Think you know cats? Think again. Let’s separate fact from fiction by debunking some of the most popular myths:
1. All cats hate water
Most domesticated cats are no fans of water, but anyone who has ever Googled cat videos will know that not all of them hate getting wet.
Scientists think the reason many cats hate water could be because cats’ coats don’t dry very quickly, which can leave them feeling pretty uncomfortable and possibly cold. The weight of the water is also likely to weigh the usually-agile animal down, which means they can’t escape perceived danger as quickly. Another reason is that many cats species originate from desert areas with arid climates.
If you do need to bathe a cat who show great dislike for water, try easing them into it gently, and with positive encouragement like a toy or treat.
2. Cats are unloving; if you want a loving pet get a dog
Cats or dogs? It’s the perennial debate, and one of the main arguments is that one animal is more loving than the other.
Domestic cats are, by nature, more independent than domestic dogs. This is partly because they were not bred to spend a lot of time around humans, and also because their wild ancestors tend to not live in family units the way canines have packs.
A study by the University of Lincoln found that cats don’t show signs of distress when their owners leave, and aren’t particularly bothered when their owner returned to them. But, as anyone who’s come home from a hard day to have their cat jump on to their lap for a fuss will testify that cats do show affection towards their owners, and many do like to be stroked and patted.
3. Cats always land on their feet
More often than not, cats will land on their feet when they fall from some height. This is because they have what is called a “righting reflex,” whereby they’re able to twist around very quickly in the air when falling. It also helps that they have very flexible backbones.
But sadly, this isn’t always the case. Every year animal hospitals treat cats which have fallen from great heights, often out of windows several stories high. Some make a recovery, but many don’t make it. And some of those who don’t succumb to their injuries do suffer life-changing damage that can be expensive to treat for owners without pet insurance.
We recommend keeping windows closed, and during the summer months fixing mesh to windows and balconies to prevent cats from falling out.
4. Cats only purr when they are happy
Cats often purr when they are happy, such as when they’re getting attention and affection. It’s a comforting sound for you and them. But that’s not the only reason they produce this noise; they can also purr when they’re frightened or feeling unwell or in pain in order to provide comfort to themselves. Cats can also purr to comfort their young.
A cat’s purr begins in its brain. It then sends a message to the muscles in its voice box, which twitch and cause the vocal cords to separate when the cat inhales and exhales – producing the purring sound.
5. Cats can see in complete darkness
Cats are unable to see in total darkness any more than humans can. But they are much better adapted than us to seeing in low levels of light. Their eyes let in far more light than ours, for a number of reasons.
The corneas in a cat’s eye are much thinner than that in humans’, and their irises (the colored part of the eye) open far wider, both of which allow more light to enter. The retinas in the back of cats’ eyes also have more rods, which are responsible for magnifying light impulses. Like many animals, cats also have a highly developed reflective area in the back of their eyes – this is what makes them glow at night when caught in our headlights.
6. Cats are nocturnal
Cats are not nocturnal, but are instinctively crepuscular – which means they are most active at dawn and dusk, when hunting opportunities are rife and there’s enough light for them to see well.
Just because your cat is domesticated and food is readily available doesn’t mean they will ignore this genetic predisposition. But they will usually adapt to your routine.
Cats often sleep when the house is quiet and grow more active when people are home. They may sleep at night, but will often still wake at least a couple of times.
Steps you can take to help reverse a cat’s crepuscular tendencies include giving it a warm bed, using toys to entice curiosity during the day, and playing with them in the evening before you go to bed.
7. You should give your cat cows’ milk
Despite popular belief, cats do not need milk. If they are fed a balanced diet, they will get all the nutrients they need that way. Milk can upset their stomach, particularly if they are not used to it.
This is because, once weaned, many cats become lactose intolerant as they lose the ability to produce the enzyme needed to properly digest it. However, if they have had cows’ milk regularly all their life, then they do usually retain a reasonable ability to digest it.
Should you want to give your cat milk, it may be best to purchase a lactose-free equivalent. But bear in mind that any milk will contain calories and may lead them to put on weight. Kittens must drink milk in order to survive, but only their mother’s or specially-tailored formula milk purchased from a vet.
8. Cats do not like other cats
For the most part, cats prefer to be the only feline in a home. They can be social and capable of forming friendships with their own kind, but they don’t feel the need to. This can also vary with age; cats that have lived together since birth will likely get along, although that can change over time, as it can with any siblings. In fact, some feral cats live in colonies.
Cat relationships also hinge on there being plenty of resources available for them, such as food, litter trays, or sleeping areas. Cats do not like sharing, or waiting for anything, so if there’s competition for resources it can cause friction.
To make your home as harmonious a place as possible, provide several feeding areas, places to drink, hide, and sleep, and always ensure that there is more than one area to go to the toilet privately. If cats feel that there is a plentiful supply of these things, it can help prevent any problems developing.
9. Cats are solitary animals and like to be left alone
By their nature, cats are solitary creatures. However, domesticated cats can form very close bonds to people, as well as forming unlikely friendships with other animals such as dogs.
Indeed, cats can come to rely on the companionship of humans and, on rare occasions, can even develop separation anxiety should the owner leave them for a long space of time, or even abandon them.
10. Rubbing butter on a cat’s paws will help it find its way home
Rubbing butter on cats’ paws is often given as advice when someone moves house and is letting their cat outside for the first time – but this is entirely untrue, and can cause more stress for your cat.
The theory behind this myth is that it removes the smell of the feline’s old environment, and allows the cat to take in its new home and get a bearing of its territory when licking off the butter. But, in reality, the smell will remain on the rest of the cat and it’s unlikely they’ll be taking in any new scents at all if it is concentrating on licking off the butter. Instead, it could potentially make your cat even more stressed, as well as leaving greasy paw prints all over your new home.
A much better way of familiarizing your cat with its new home, and making sure it returns, is to keep it indoors for two weeks so it knows that the new house is safe.
It’s also a good idea to start letting your cat out before feeding time and going out with them – and avoiding doing this at night. Also make sure your pet is microchipped so even if it does get lost, there’s a high chance of you being reunited with it.