Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dispelling Common Cat Myths and Misconceptions

By Julia Williams

There are a lot of mistakenly held beliefs about cats that have no basis in fact. Now, I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about cats (not even close, actually) but over the years I have learned a thing or two. Here are some of the most common myths about cats.

Cat Myth #1: Cats should drink cow’s milk every day

We’ve all seen the cute image of a kitten lapping milk from a dish. Most cats do love the taste of dairy, but they certainly don’t need it to be healthy. Moreover, many cats are lactose intolerant, and giving them milk, cream or ice cream can result in gastric upset. Feed them a high quality natural cat food like FELIDAE Grain Free Salmon formula instead (it’s a favorite at my house).

Cat Myth #2:  Cats always land on their feet

Because cats have a flexible musculoskeletal system and a “righting reflex” that allows them to twist their bodies in the air, most cats who fall from high places are able to orient themselves to land on their feet. Shorter-distance falls, however, have a lower survival rate. Although this may seem contradictory, two possible reasons have been given.

One, when a cat falls from a short distance it may not have enough time to right itself. Two, the scientific study of falling cats (“feline pesematology”) concluded that cats tend to panic and curl their bodies up during a fall, until they reach terminal velocity when they relax and spread out, which slows them down and reduces the stress of the landing. Thus, a longer fall allows the cat to reach terminal velocity whereas a short fall does not.

In any case, even cats who land on their feet after a fall can suffer broken bones and serious injuries. Responsible pet owners who live in high-rise apartments should have window screens to protect their feline friends from a fall.

Cat Myth #3:  Cats are not affectionate

The notion that cats are haughty creatures who don’t form strong bonds with people and don’t give and receive affection really makes me laugh. I’m 100% certain that anyone who believes this has never been loved by a cat. Although it’s true that some cats are more affectionate than others, more often than not the way a cat is treated (or has been treated in the past) directly contributes to the way it acts and reacts to humans. Any mistreated animal will have issues with trust, and cats that are largely ignored tend to ignore their human in return. But treat them like they are your best beloved friend, and they will be just that, and so much more.

Cat Myth #4: Cats can see in the dark

Cats can’t see in total darkness, but they can see in semi-darkness much better than humans or any other animal can. This is because cats’ eyes are designed so the iris (the colored portion of the eye) can open very wide to let in as much light as possible. Additionally, cats have extremely large eyes relative to the size of their head, and they also have about 24 whiskers that help them find their way around in the dark.

Cat Myth #5: Pregnant women shouldn’t own cats

Some cats can be infected with a parasite called toxoplasma gondii, which can cause a disease called toxoplasmosis. Pregnant women can get toxoplasmosis from handling cat waste, and babies born to mothers who become infected for the first time just before or during pregnancy can have serious health problems. It sounds scary; however, pregnant women can own cats if they take a few simple precautions. Ideally, someone else should clean the cat’s litter box. If that’s not possible, pregnant women should wear disposable gloves and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water afterwards.

Cat Myth #6: Cats can take care of themselves

Though some cats do give off an independent aura that seems to say “I do not need you, human,” it’s far from the truth. Cats are no more capable of taking care of themselves than dogs or human babies. Any number of injuries and health problems can occur when cats are left to fend for themselves while their owners are away on vacation or business trips. Responsible pet owners hire a “cat sitter” or make other arrangements to keep their feline family member safe while they’re gone. Read more about this prevalent cat myth in Is It Okay to Leave a Cat Home Alone?

There are a lot more myths and misconceptions about cats that people believe – what are some of your favorites?

Read more articles by Julia Williams


  1. Cats will suck the breath from a baby while they sleep. I hear that one all the time.

  2. If my cats were anymore affectionate, I'd be in trouble. I have one who loves to sit on my shoulder every chance he gets. I don't mind him sitting there, but I wish he'd pull his claws in.

    I'm glad to see your debunking the myth cats can take care of themselves. Stray cats are lucky to survive a year on their own and even outside cats need someone to keep an eye on them to catch injuries and accidental poisonings before they become serious health problems.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...