Cats always land on their feet and purring means they’re happy, right? You may have seen and heard these ideas most of your life and never questioned their validity. The truth, though, is these are actually myths. Here are 13 common cat myths that we debunk with the real facts.

The Truth about Cats

There have always been myths about cats but we chose those you are still likely to hear or that many people still think to be true.

Myth: A purring cat is a happy cat.

This one may come as a surprise but cats purr for many reasons other than because they’re happy. They could also purr while in pain, nervous, sick or even close to death. Take note of their body language when they’re purring and express any concerns to your vet.

Myth: Cats will always land on their feet.

They might or they might not. A cat will always try to right itself in order to land properly…but they don’t always succeed. The bizarre truth is that a cat is safer when falling from a somewhat higher height. It gives their inner ear a chance to find the correct balance and orientation, then twist the spine into position and brace for impact. With a shorter fall, they have less time to adjust. Too high, though, and the impact can be fatal (feline high-rise syndrome).

Myth: Cats hate water.

Most cats don’t like to be immersed in water (baths!, swimming) but some do just fine with baths. Many are fascinated by water, enjoying playing in the water from the faucet or even lying in the sink when the water is dripping.

Myth: You can’t train a cat.

Cats can be trained and there are well-known examples of this. We’ve even trained a few cats. You’re likely to have more successful with positive reinforcement of good habits rather than teaching them to perform tricks.

Myth: Cats just lie around and don’t need exercise.

This myth is not only false, but it is a big reason for the large percentage of obese cats today. Cats are hunters and climbers by nature. They need exercise, not only for their physical health, but also for their mental health. Many cats don’t have the space or the opportunity to move very much. Invest in wall attachments and scratching posts they can climb on while you’re away from home. Play with them, or find a running wheel or toys that will get them moving.

Myth: Cats are loners.

Some are and some aren’t, just as with humans. Outdoor cats tend to hunt alone but cats that live in the wild tend to live together in cat colonies. In multi-pet households, cats are often close buddies with another cat, a dog, or even another type of pet.

Myth: Only male cats spray.

While it is true that you’re more likely to find a male cat spraying, don’t count out the ladies just yet. A female sprays when she is in heat, so getting her spayed usually takes care of the problem. However, a male or female cat will spray when they’re feeling territorial or when nervous about changes in the household.

If there is a lot of conflict between animals in the home, cats will start spraying due to anxieties caused by the situation. There are several ways to address the issue so speak with your vet if this has become a problem.

Myth: Pregnant women should avoid cats.

Toxoplasmosis is a risk for pregnant mothers. It is spread through cat feces and litter, as well as by handling raw meat or digging in the garden. For safety, pregnant women should have someone else in the family clean the litter box. Or don rubber gloves and a mask when cleaning it. It’s perfectly fine to continue snuggling with kitty while pregnant though.

Myth: Cats can suck away or steal a baby’s breath.

There is a real safety issue but cats don’t “steal away” a baby’s breath. LiveScience says that a “cat could accidentally suffocate a sleeping baby by cozying up too close to its face” but this is rare. Kitty could be attracted by the smell of milk on a baby’s breath and lay too close. Be cautious and don’t let a cat have access to a sleeping infant.

Myth: Give cats milk to drink.

Cats normally only drink milk when they’re young and feeding from their mother. Like humans, cats can become intolerant to lactose, making your cat vomit or have diarrhea. The additional calories in milk can make kitty overweight.

We recommend sticking with water. Make milk an occasional treat if your cat doesn’t experience side effects.

Myth: Black cats are bad luck.

This is a cultural belief. Some cultures such as the U.S. are superstitious about black cats, but other cultures view them as bringing good luck. Owners of black cats will tell you they are just as lovable, wonderful and lucky as any other cat.

Myth: Cats eat grass when they feel sick.

Some cats (and dogs) just seem to like to snack on grass occasionally. There’s no direct link between cats eating grass and being sick. If your cat starts eating grass every day, though, talk to your veterinarian.

Myth: Cats have nine lives.

We wish this were true, but cats only have one life. Help them stay healthy and live a long life with regular wellness visits to your veterinarian.

If you have any questions about your cat or their behavior, please feel free to speak with one of us here at Union Lake Pet Services.