Common Cat Myths Debunked

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by Chandra Cushman

Humane Society of Central Arizona

Here at the Humane Society of Central Arizona, we often hear a lot of myths about cats and dogs. So, I decided to do some research and touch base on some of the most common myths about cats and dogs. This week, I’ll focus on cat myths.

1. Cats always land on their feet.

The truth: This is perhaps one of the most widely known and dangerous of all myths regarding cats, because unfortunately many children have tried to prove that it is true. It is not. Cats are indeed very athletic and agile animals, and they do have a unique instinctive ability to twist themselves around in mid-air to correct their position during a fall. However, if a cat is surprised, sick, disoriented or injured, it is unlikely to be able to adjust its position to land feet-first. Of course, if it falls from a great height, a cat’s ability to reposition itself will not matter, because the force of the fall will cause serious injury or even death whether the cat’s feet hit the ground first or not. Moreover, if a cat falls from a short height, it may not have enough time to twist around and land on its feet.

2. Cats have nine lives.

The truth: Of course, cats do not have nine lives. Cats are mortal. However, they do tend to be very healthy, hearty animals that can take care of themselves in most any situation, whether indoors or out. They are nimble, intelligent and resourceful. But, like all other mammals, cats only have one life to live.

3. Cats purr because they are happy.

The truth: Most cats do purr when they are happy. However, that is not the only time they purr. Cats will sometimes purr when they are sick, stressed, injured, frightened or in pain. They also can purr when they are giving birth, and even as they are dying. Purring seems to be more an expression of some strong emotion — whether positive or negative — than it is an expression of any particular emotion, including happiness. Purring by a cat might be similar to humming or whistling by a human: it commonly is done out of happiness, but it may also be done as a result of stress, fright or discomfort.

4. Cats can see in the dark.

The truth: Although cats do see better in semi-darkness than people, they cannot see in total darkness. The pupils of their eyes open much wider in dim light than those of people, letting in more light during the normal hunting hours of dawn and dusk. But again, cats cannot see in complete darkness.

5. Declawing a cat is akin to trimming his nails.

The truth: Declawing involves the amputation of the last bone of each toe. It is a painful operation, and many veterinarians refuse to do it. Plus, if your cat goes outdoors, he’ll be defenseless. Clip your cats’ nails; don’t declaw them. Teach your cat to use a scratching post, not the sofa, and praise him each time he does. If he attempts to scratch the furniture, gently spray him with water. You can also put bubble wrap around the area your cat wants to scratch. One or two pops will keep him away from the furniture.

6. Cats can live on a vegan diet.

The truth: This myth is dangerous. Cats are natural hunters and carnivores. They rely on taurine, an amino acid found in meat that is essential for normal heart muscle function and vision. A taurine-free diet can result in blindness and heart problems.

7. Cats can’t be trained.

The truth: At the ASPCA in New York City, a cat was taught to turn pages of a book and to toss a ball. You can teach your cat to use a scratching post and a litter box. You can even teach your cat tricks. You need a clicker, treats and lots of praise. Cats respond negatively to punishment. So be positive and patient.

8. A female cat or dog needs to have a litter before it is spayed.

Belief in this major misconception brings more cats and dogs into an overcrowded world. Spaying reduces risks of mammary gland tumors and ovarian and uterine cancers. It also helps cats and dogs live longer healthier lives.

9. Pregnant women cannot live with cats.

The truth: While toxoplasmosis is a risk for fetuses, a woman is more likely to catch it from handling raw meat or digging in the garden than from her cats. Cat guardians can protect themselves from cat-related exposure by emptying the litter box daily, having someone else clean the litter box or wearing rubber gloves and a mask if the litter box task can’t be foisted onto anyone else.

10. Cats steal the breath of babies.

The truth: Cats are heat- and comfort-seekers. Curling up next to a newborn in a crib meets both of these needs. However, if the cat chooses to press up against the face of a bundled infant who is too young to turn away on her own, her breathing may be hampered. Keep cats out of the nursery at naptime/bedtime.

11. Cats hate water.

The truth: While most cats hate baths, many find running water fascinating and spend time pawing at dripping faucets or demanding their guardians turn on the water for a fresh, cool drink. Kittens, in particular, find sinks and showers a source of amusement, although for most the thrill lessens with age. One breed, the Turkish Van, is nicknamed “the swimming cat” for its swimming prowess and love of all things wet.

12. Black cats are bad luck.

The truth: There are nearly as many superstitions about black cats bringing luck as there are about them being harbingers of bad luck. In different cultures around the world, other colors and coat patterns are seen as lucky — or not. However, researchers speculate that darker cats produce more allergen in their skin and saliva. So if adopters are mildly allergic to cats, it may be smart to steer them to lighter-colored ones, leaving all the terrific black cats to those lucky folks with no cat allergies.

Featured Pets

Here are just a few of the wonderful pets currently available for adoption at the Humane Society of Central Arizona shelter, located at 605 W. Wilson Ct. For more information, call (928) 474-5590.

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Keeko

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Charlie

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Sheba

Keeko

Keeko is a beautiful girl who enjoys spending quiet time with people. She gets along fine with other cats and has been around children and small dogs. Keeko loves to be petted, but prefers to not be picked up. She could go to a home with other animals or children, as long as they are easygoing and friendly.

Charlie

Charlie is a sweet boy, who can be a little shy at first. He is pretty reserved but will gladly accept an ear scratch. He loves to be petted and will start kneading when he wants you to give him attention. He gets along well with other cats that are friendly and easygoing. He can be adopted at Payson PetSmart.

Sheba

I am a polite, well-mannered little girl looking for a new family! My previous owner died, and now I am at the shelter. It’s a little scary here, but all the nice people are helping me cope! I can be a little shy at first, but it doesn’t take me long to warm up. A nice, comfy spot in your lap will help us get to know each other! I am house trained, quiet and well behaved. I will happily “sit” for a treat! I am content to share my space with other dogs, as long as they are polite and quiet like me!

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