredients (however healthy they appear) that may be harmful in large amounts, so it's best to check with your veterinarian for a recommendation as to what is the best food to feed your cat. Remember, feeding a ten pound cat a mere piece of cheese is like feeding your cat nearly three chocolate bars of empty calories!

Myth #3 - Pregnant Women Should Avoid Cats

The zoonotic disease called toxoplasmosis is spread primarily through contact with the ground outside or the more common contact with undercooked meat but this disease can also infect humans through feces and the litter box—NOT the cat itself. Contact results in birth defects and possible miscarriage, so there'll be no problems if expectant mothers steer clear of where the litter box is placed! Interaction with kitty is fine as long as some other family member tends to litter box duties, leaving the expectant mum to mothering the cat until her newest baby arrives.

Myth #4 - A Cat's Flicking Tail Means a Happy Cat!

Cats flick their tails when upset or in thought—but with cats, you can never know! Cats express themselves through body language and vocal expressions and learning these signs and "voices" will aid you in building your relationship with kitty.

Myth #5 - Cats Need Whiskers or They'd Fall Down

Cats use their whiskers as "feelers" in order avoid objects in darkness and to determine their location but they don't need them to keep their balance. How a cat's whiskers are positioned can indicate the mood they're in, so whatever you do, don't cut or tug on them. Whiskers are deeply rooted in a cat's skin where nerves are abundant!

Myth #6 - Declawing a Cat Is Like Nail Trimming

The declawing procedure is considered to be mutilation by many. The reason is because declawing is a surgical amputation of the first joint of each of the cat's toes! Without the use of their claws, a cat, if it happens to sneak out of the safety of the home, becomes instant prey for predators, leaving the cat clawless and defenseless.

Myth #7 - All cats hate water

It's the truth that a great many cats do hate and even detest water! But some cats (more than you'd might think) do like water, and one breed especially—the Turkish Van—actually enjoys swimming.

Myth #8 - Cats Don't Need Exercise

Cats require both mental and physical activities. Indoor cats especially should be kept active with plenty of physical games to keep them at a healthy weight and games that challenge their mind.

Myth #9 - Cats Should Drink a Lot of Milk

What could be more natural than a cat lapping up milk? Right? The truth is milk is brimming with nutrients that the stomachs of some kitties just can't tolerate, thus causing problems such as diarrhea and obesity. Cow milk has no nutritional value for a cat but cats gravitate toward this liquid like dogs favor bones. There is no problem using milk as a once-in-a-while special treat but (and I know this goes totally against the grain) it's best sticking to a well-balanced nutritional formula made especially for cats. Of course, fresh water should always be provided for your pet!

Myth #10 - Brush Their Fur, Not Their Teeth

If your cat's breath smells like it could knock a buzzard off a... I mean, if your eyes water when you smell your cat's breath, then a routine brushing of your cat's teeth is in order. Not only will this freshen your cat's breath, but this action also will limit the risk of oral disease. You can ask your veterinarian for help to get you started.

Myth #11 - Grass Eating Means Your Cat Is Sick!

There are really no proven answers as to why cats eat grass but there are several theories. One bit of research suggests the obvious motivation could be that they simply love the taste! But if grass nibbling becomes a daily feast for your pet, you may want to pay a visit to your veterinarian to stay on the safe side.

Myth #12 - Garlic Rids a Cat of Worms

Nope, not true! Even cats from Italy shouldn't eat garlic as it may cause anemia in cats. Avoid it!

Myth #13 - Cats Always Land on Their Feet

Usually cats do land on their feet and this includes falls from as high as 18 stories! Unfortunately, an injury-free fall is not that common but they're not unheard of either. There are many factors to consider when a cat falls or jumps from a height. The longer the fall the better, as the cat twists and turns itself to land correctly and slow its velocity. In a short fall of 10 to 12 feet, this 'righting' time is virtually non-existent, thus are the reasons for injuries. (The 18 story fall is the record, by the way.)

Myth #14 - Cats & Dogs Are Enemies!

Cats can actually carry on an affectionate relationship with a dog, especially if they're introduced as a kitten and a pup. Many families have both cats and dogs living under the same roof with no problems. Some even enjoy the company of each other (as well as the humans).

Myth #15 - A Purring Cat is a Happy Cat

Cats do purr when happy but they can purr at other, more painful times also, such as when afraid and giving birth, when they're ill or dying. It's best thinking of a purr as being the phraseology of an intense emotion.

Myth #16 - A Cat Cannot Catch Prey With a Belled Collar

Not necessarily true even if it sounds logical. Recent research indicates that cats with belled collars tend to be better at prey catching because they become proficient in making soundless movements. In essence, they've become more sly and stealthy because of their belled collars!

Myth #17 - Wait Until a Cat is 6 Months Old Before De-sexing

According to recent studies an early spay and neuter are safer than later procedures. Young cats show less tissue trauma, fewer complications, recover quickly and seem less stressed by the procedure. Waiting 6 months is not a good idea especially if you consider cats are able to reproduce by that age. The unwanted pet population is large enough—don't contribute to it!

By Tom Matteo

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About the Author
Tom Matteo has been a freelance writer since 1992. He specializes in hardware and software reviews for computers and gaming systems, and occasionally writes about such topics as animal behavior and care. Tom resides in Bethlehem, PA with his wife Tina and his beloved cockapoo, Angel.