Over the years, many a myth about cats and their behaviors have permeated our society. Some are almost correct, some are way off. Here are six of the most pervasive feline myths and the truth about each one.
Myth 1: Cats Always Land on their Feet
While it is true cats usually land on their feet, there is more to it than that. Cats have something called a “Cat Righting Reflex,” which is made possible due to their extraordinarily flexible spine combined with their inner ear balancing ability. However, cats need time and distance for this reflex and the twisting motion of the backbone to kick in. A minimum of one foot is needed to have the time to complete the twist and right itself. Cats can be seriously injured and/or die if they fall too far, and not to mention it will frighten and traumatize them, so please never test this!
Myth 2: Cats Need Milk
A typical portrayal of cats on television or in a book will include the proverbial saucer of milk by their side, but did you know that most adult cats are actually lactose-intolerant? While kittens are able to process lactose just fine, most adult cats cannot digest it; drinking milk can cause upset stomach and fermentation in their gut. This can lead to cramping and diarrhea, just as it does in us lactose-intolerant humans. If you must share your milk with kitty, be sure to give him lactose-free milk, and only as an occasional treat.
Myth 3: Purring = Happy Cat
Your cat is laying in your lap purring away as you stroke his fur. Is he happy? I would be willing to bet so. However, a purring cat does not necessarily mean a happy healthy cat. While it’s true that kittens purr to their mothers to promote bonding and indicate that all is well, sick and injured cats also purr to fool their predators into thinking they are healthy. Cats also purr when they are scared to self-soothe, and the vibration of purring actually helps with the healing process when they are sick. It has been noted that their purring body vibration of 35 to 50 Hz can actually stimulate bone healing. So next time you are sick or hurt, let your cat lay across your lap and purr you back to health.
Myth 4: Pregnant Women Should Not Have a Cat
It is not at all true that the moment you get pregnant, you need to find a new home for your cat. A pregnant woman can be around her cats without any harm to the baby or to herself. However, she should not scoop the cat litter. Cat feces may carry a small parasite that may bring on toxoplasmosis (similar to eating uncooked meat), and exposure to it during the first trimester could cause a miscarriage. However, if you have been living with cats for a while, chances are you’ve already been exposed to toxoplasmosis and you cannot become re-infected. To be on the safe side, have someone else scoop the litter box while pregnant. Sounds like a good excuse to reassign this chore!
Myth 5: Cats Are Nocturnal
If you ask most cat owners, they will have plenty of stories to back the myth that cats are nocturnal. In fact, they are not. Cats are actually crepuscular creatures, meaning they are most active at dusk and dawn. In nature, these are the times when small rodents and birds are most susceptible to the feline hunting prowess, and is when cats hunt and eat. The reason your frisky feline appears to be nocturnal is, that is when the house is quiet, and he has you all to himself after being home alone all day. Smart cat!
Myth 6: Cats Are Aloof and Non-Social
This is a myth we cat lovers need to change, because it stops a lot of people from discovering the joys of having a cat. It has been widely misreported that cats are aloof, independent, non-social creatures who prefer to be left alone. Not true! In fact, if you leave your cat alone and ignore her, serious mental and behavioral problems could occur. I believe this myth came about based upon the way cats hunt for food. It is true that cats are solo hunters and do no hunt in a group like dogs. Instead, cats will leave their group to hunt on their own, bringing food back to the nest for their kittens and the older members of their clowder. Aside from hunting, cats love being social, enjoy interacting with their feline and human friends, and love to be the center of attention.
Now that some of the most popular myths about cats have been explained, I hope you will consider adding a cat or two to your household.
Have a question about cat behavior that you’d like answered?
We’d love to hear from you!
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org