There’s a lot of mystery behind the big eyes of our feline friends, and there’s a lot we still don’t know about their behaviors, personalities, and health needs. Pet owners learn a lot from sharing their homes with cats, but not everything is as it seems. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around, and some are causing trouble when it comes to properly caring for our cats. The better we understand our furry family members, the better our relationships will be. Here are the top ten cat myths to stop believing.
1. Cats have nine lives.
The idea that cats have nine lives most likely originated from ancient Egypt. The sun god, Atum-Ra, could shape-shift into a cat, and he was also one of nine powerful deities. The myth was further supported by the almost magical way cats seem to survive harrowing accidents. They may have a strong survival instinct that can get them out of potentially dangerous situations, but cats are by no means invincible.
2. They always land on their feet.
While cats are quick on their feet and agile enough to turn and twist their bodies in midair, they don’t always land on their feet. They climb trees and cross balconies, and when they fall, they’re in very real danger of getting hurt. High-rise syndrome is when cats bravely venture out onto dangerous heights, risking a rogue gust of wind or misstep that could send them falling toward the ground.
3. Cats can’t be trained like dogs can.
With the right techniques, cats can be trained to do a lot of the same tricks dogs do. They learn best through positive reinforcement and are motivated with clickers and treats. They can come when called, sit, lay down, and roll over. They can even be taught to go to the bathroom in the toilet and flush when they’re finished. Try training a dog to do that!
Check out this article for more tips on training your cat.
4. A wagging tail is a sign of a happy cat.
Everyone knows a dog is usually feeling good when they wag their tail back and forth (but not always!), and that interpretation is often passed on to cats. The reality, however, is that a cat’s tail movement means something drastically different. When your cat wags or twitches their tail, it’s most likely because they’re annoyed. If you’re petting a cat and their tail starts moving, don’t take it as encouragement.
5. Pregnant women need to stay away from cats.
Toxoplasmosis is a serious disease that can be transmitted from mother to fetus. There’s a common misconception that it’s also passed from cat to human. Pregnant women have a higher chance of contracting toxoplasmosis by eating meat than they do by cuddling their pet cat.
The only cat-related risk comes when it’s time to clean out the litter box. Toxoplasmosis can be found in infected cat feces, so pregnant women are encouraged to get someone else to clean the kitty litter, or at least wear gloves and wash their hands afterward. Animal writer Jennifer Nelson also writes that keeping cats indoors and not feeding them a raw diet will reduce risks of transmission.
6. Milk is the best thing for cats to drink.
A happy cat calmly lapping from a saucer of milk is classic cat imagery, but the idea that milk and cats are the perfect match is steeped in falsity. Many cats are lactose intolerant, and drinking regular cow’s milk can lead to serious digestive upset. Not every cat is lactose intolerant, but Pets Web MD says,
“Cats don’t need milk, and the potential problems outweigh the potential benefits.”
7. All cats hate water.
There are certain cat breeds that are determined to break the stereotype that cats are afraid of water. Bengals, Maine Coons, and Savannahs are all more likely to run toward a running water faucet than away. They love getting baths and playing in pools and puddles. They’re excellent swimmers, and often, there’s none of the clawing and hissing most people expect to get when they put a cat in water.
8. Black cats are bad luck.
In many western cultures, a black cat crossing your path is considered a sign that something bad is about to happen. There’s no clear origin story to explain this unfair superstition. Some stories relate black cats to witches, and Celtic mythology describes a cat sith that could steal the souls of recently deceased bodies. The stories are far from harmless, and because of them, black cats have a harder time being adopted in shelters.
9. Declawing cats is no big deal.
Cats scratch carpets, furniture, walls—it’s just what they do. Pet owners who’d rather not deal with kitty’s tendency to tear sometimes turn to declawing as a viable solution. The misconception is that declawing is simply a more extreme version of trimming a cat’s nails. What it actually is, however, is a surgical amputation that removes the last knuckle of the cat’s paw. To do each nail on the front paws, that means the cat endures ten amputations. Many cats who undergo declawing live the rest of their lives with chronic pain, and the practice is banned in many cities and countries.
10. Cats are too independent to make good pets.
Cats are known for their independence, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love their humans. Cats form powerful bonds with their family members, and most cat owners would never call them “just pets.” They’re friendly and loving, and they rely on their owners to not only meet their basic survival needs but to keep them happy. There are even therapy cats that bring comfort to people in hospitals, and many are valued as emotional support animals.