Cats are just a nose length more popular as pets than our faithful friend, the dog. While it is true that your choice of pet largely depends on your personal experience with animals – you’re not likely to choose a cat if they used your lap as a litter box – most people have practical reasons for choosing a cat over a dog. They are said to generally stay out of everybody’s way, do funny things so they can be an Internet sensation, and are low maintenance. Or are they? There are more than a few myths running around out there that actual owners know just ain’t so. So we constructed this list of the most important ones as a warning to potential cat lovers before bringing one of them home. It is expected that you already know that a black cat that crosses your path is not a sign of bad luck to come.
Here are the top 20 myths about owning a cat:
1. Cats are able see in total darkness.
Maybe this myth got started because of those green-eyes often found in black cats. No doubt, there are amazing to look at but it is not the reason they can see in the dark. They can’t. They are very low light creatures, being able to see with only 1/6th the amount of light as the average person. That low light vision helps them when they go a-hunting in the early hours of the morning or just when the sun is setting. That is one reason, along with those tiny radar ears, why you may find a dead mouse on the kitchen floor in the morning and your furry friend looking at you with a sense of feline pride. On the upside, they probably won’t be looking for an early feeding.
2. Cats are untrainable
Let’s be honest. Did you ever see a seeing eye cat? Based on their peepers, you would think that they would be perfect for night walks. We know about the popular saying about being able to herd cats, so training them is virtually impossible (unless you want them to do useless tricks). Well, it turns out that is not true. We could go into a long discussion about it, but a video is worth 100 words, so you can check out the one above and enjoy the music. It may not be Beethoven, but consider the fact that the owner doesn’t seem to be especially musically inclined. Just remember, cats are almost as trainable as dogs. No, seriously. Just get them at a young age and you’ll see.
3. Cats = low maintenance
This myth is a top contender for the ROFLMAOASTC Award. The fact that they really don’t do much (and they don’t) doesn’t mean they are low maintenance. As a matter of research, cats spend approximately 22 percent of their time looking out the window. You can make the case they are imitating human behavior at work (which is why the cubicle was invented) but it seems they just like looking at things going on around them. But if you love your furry window watcher, they will require just as much care as their canine counterpart. The evidence is in the lives of stray cats: they live only about 3 years on average. Plucking ticks off of them with tweezers is a distinct possibility if you miss their Frontline by a week.
4. I know my cat is happy because he is flicking his tail
Another myth that defies the low maintenance myth is that tail flicking is a sign of happiness. Actually, no one really knows why they do some of the things they do. Sometimes they flick their tail because they are excited, while other times they are thinking. How are we supposed to know? Well, there is a way but the problem is you need to take an advanced college course on The Body Language of Cats. And just when you think you’ve narrowed down the possibilities, they will hiss at you.
5. Pregnant women should never own or come near a cat
This is a myth that has a serious side to it, so we will give you both sides of the issue. First, the serious side. According to the Center of Disease Control, more than 60,000,000 people carry the Toxoplasma parasite, the culprit that can infect the unborn baby with the danger of vision loss, mental disability, and seizures that are likely to go undetected until after the baby is born. That parasite comes from the cat’s litter box. So while you can keep your cat (it probably isn’t the best idea to get a cat while you are pregnant) everyone needs to be particularly careful of their cleanliness, especially people who clean or handle the litter box. On the lighter side, you get to give up that chore to another worthy family member for about a year, and it will get the kids to wash their hands more than once a week.
6. Indoor cats are sad cats
This is one of those “it depends” answers. It is actually a matter of common sense. If you have had a cat for many years, or you get a cat who is used to being outside all the time, then shifting gears and keeping them in the house for good, there is a 50-50 chance your feline may end up grumpy. But if you keep your cat indoors from Day 1 and give them plenty of toys and other entertaining objects (including a scratch post lest your living room furniture ends up looking like a bird’s nest) your cat can be perfectly happy with their indoor habitat. As was noted above, cats spend 22 percent of their day window watching, so having a window in your house is an important part of kitty happiness.
7. Toss your cat in the air and they will always land on their feet
An important part of a cat landing on their feet is they need the necessary time to position themselves for the landing. If they don’t have the time, they can get injured just as easily as any other animal. Statistically, more cats are injured from falling from low heights than from higher ones. But even when there is enough time to position themselves, cats can get seriously injured. Fractured bones and sprains are just two of the most common high-rise injuries sustained by cats falling from heights. Jumping is one thing, falling is another.
8. Cats start wobbling when their whiskers are cut
While whiskers are an important part of a cat’s sensory organs (there are a whole lot of nerves connected to those whiskers) cutting a cat’s whiskers will not affect their balance. (We have it on good authority that when a cat loses a back leg and has to hop along on just 3 legs, it uses its tail as a balancing mechanism.) But they can be indicators of what your cat’s mood is, though there is not much data on exactly what their mood is at any given time.
9. Dogs and cats are natural enemies
Anyone who has seen videos or pictures of cats and dogs on the Internet knows this simply is not true. It makes for some great cartoons, with cats generally outsmarting the dogs (who came up with that?) but both being domesticated animals they seem to know it is better inside a warm house getting fed regular meals than to have to fend for themselves. Now only if teenagers would learn that. Also, dogs can protect cats from scratching each other’s eyes out, as can be seen here.
10. The cat mantra: leave me alone!
A good number of cats are just like dogs – they are so happy to see you come home they are watching and waiting for you to open the door. But it’s not just about the food. Sometimes when your cat is meowing it is because they need a little attention. They may lay on the couch or the floor near you because they sense your presence and need some distant companionship. OK, so it might be they are lazy and waiting for you to come and pick them up, but that doesn’t mean they want to be left alone.
11. Cats are nocturnal
Nocturnal, as in they spend their nights awake and sleep during the daytime. They often sleep when they are bored, which is one reason to give them a window of their own. Here is your new word for the day: crepuscular. A crepuscular animal is one whose highest activity levels occur during the twilight hours – dusk and dawn. Why do you think they wake you up so early in the morning? The reason is that is their best time for hunting for food, which may include catching mice and general members of the rodent population.
12. Using a toothbrush on your cat won’t help anything
We mentioned earlier about cats not being low maintenance creatures. Well, brushing their teeth is a good way for you to look for any problems with their teeth or gums that may require treatment. If you stop and consider the things that cats may eat, and where they put their mouths, brushing their teeth is a benefit to you as well. Especially if your cat gets a good amount of outdoor time when you have no idea what he has been eating.
13. Cat meows don’t mean anything and can be ignored.
Like a baby’s cries, cat’s meows have a different meaning depending on what they’re meowing about. If they are at your bedroom door when the sun starts to come up, it could be time to hunt, eat, or just do their duty somewhere other than the litter box. The bottom line is the cat is demanding something from you – and they want to see how many stupid people tricks you can do. You are more likely than not to end up being trained by your cat. They think their demands are reasonable, so you can make up your own mind as to how much training you are willing to put up with.
14. Purring = happy kitty
Sorry. It may be true but it can mean a lot of other things. Cats have been known to purr while they are in pain and even when they are nearing death. Yes, it’s weird, but it’s important. Like many things in trying to understand your cat, it depends. For example, if you pick up your cat and they are not purring, then begin to purr when you start petting them, it’s likely they are happy and content. Now if the cat is purring when you pick it up (or before) it might be a sign they are in some kind of pain. Check for ticks or other problems that may be causing pain. If they get a clean bill of health, then you are doing something incredibly good as a pet parent!
15. Cats and milk go together
You have heard of the expression about having too much of a good thing. There is something about a saucer of cold milk that appeals to a cat, just like a cup of warm milk can help relax us right before bedtime. The problem is, milk has a good deal of fat and other naturally good stuff that will cause your cat to look like a furry blowfish if you overdo it. There is also the problem of kitty getting diarrhea, an aftereffect you likely don’t want to deal with. Once in a while is fine, but if you see your cat turning into a furball instead of coughing them up, it’s time to cut back on the milk.
16. Cats rarely need to go to the vet
Why people believe this is really odd, to be honest about it. What possible problems can dogs have that cats do not have? Frontline is a first line of defense, but they are not the only problem for a cat who regularly wanders around outside. Because cats are often out of sight and therefore out of mind, a nagging problem can be easily overlooked because you just don’t notice. Someone took their cat to the vet for a regular checkup and the vet discovered that the vaccination shot they were given had caused a cancer to form and their leg needed to be amputated to save their life. The chances were 1 in 1,000 it would happen – but it did. Kitty had to manage on just 3 legs, but everyone was happy he was still alive.
17. Keeping your cat indoors will make them fatter
This is one of those myths that falls directly into the lap of the cat’s owner. Yes, you! It is logical that an outdoor cat will burn off more calories roaming through the neighborhood or local greenery than an indoor cat will, sitting inside and watching the other cats cavort with one another. But the owner is the one who needs to keep an eye on the cat’s food intake and make sure they get plenty of exercise. The average domestic cat should weigh somewhere between 8 and 10 pounds, so weighing your cat if he looks a little too happy is in order. The easiest way to accomplish this seemingly impossible task is to weigh yourself (always a good first step) and record the weight. Pick up the cat and step back on to the scale. The difference in weight is your cat’s weight. Putting them on a diet can be challenging since they will likely meow when hungry, but that is your fault too. Unless your home is infested with rats and mice. Then we’ll give you a pass.
18. Litter required prior to spaying
We didn’t want to talk about sex, but because this is near the top of the list of cat myths we are obliged to mention it. This is another one of those myths that have us wondering why people believe this given the amount of knowledge about the issue available virtually everywhere. By nature, female cats can get pregnant and are more likely to have that happen when they are running around outside. The research shows that the benefits of having your cat spayed are: prevention of uterine cancer, prevention of mammary cancer, reducing the potential for ovarian cysts as well as the more common complications of being pregnant. Though you may be willing to believe the myth, the question is whether you are willing to spend the extra money for vet bills, exams, and potential surgeries if you’re wrong. And that does not include the pain and suffering kitty will have to go through.
19. Cats are not big fans of water
When it comes to water, less is just fine with them. But don’t you think it rather odd that the “big cats” such as lions and tigers, are natural swimmers who love the water? Maybe that is what being domesticated, like dogs, has done to them. All that said, there is a balance needed here. Your cats may hate water, but that primarily applies to baths. They believe they can keep themselves clean and groomed on their own – thank you very much. But when it comes to water to drink they need water – a lot of it. If you pour water from your kitchen faucet and they don’t drink it right away, chances are they are waiting for the chemical smell to abate. Cats have been known to drink from the toilet, possibly because water has been sitting in the tank for a while. An empty water dish is far worse than an empty food dish.
20. Naturally vegan kitties
The sassy saying “Cats are people too” may get a laugh or two once in a while, but when it comes to their diet the truth is that cats like meat. In fact, they need meat. The idea that because an owner lives a vegan lifestyle does not mean that the cat is buying into the idea. If you want to find a middle road, there are many cat foods that have fish and other seafood that will meet their meat requirements. (Caution: some of them have a unique pungent odor about them.) One thing that might help you to understand their need for meat is the acid in their stomach can dissolve bones, like when they eat a bird. All of it. How do you feel when you have too much acid in your stomach?
That ends the list of 20 Myths About Owning a Cat. There were a few very serious issue about owning a cat mentioned, and most of it was a fun romp through the backyard of kitty knowledge. Not every myth is dangerous to believe, but the goal is to get you to better understand what real cat owners have to deal with, and why a seasoned cat owner rarely gets upset when their cat does crazy stuff.
There are a few cat facts that may seem like myths but actually are not. For example, the position of you cat when you are laying down or sleeping needs to be understood. A cat who sleeps over your head is taking on a dominating position over you – or at least he thinks he has the dominance. Sending the message that you are still in charge may solve some of your other cat’s behavioral problems. Your cat will try your patience mainly because he has nothing better to do all day than eat, sleep, and look out the window. They are independent creatures, so are used to doing what they see fit. They will try to outlast you, so you need to be firmer with them and wear out their patience.