Myth: Cats have nine lives.
Fact: Like all living things, cats only have one life. It is possible that this myth got started because cats do seem able to get themselves out of difficult situations.
Myth: Cats need to drink milk.
Fact: Once weaned, cats do not need milk. Adult cats are often lactose intolerant and cow’s milk can give them diarrhea. If milk is given it should be small amounts infrequently.
Myth: Cats only purr when they are happy.
Fact: Cats often purr when they are content and receiving attention from humans, but it is not the only reason they will purr. Cats have been known to purr when they are in pain and dying to provide comfort to themselves. Cats also purr to comfort their kittens.
Myth: Cats always land on their feet.
Fact: More often than not, cats will land on their feet when they fall from a height. This is because they have what is called a ‘righting reflex’, whereby they’re able to twist around very quickly in the air when falling. They also have very flexible backbones, which help them in doing this. But sadly, this isn’t always the case. Every year animal hospitals treat cats which have fallen from great heights, often out of windows several storeys high. Some recover but many do not.
Myth: Cats are low maintenance pets that don’t require much care.
Fact: Cats may not need to be walked several times a day like dogs, but they still require appropriate nutrition, exercise, medical care, mental stimulation, and human interaction.
Myth: Cats should have one litter of kittens before they are neutered.
Fact: Female cats are less likely to develop certain cancers if they are neutered BEFORE their first heat. There is absolutely no medical or behavioural need for cats to have kittens.
Myth: Cats are nocturnal.
Fact: Cats are crepuscular – which means they are most active at dawn and dusk, when hunting opportunities are rife and there’s enough light for them to see well.
Myth: Cats are cold and aloof. If you want a loving pet get a dog.
Fact: Many cats are very loving. Cats are not dogs, they are very different animals and comparisons don't make much sense. Dogs are by nature pack animals, while cats are more independent. Cats that enjoy the same status in the family as dogs are often just as loving, attentive and present as their canine counterpoints.
Myth: Dry cat food is best for cats because it helps clean their teeth.
Fact: Crunchy food isn't any better at brushing and flossing your cat’s teeth than it is yours. From a nutritional standpoint, dry food is the worst thing you can feed your cat – it is devoid of both the healthful, unadulterated protein and moisture cats need in order to stay healthy.
Myth: Cats are unhappy unless able to roam outdoors.
Fact: While an older cat who has been outdoors for years might be unhappy at being kept inside, cats that grow up indoors, even in apartments, can be very happy, as long as they are provided with plenty of interactive play, scratching posts, window perches for looking outside, and climbing towers for exercise. There are also a number of safe compromises for those times when you (or your cat) want him to be outdoors for fresh air and sunshine.
Myth: Indoor cats cannot get diseases and thus don’t require veterinary care.
Fact: Indoor cats are still exposed to organisms that are carried through the air or brought in on a cat owner's shoes or clothing. Even indoor cats can suffer from kidney disease, cystitis, hyperthyroidism and any number of other diseases and disorders. Preventive veterinary care is needed for all cats.
Myth: Neutered cats automatically gain weight.
Fact: Most cats are neutered around six months of age, a time when their metabolisms are naturally slowing down and they no longer require the frequent feedings of kitten hood. If the cat continues to eat the same amount, it may gain weight. Cat guardians can help their cats stay fit by providing exercise and not over-feeding.
Myth: Declawing is not harmful to the cat.
Fact: Declawing is a multiple amputation of the claws, claw bed, and the first joint. Studies have shown that declawed cats suffer from lifelong pain, are prone to lifelong problems with litter box use, are more likely to bite and lack confidence. Declawing is mutilation and is banned in many countries.
Elizabeth Llewellyn is a feline welfare and behaviour specialist with 30 years experience working with cats in a variety of settings including rescue, breeding, boarding, grooming and veterinary. She lives in Chittenden County Vermont with her three cats.