Cat Myths – Separate Fact From Fiction


Myths about cats

If a cat urinates/defecates in the wrong spot, rub his nose in it:

This is cruel and it serves no constructive purpose. All this type of punishment will do is frighten your cat. A far more effective and kind method is to try and find out why the cat is not using the litter tray.

Sometimes, owners think they are teaching the cat a lesson by rubbing his nose in his urine/feces and then placing the cat in his litter tray. This has the opposite result, a cat will start to associate punishment with his litter tray and avoid it even more.

The first stop should be to your cat’s veterinarian to rule out a medical problem. If your cat gets a clean bill of health then you will have to try and work out what is preventing your cat from using his tray. Some possible causes are:

  • The tray is too dirty, easily solved by cleaning the tray out more often.
  • Another cat is ambushing your cat while he’s on the toilet.
  • Your cat doesn’t like hooded trays, or alternatively, your cat doesn’t like open boxes.
  • The location of the litter tray is not right. A common problem occurs when the tray has been placed in a busy area. Cats like privacy when they’re on the loo. Because cats are vulnerable when they are going to the toilet, they like to ensure they have an escape route, therefore some (but not all) cats will refuse to use a tray for this reason.
  • There are not enough litter trays. Each cat should have one tray, plus one extra.

Cats should be given milk to drink:

While a lot of cats love to drink cow’s milk, it is not recommended. Many cats are lactose intolerant and giving them milk will result in them getting an upset tummy. This is especially dangerous in kittens who can dehydrate quickly. An adult cat doesn’t need to drink milk at all. If you must give your cat milk, it is recommended you purchase special cat milk which has been specifically formulated for cats to drink.

Cats can have fish:

It is perfectly fine to give your cat the occasional treat of fish, but it should not become a part of their regular diet. Feeding too much fish can lead to yellow fat disease (steatitis), caused by Vitamin E deficiency. Cats require taurine in their diet and fish doesn’t provide this in sufficient amounts.

When you move house, put butter on your cat’s paws to stop it from roaming and getting lost:

Putting butter on your cat’s paws won’t stop him from getting lost when it moves to a new home. The safest way is to keep your cat either exclusively indoors or allow him to go out in a purpose-built cat enclosure.

If you absolutely must let your cat go outdoors, hold off for 2-3 weeks. Before letting him out, ensure he has a microchip and the details are current. You could also buy some Feliway (available from your veterinarian) and spray this around the house. Feliway is a synthetic pheromone which helps calm anxious cats.

My cat will get fat and lazy if it is desexed

By desexing your cat, you are preventing it from contributing to the very serious overpopulation of kittens and cats. Entire male cats run the risk of testicular cancer, abscesses caused by fighting, being hit by a car while roaming, FIV (Feline Aids) and FeLV.

Entire female cats have a greater risk of breast cancer and can develop pyometra (infection of the uterus), plus she can contract FIV and FeLV from an infected male, car accidents. Some entire females will often go off their food when they are in heat, which happens several times a year.

Entire males roam their territory looking for a female to mate with. Both of these can cause weight loss. When your cat has been desexed, his or her mind is no longer on finding a partner. So, while a desexed cat won’t gain weight as a result of the operation, an entire cat may lose weight because he or she has other things on their mind.

If you find your cat is putting on weight, speak to your veterinarian.   NEVER put your cat on a diet without veterinary supervision as this can lead to a life-threatening condition called Hepatic Lipidosis. Regular exercise will also ensure your cat doesn’t become overweight.

A female cat should have one litter before she is spayed:

Not at all, in fact, it is better to have her spayed before 6 months of age to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

Cats must be 6 months before they can be desexed:

With modern anesthetics, cats can now be safely desexed as young as 8 weeks of age. For further information on early desexing, read this article. Early spay/neuter.

Cats always land on their feet:

Do cats always land on their feet? Well…it depends if the cat falls a very short distance from the ground it doesn’t have enough time to right itself. A cat will be seriously injured and quite possibly killed if it falls from a great height. There is a new term coined by American veterinarians called high-rise syndrome. Due to the ever-increasing human population, high rise apartments are becoming more the norm and vets are seeing many cats who have been injured falling out of high-rise apartments.

Declawing won’t hurt my cat:

Declawing is more than simply removing the cat’s claws, the last bone on the cat’s claw is amputated. This is an excruciatingly painful procedure and one which not all cats will fully recover from.

Many declawed cats are surrendered to shelters because of behavioural problems they developed after being declawed including biting and refusal to use their litter tray.

Cats by nature walk on their toes, so after they’ve been declawed, walking often becomes extremely painful to them. If you are worried about your cat scratching the furniture (or your family) you can try trimming your cat’s claws or you could put Soft Paws on it.

Can I feed my cat dog food?

Feeding your cat dog food is extremely dangerous. Dog food is missing the essential nutrients taurine and arachidonic acid. Taurine deficiency can lead to blindness and arachidonic acid can lead to dry, scaly skin. Cats require a higher protein and fat content in their diet.

Cat fur causes allergies:  

The primary cause of allergic reactions to cats is caused by allergens found in the cat sebaceous glands in the cat’s skin, such as the allergenic glycoprotein called Fel D1 (short for Felis domesticus), it is also secreted via saliva and urine in lesser quantities. When cats lick themselves, they spread this protein, which is rather sticky, and glues itself onto dust particles, the home, your clothing and their fur, whether it’s long, short, straight, curly, or absent.

As all cats have sebaceous glands, all cat breeds can potentially cause allergies. Allergic allergens are also found in the feces, serum, urine, mucous, dander, and hair roots of the cat.

A cat purrs because it’s happy:

Certainly, cats do purr when they’re happy but they will sometimes purr when they are in pain. Cats have been known to purr when they are giving birth and they will sometimes purr when they are dying. Purring is more an expression of an emotion than an expression of happiness.

Cats will not mate with their siblings/parents/offspring:

Cats do not share the same taboos about incest as humans do. If left entire, closely related cats including brother and sister, parent to offspring will mate. It is advisable to desex your cats before 6 months to prevent this from happening.

All calico (tortoiseshell) cats are female:

No, while the vast majority of calico cats are female, there is the occasional male. However, virtually all of these males are sterile. the calico colour is sex-linked. For a cat to be calico it must have two X chromosomes ergo the cat is female. In rare instances, however, a male calico will be produced. This usually happens because the cat has an extra chromosome. So, instead of him being XY, he is XXY. These cats are known as Klinefelter males. Approximately 1-3,000 calicoes are male and out of those only 1-10,000 are fertile.

Calico males are worth a lot of money:

While it is true that calico males are rare, they are not valuable in financial terms.

All orange cats are male:

No, it is possible to have an orange female. Unlike the orange male, who only needs one copy of the O gene to produce an orange coat, the female requires the O to be on both chromosomes. If she has only one O, the resulting coat colour will be calico.

If you no longer want your pet cat, it is okay to release it into the wild because cats can fend for themselves:

It’s a shame I am even having to reply to this myth, but sadly there are still some people who tire of their pet cat and leave the cat outdoors, justifying their behaviour by telling themselves that cats can fend for themselves. This is NOT the case. Pet cats who find themselves turfed out will most likely die of either starvation, injuries caused by fights with other animals, disease or be hit by a car. If you no longer want your cat then do the right thing and either find it a new home or take it to a shelter.

All male cats spray:

Not all male cats spray. Entire male cats are much more likely to spray than desexed ones, which is another good reason to desex your cats. Female cats (especially entire ones) can also spray, although it’s less common for an entire female to spray than an entire male.

You can’t turn an indoor/outdoor cat into an indoor only cat:

Yes, you can, and my cats are a great example of this. They were all indoor/outdoor but reverted to indoor only (with access to an outdoor enclosure) with very little difficulty. It is easy to do as long as you ensure the cat(s) have enough mental stimulation.

Cats are independent and the ideal pet for somebody with a busy lifestyle:

This is entirely dependant on the individual cat. Some cats are more independent than others but generally, ALL cats need some companionship. If you lead a busy lifestyle and spend long hours working it is advisable you have two cats, so they can keep each other company while you are out.

Use garlic to treat fleas on cats:

Garlic is toxic to cats and can lead to life-threatening anemia. There are many safe and effective products available for cats which will treat fleas.

Most of these can’t be used until kittens are between 4-8 weeks of age. In the meantime, treat the queen (mother cat) with a flea product and carefully remove fleas from newborn kittens with a flea comb.  Tea tree oil is also commonly recommended as an alternative to flea products. This is toxic to cats unless diluted to .01%.

Devon Rexes, Cornish Rexes, and breeds of hairless cat are hypoallergenic:

In truth, a rex cat is no different from any other cat and produces allergen like all other cats. They are not hypoallergenic by any means, as claimed by some. Then why do some people seem to have no allergic reaction to rex cats? There is no simple answer to this question at this time, and more research is required to get the answers needed. One possible hypothesis is that as rex cats have less hair to shed, they simply deposit less allergen-laced hair around the home. But, whatever the reasons some allergic people seem to tolerate them. From personal studies and observations by Margaret Lawrence in the UK, she found that around 10% of people allergic to cats tolerate rex cats.

Please, before you race out and look for a rex cat, remember you should always test your allergies by visiting home or catteries that only own rex cats, and test continuously over several weeks or months. As you don’t want the poor little kitten to be re-homed if you find out you are allergic to him or her. Don’t let your new cat become another statistic at a shelter.

Indoor cats cannot get diseases/parasites:

Many viral/bacterial infections are airborne and can be carried into your house through the air or on a person’s clothing. Fleas and other parasites can also be brought in via a person’s clothing.

Pregnant women shouldn’t own cats:

If a woman hasn’t had prior exposure to Toxoplasmosis and becomes infected during pregnancy, it can harm her unborn baby. Cats are the natural host for Toxoplasmosis, however, Toxoplasmosis can also be acquired from eating undercooked meat, improperly washed vegetables or gardening. I was tested for Toxoplasmosis throughout my recent pregnancy and remained negative even though I was living with 9 cats, one of whom had tested positive for Toxoplasmosis.

Pregnant women should take precautions such as avoiding cleaning the litter tray, ensuring their meat is thoroughly cooked, washing vegetables properly and wearing gloves while gardening. There is no need to get rid of your cat just because you’re pregnant.

Putting bells on a cat’s collar will stop it catching mice and birds:

It can be of help, but many cats are still able to hunt even with bells on their collar. I used to put bells on my cat’s collars, in fact, Eliot, who was my best hunter had three bells on her collar at one point and it did absolutely nothing to stop her catching the wildlife. In fact, there is new research to indicate that cats who have had bells put on their collars are better at catching prey. This is because they learn to move without the bell making a sound and therefore they are stealthier. For further information on putting bells on cat’s collars, read this article. Cats Indoors.

All cats hate water:

Most cats don’t like water but not all. Turkish Van’s are known to be fond of water and enjoy swimming. My Bengal also likes to play with water, although I can’t imagine him ever wanting to go swimming in it. I’ve known of other Bengal cats who enjoy playing with water also.

Siamese cats are mean:

This myth came about in part from the movie The Lady and the Tramp. Temperament is a result of genetics and socialisation. The chances are that cats raised in a loving environment from kittenhood will grow into well adjusted and loving pets. If the myth were true that Siamese cats are mean, I’m sure they wouldn’t be one of the world’s most popular breeds of cat.


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