Cats have been an enigma to we humans for centuries, and part of what perpetuates this is the range of myths and misconceptions about cats which persist to this day.
So let’s take a look at some of these and reveal the truth once and for all.
Cats always land on their feet
No they don’t … not always. Cats have a ‘righting reflex’ which allows them to instinctively flex and twist their bodies to get their feet underneath them before they land.
This works as long as they have enough time to right themselves. If they don’t, no matter what the height, they can suffer serious injuries.
Similarly there are amazing stories of cats falling from great heights and surviving, but these are the exceptions, not the rule, who are often left with lifelong health problems.
As with any animal, cats can be severely injured or killed falling from any height.
The best idea, if you live in a multi-storey building, is to keep windows closed or ensure they are fitted with screens to prevent falls.
Cats should drink milk
This is a very common misconception which probably arose from the days when cats were kept in barns and dairies to control rodents.
Cats do drink milk but they shouldn’t as they lack the stomach enzyme needed to digest lactose, a major component of milk.
The result can be a seriously upset stomach and an unpleasant bout of diarrhoea.
This goes for all dairy products that contain milk, like cream and cheese.
The other side-effect of feeding cats these inappropriate foods is the fat they contain can put puss on a path to obesity.
A purring cat is a happy cat
Generally yes, but purring is a complex action which researchers are still trying to fathom.
It is a sound which helps comfort and soothe and is also a sign of contentment.
However, cats also purr when they are frightened and in pain, so if you think your cat is happy going to the vet – think again.
Cats cannot be trained
Another myth probably perpetuated by those who fail. Most cats can be trained, although as we all know it’s usually a case of the cat training the owner.
As with any animal, it is important to identify what motivates them. In cats generally it’s food, but it must be the right type of food.
Also, cats don’t make a negative connection between bad behaviour and punishment, they see it all as attention, even when you yell at them … so you must reward the positive and ignore the negative. Be strong and stand firm in that ignorance no matter how much they yowl.
It’s all about positive reinforcement, patience and setting achievable goals for you and your feline friend.
Confining cats is cruel
If a cat is kept indoors without any mental or physical stimulation then it is a welfare issue, however if they are offered a home which meets their enrichment needs, they will be content and happy.
It can also be good for their health. Protected from some infectious diseases and misadventures like fights and car accidents, indoor cats can live longer than outdoor cats.
But it does take some work and thought to ensure puss’s home is his or her palace.
Cats need places for climbing and hiding, somewhere to scratch their claws that isn’t the couch and somewhere private and quiet to, ah, take care of business. In fact they’ll probably need a couple of litter trays around the house kept clean and fresh.
The indoor puss needs lots of cosy napping spots as well as toys and playtime with their favourite humans, providing essential exercise.
Cats use every sense every day so giving them lots of things which stimulate all of those amazing senses, including smell, is ideal.
An indoor cat’s diet is also slightly different to a cat that spends time outside. They often need a less energy-dense food because of their lifestyle.
Food can also be used as an enrichment tool and there is a great range of puzzles and toys now available to keep puss busy in mind and body.