These dangerous myths are harming cats. We’ve got the facts for you. Cats have had a bumpy ride throughout history and have often been maligned.
Here are myths about cats — and the real truth.
1. Myth: Declawing Your Cat is a Minor Procedure
The Facts: Declawing is an amputation, and the surgery is extremely painful—the procedure is akin to cutting off the tip of your finger down to the first knuckle. In the long term, declawing alters everything, right down to how your cat walks, which in turn causes other physical ailments such as arthritis.
The Bottom Line: Declawing is inhumane and cruel. It essentially cripples a cat, rendering her unable to partake in innate behaviours or defend herself. If your cat is scratching your furniture, with patience and dedication you can train her to scratch on appropriate surfaces. (See moderncat.com/catscratchfever for a round up of awesome cat scratchers.) For more eye-opening information on de-clawing, check out the Paw Project (pawproject.org) and get on board to ban this barbaric practice.
2. Myth: Your Cat is Fine Outside
The Facts: Cats are naturally curious creatures, leading people to think “but my cat WANTS to go outside.” In fact, what your cat really wants is stimulation, and all the healthy stimulation a cat needs can be provided in a safe, indoor environment. Providing a variety of toys, dedicated playtime, and a window with a view will keep your indoor cat happy and healthy. Need further convincing? This sobering statistic should do it. According to Dr. Dawn Ruben, outdoor cats have an average life span of 4-5 years, while a full-time indoor cat has an average life span of 12-18 years.
The Bottom Line: You are responsible for your cat’s wellbeing. Your cat will live much, much longer by being indoor-only, in your safe and happy home.
3. Myth: Feral Cats Make Bad Pets
The Facts: Feral cats have adapted to a very stressful life where survival is their only concern. When these special guys are brought into shelters and homes, they are often less social and have higher rates of return because of this. The truth is that feral cats have the same great hearts and outstanding personalities as their domesticated pals, they just need extra time and patience on the part of their new families while they transform into comfortable house cats.
The Bottom Line: Formerly feral cats are the best! They will repay your love, patience, and understanding 1000 times over (minimum), if you just give them the chance. For tips on helping a formerly feral rescue cat adapt to his new home, check out moderncat.com/formerlyferal.
4. Myth: Black Cats are Bad Luck
The Facts: The persistent myths surrounding black cats are tied to superstitions surrounding witches, plagues, and pirates (oh my!). The harmful effect of this seriously outdated thinking is that today, black cats suffer from far lower adoption rates than cats of any other colour; sadly, they are often the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized.
The Bottom Line: Ebony-coloured cats make amazing companions and are just as deserving of loving forever homes as any other cat. Why not support a black cat rescue in your area, like blackcatrescue.com or share an adoptable black cat through social media?
5. Myth: Cats are Jerks
The Facts: When a cat misbehaves, people are prone to assigning human motivations to the behaviour. It’s important to remember that the behaviour is the result of an instinct. Your cat isn’t acting like a jerk by peeing outside of her litter box, scratching on your couch or biting at your hand. Her behaviour is telling you that you need to look at the world from her perspective and adjust her environment to accommodate her natural instincts.
The Bottom Line: Cats aren’t jerks! They are not trying to anger you; they need you to make sure they have a home environment that provides appropriate outlets for their natural cat behaviours.
6. Myth: You Can’t Train a Cat
The Facts: Of course you can. In the same way that you can train yourself to wake up to an alarm, a cat can be trained to perform a wide range of tasks. From relatively simple things like staying off the counter or using a scratching post, to pretty amazing choreographed performances like the ones the Amazing Acro Cats demonstrate (do yourself a favour and check out circuscats.com), training a cat is absolutely possible. Some cats are very food motivated and can be trained to do certain things for the promise of a treat. Others are socially motivated and will do anything for a pet or some love. Figure out which works for your cat and give it a try!
The Bottom Line: Training a cat is not only possible, it is an essential part of a harmonious life with feline friends.
7. Myth: Cats are a Low-Maintenance Pet
The Facts: While cats may not need to go for walks and seem to sleep an awful lot, they require your time and attention to be happy and healthy. Daily play and stimulation are essential for feline health; Pam Johnson-Bennett, author of Think Like a Cat, recommends scheduling a minimum of one or two play sessions a day, each about 15 minutes long. These sessions fulfill your cat’s instinct to hunt and are a perfect way to bond with your cat.
The Bottom Line: Cats require daily stimulation and attention to live happy and healthy lives. Be sure to schedule daily play sessions to keep her active and engaged.
8. Myth: Cats Think Like Humans
The Facts: A cat is a cat. We need to think like a cat, and not ascribe human emotions to them. It’s important to remember that cats have strong instincts that determine how they act, and we need to accommodate their needs. They’ll be happier, and so will you. Taking the time to understand your cat’s behaviour will create a better bond with your best bud.
The Bottom Line: Cats have their own way of viewing the world—we need to get better at understanding their world so that we can live more harmonious lives together.
All Cats Love Catnip
TRUTH: Most people believe that a little catnip will turn a bored house cat into a drug-crazed feline, but it turns out that only 50 percent of all cats are susceptible to catnip’s charms. The active ingredient in catnip is an essential oil called nepetalactone, which is found in the leaves and stems of the plant. When a cat sniffs the leaves of the plant, the animal experiences a hallucinogenic “high” that can last for 10 minutes. Interestingly, if the cat swallows the catnip, it acts as a sedative, making the cat sleepy and calm. But remember, being attracted to catnip is an inherited trait, so there’s an even chance your cat won’t react to the plant.
Milk Is Good for Cats
TRUTH: One of the most common misconceptions about cats is that they should be given milk. The fact is that many cats are lactose-intolerant and giving them a warm saucer of milk will likely cause your cat to have terrible diarrhea. Cats only require milk from their mother while they are nursing. Once they are weaned, water should replace milk as their liquid nourishment. If you need to feed a tiny, orphaned kitty, always use specially prepared kitten formula from your veterinarian.
Cats Purr Because They Are Happy
TRUTH: This myth could be partly true. The truth is, no one really knows why cats purr, but because they frequently purr during times of stress — often as they are dying — it is likely there is another reason other than contentment. Some researchers have found that the pattern and frequency of purring might actually help improve bone density and promote healing. It is also believed to be a method of communication between cats as well as between cats and their owners.
Pregnant Women Should Not Have a Cat
TRUTH: Sadly, you often see classified ads offering “Free Cat, Baby on the Way.” The truth is that pregnant mothers can still love and enjoy their feline friends as long as they take precautions emptying the litter box. Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease spread through cat feces and litter. It can cause serious neurologic diseases. While a woman is pregnant, it’s best to have someone else empty the litter box. Or, if that’s not possible, the pregnant owner should always use disposable latex gloves when changing the litter. It’s also smart to wash hands thoroughly after changing the litter as an extra precaution.
Cats Can Smother Newborn Babies
TRUTH: Too often, animal shelter workers receive loving pets from expectant parents because they fear their beloved cat will be dangerous to have around a new infant and will smother the baby in its sleep. This old wives’ tale probably got its start in the Middle Ages when people believed that a cat could steal a baby’s soul. Rest assured: There has never been a recorded death of a newborn being smothered by a cat. In fact, most cats steer clear of loud, crying infants. However, as with all pets, cats should be introduced to a new baby gradually and never be left unattended with the child.