Cat Myths, Debunked!

By Allison Habetz, CVPM, Lafayette Veterinary Care Center

As a long standing and proud cat lady, I’ve been itching to set the record straight and dispel some common cat myths that have gone on too long! Cat lovers and advocates rejoice! Skeptical about cats or think you’ve missed the essence of the ‘hype’ on cats somewhere along the line? Read on!

Myth #1: Cats love you less than dogs.
Not True! Cat owners already know that there’s no truth to this rumor. Cats are not small dogs, and they do typically have different mentalities than the selfless Golden Retrievers of the world. However, cats are incredibly faithful and affectionate to their owners and care givers. Some cats have even been known as heroes, saving the lives of other pets and people. With that said, I just count on mine to greet me at the door and meet me for late night cuddles.

Myth #2: Cats are self-maintaining and don’t need veterinary care.
Au Contraire! Like many other species, cats are masters at masking their illnesses as a natural defense mechanism. Routine examinations to screen for underlying illnesses, routine vaccinations, and preventative care, just a dogs receive, is still recommended for both indoor and outdoor cats alike to ensure they lead a long and healthy life.

Myth #3: Cat always land on their feet
Not always. Cats do have a remarkable ability to control their bodies in mid-air and shift their balance. Usually they will manage to land with their feet on the ground, but not always.

Myth #4: Pregnant women should not own cats & definitely should not clean litter boxes.
Let clear this up. Some cats can be infected with a disease called toxoplasmosis, which occasionally can be spread to humans through the cat’s feces (usually during litterbox handling) causing serious problems in unborn babies. Many obstetricians will support that if screening tests in the household cat for toxoplasmosis are negative that cleaning the litter box can be safe during pregnancy. Moms-to-be, you can also simply sub this out to someone else and continue mothering your cat while you wait for your baby.

Myth #5: Cats cannot be trained
Cats can be trained! Teaching your cat to do certain things can ultimately strengthen the bond between you and your feline friend. Although slightly more challenging than training a dog, cats are smart and food motivated- two of the most important elements in animal training. Many videos and tutorials exist online that can get you started. Give it a try and enjoy!

Myth #6: Cats would lose their sense of balance if they didn’t have whiskers.
Whiskers are not required for balance. Cat’s whiskers typically grow to the width of their body so they can figure out if they can fit through tight spaces safely without getting stuck. Removing or even trimming their whiskers can be painful and can affect their senses.

Myth #7: Male cats pee everywhere.
My own male cat defies this myth; he only eliminates in his litter box — and nowhere else. While male cats get accused of being the guilty pee party, both sexes can spray urine to mark territory, although most never do. Neutering, especially before 6 months, can lessen or eliminate spraying, and other benefits include eliminating the chance of unwanted litters, reducing the risk for cancers, injury due to roaming and disease transmission.

Myth #8: A cat will steal a baby’s breath?
No, cats are not baby killers and are not plotting to injure your sleeping infant. I’ve heard this my whole life as my grandmother, the queen of wives tales (God bless her), did not nurture me to the cat lover I am today. This ridiculous myth probably started because some cats enjoyed curling up next to the warmth of babies.

Myth #9: Cats are solitary creatures.
Although they hunt and prefer to eat alone, cats are enjoy the company of people, other cats and even other house pets. Given the choice, cats will form and live in colonies just for the companionship.

Myth #10: Cats only purr when they are happy.
Although we can’t tell the difference, cats can express different purrs (at different speeds) depending on their mood. Cats can purr during pain, stress, happiness and comfort. This makes purring non descriptive to a human’s naked ear. With that said, it is still heartwarming when they due purr during head scratches and cuddling.

Myth #11: Cat litterbox issues are always a behavior problem and can’t be fixed.
False. False. False! This one hurts my heart as many cats are abandoned over litter box issues that can be reconciled. Inappropriate urination or defecation may be a behavior issue, but is much more commonly linked to a medical issue or caused by stress or anxiety in the home. Either way, start with a visit to your veterinarian. Many people are also able to fix issues in the home by simply adding an additional litter box or changing to a non-scented litter.

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