Cats are popular pets, so many people simply assume that they know the key facts about cat health, preferences and behaviors. As it turns out, there are many widespread and unhelpful myths about cats, and some of them could even put your furry friend in danger. Here are eight of the most pervasive, along with the truth behind the rumors.
1. Cats should always be given milk
Cat cartoons often feature the animals lapping at a bowl of creamy milk, so you can be forgiven for thinking that milk is a key part of the feline diet. Unfortunately, the truth is that a large number of cats are actually lactose intolerant, meaning that their bodies cannot process milk. While a lactose-intolerant cat may still want to drink milk, doing so can lead to severe episodes of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. When it comes to liquids, cats need fresh, cold water most of all. This is especially important in older age when cats are vulnerable to diminishing kidney function.
2. Cats have unsociable personalities
The stereotypical cat is aloof and self-interested, approaching its owners only for food or the occasional play session. Consequently, most people who want a sociable pet are much more likely to be drawn to dogs. However, while it might be easier to win the unwavering devotion of the average puppy, there are some truly loving cats out there. The truth is just that there is more variation in cat personalities.
For example, Siamese myths about cats are known for their interest in following their owners around the house (“talking” as they do so), while a silky Burmese may sleep cuddled up to you for hours and can play fetch like a dog! That’s not to say that you need a purebred cat to form an affectionate bond—cats of all kinds have the capacity to adore human company.
3. Cats need access to the outdoors
Far too many cats end up hit by cars or hurt by other animals because of owners who believe that it is cruel to keep a cat indoors. Even cats that have previously spent time outdoors may not be upset by a transition to indoor lives (though some will). Meanwhile, cats who spend their whole lives in an indoor environment can be perfectly content. You only need to ensure that you offer a reasonable amount of space, plenty of entertaining toys, soft surfaces for lounging and (preferably) activity centers for climbing and scratching.
4. Cats should be declawed
Declawing cats is a needlessly cruel practice that places the health of your soft furnishings over the lifelong comfort of your pet. Although it is not common knowledge, the process of declawing involves cutting off the first joint of each toe, and this amputation can cause chronic pain (as well as psychological disturbances). If you want to own a cat and maintain an attractive sofa at the same time, look into soft caps that can be slid onto the claws. Alternatively, simply clip your cat’s claws on a regular basis (as you would your own nails) and accept that this will prevent at least most scratch marks.
5. Dry food is best for cats
There is a rumor that feeding your cat dried, crunchy kibble will help to keep the teeth in good condition. Not only is that false, but dry food lacks appropriate moisture and does not have as rich nutritional content as the majority of wet foods. Further, there is evidence that myths about cats who eat a predominantly dry diet are more likely to develop diabetes, kidney stones, and allergies.
6. Pregnant women have to get rid of their cats
Cat fecal matter can contain a protozoan that causes toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that can be especially dangerous if it passes to an unborn baby. As such, pregnant women sometimes worry that they need to rehome their cats during that crucial nine months. In spite of this commonly held concern, a wide range of studies have demonstrated that living with an indoor cat does not pose a significant risk.
In fact, you are more likely to develop toxoplasmosis after doing yard work or cooking with raw meat. However, if you’re still anxious then you can ask someone else to empty your cat’s litter box for the duration of your pregnancy.
7. You can have a vegetarian cat
If you’re a vegetarian, you might want your cat to transition to a similar diet for ethical reasons. Problematically, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that their bodies actually require animal protein in order to function properly. If your vegetarianism is motivated by a love of animals, it is wiser to avoid getting a pet cat instead of risking your cat’s well-being by insisting on a vegetarian diet.
8. Cats hate water
Finally, it is probably true that the average cat has a certain distaste for being wet. However, there are cats that love to swim or bathe. Turkish Van cats, in particular, have a reputation for being excellent swimmers that are fascinated with water. Even myths about cats that don’t necessarily want to jump into a pool or a bath may still like to dip a paw into water or play with a dripping tap.