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15 common cat myths and misconceptions

By Justine Seraphin Country Manager

Updated on the

Cats are often the subject of legends and folklore, and this has led to many people having superstitions about them. But is there any truth in them at all?

You’ve probably heard a lot of things about cats - that they hate water or that they love cow’s milk, for example! 

But these ‘facts’ actually come from thousands of years of old wive’s tales, and while some of them aren’t completely incorrect, many of them are downright myths. So how do you separate myths from truths? Don’t worry, we’ve done it for you! Here are the top 15 myths about cats, debunked.

1. Pregnant women should stay away from cats

Because cats can transmit toxoplasmosis to humans, it has been said that pregnant women should stay away from cats for their own safety and that of their unborn baby. However, toxoplasmosis can only be transmitted if you accidentally ingest the faecal matter of an infected cat. In addition, indoor cats are very unlikely to be infected with it, since they don’t hunt and therefore don’t eat raw meat. Just to be on the safe side, pregnant women should ask someone else to handle the cat’s litter box during the duration of the pregnancy. If this is not possible, wearing a pair of gloves and a mask while changing the litter will do the trick. In any case, pregnant women have no reason to stay away from cats!

2. Cats steal the breath of babies

Of course, this is a myth. Unfortunately, there have been tragic incidents in which cats, seeking company and warmth, have entered babies’ cribs and accidentally smothered them by sleeping on their chests or too close to their faces. Though these incidents are rare, it is best to keep the door to the nursery closed when you can’t supervise your sleeping baby. Other than that, cats pose no problem to babies and certainly don’t take their breath away

3. Purring means a cat is happy

A common misconception is that cats only purr when they’re happy. While it’s true that cats purr when they’re relaxed and content, purring is also used as a self-soothing technique. In this sense, cats will also purr when they’re frightened, stressed, or even in pain. Take purring with a grain of salt and make sure you’re also reading your cat’s body language.

4. Cats hate water

Most cats won’t like taking a bath, but not ALL cats. Some cats love dipping their paws in water and even swimming! In fact, the Turkish Van is well-known for its love of water! And while your cat may not like swimming, we bet you they like the tap, right? Most cats actually prefer drinking from running water rather than stagnant water. That’s why cat fountains have become so popular!

5. Cats are nocturnal creatures

Cats are actually crepuscular creatures, which means they’re most active at dusk and dawn. Cats can see a lot better than we can in low light - they only need about 1/6th of the light we need to see shapes. However, just like us, they can’t see in complete darkness.

6. Cats always land on their feet

In the wild, cats are tree-climbers, so physically, they’re built to survive falls. When cats fall from a height, they use their flexible spine to right themselves and ‘parachute’ out before they land. So, in a lot of cases, cats do land on their feet. However, the cat needs enough time to turn over, and this is not always the case. And even if they are able to land on their feet, they often suffer from serious injuries to their limbs. Best not to test their abilities - keep cats away from high windows or balconies. 

7. Cats are loners

People often think that cats are independent and don’t like too much company. Just like for humans, it really depends on the individual. However, stray cats often hang out in colonies rather than alone. Social house cats can be introduced to other pets (whether they be cats or even dogs) and cohabitate happily with them! In fact, for some cats, having another pet around is beneficial because it can keep them from feeling too lonely if you’re away from home a lot. 

8. Cats lose their balance without whiskers

Whiskers are actually used to help a cat determine the width of tight spaces, and to communicate how they’re feeling: You’ll notice them moving differently depending on whether your cat is relaxed, angry, or scared. Whiskers are extremely sensitive and should never be trimmed or cut. However, if they were to fall off, for example, your cat wouldn’t lose their balance. Whiskers can do a lot of things, but helping a cat’s balance isn’t one of them!

9. Cats are low maintenance pets

Often, people opt for cats rather than dogs because they don't want to deal with having to walk a dog every day, rain or shine. But that doesn’t mean cats are low maintenance. In fact, there are a lot of things you’ll have to take care of as a cat owner that you wouldn’t as a dog owner. For example, changing the litter box daily, or buying lots of cat trees and scratching posts to save your furniture from their claws. Plus, your cat still needs exercise, even if you don’t take them out for walks. Not encouraging them to play or use their cat trees could result in them gaining a lot of excess weight, not to mention negatively affect their mental well-being. 

10. You can’t train a cat

Cats can be trained, but it’ll be harder than training a dog. Cats have a tendency to do what they want, when they want, so focus on positive reinforcement and be patient!

11. Only male cats spray

If you’re wondering whether to get a male or female cat and this is one of the reasons you’d prefer a female, think again! While male cats tend to spray more, females can also spray when they’re feeling territorial or anxious. While neutering may alleviate this problem, you’ll probably have to accompany it with some behavioural modification.

12. You can give cats milk to drink

It’s a well-known image: A cat enjoying a nice bowl of milk. However, cats are really only meant to drink milk when they’re babies. Once they’re adults, lactose can actually make them sick. To be on the safe side, only give cats water.

13. Cats eat grass when they feel sick

Cats may eat grass when they feel sick, but they may also eat it when they’re not sick. Contrary to popular belief, there is no correlation between the two. 

14. Cats don’t love their owners

It’s commonly thought that if you want a loving, attentive pet, then you should get a dog. However, most cats also love their owners, they just have a different way of showing it. 

15. Cats can see in the dark

As mentioned earlier, cats can certainly see better than we can in low light. Their corneas are much thinner and their irises open much wider than ours - this allows them to let a lot more light in. Plus, they have more rods in their retinas, which amplify light impulses. However, cats do still need some light to see. They can’t see in complete darkness.

So, how many of these 'facts' did you already know were myths before reading this article? 

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