Cats seem so mysterious that it’s no wonder that we misunderstand them: their aloof personalities, their eating and sleeping habits, and even the idea that they have some recurrent immortality. Additionally, superstition has contributed to some of the incorrect beliefs about cats that still persist today. Ahead, we asked Dr. Callie Harris, DVM, veterinarian at Purina, to take a look at some of these myths and verify the truth.
Myth: Cats are aloof.
Ask any owner and they’ll tell you: Cats return their affection. How do they know? Well, their cat will cuddle with them, purr while being petted, and show other signs of affection. “Many people compare the personality of a cat to the personality of a dog. I like to share that cats are not small dogs. Cats are more independent in nature compared to dogs, often leading people to think cats are aloof,” explains Dr. Harris. “However, cat owners can use feeding time to build a bond and potentially bring out the affectionate side of their cat. Providing cats with the proper nutrition can help ensure long-term health. Offering a variety of tastes and smells may also encourage a more exciting feeding time for them, especially when feeding them different flavors and combinations of dry and wet kitten formulas.”
Myth: Pregnant women have to completely avoid cats.
This one is only partially true. So, how did this myth get its start? “Because there is a small chance of contracting toxoplasmosis by coming in contact with cat feces, pregnant women may feel the need to avoid cats,” says Dr. Harris. “Since this potentially zoonotic disease is transmitted via the fecal matter of cats, I do recommend that if you are pregnant you have someone else in the house manage the litter boxes. If this is not an option, pregnant women should wear gloves for protection anytime they are emptying out and disposing of waste from their kitties.” According to the CDC, indoor-only cats are unlikely to become infected with this parasite (especially if they don’t hunt rodents).
Myth: Cat allergies are caused by their hair.
As many as one in five adults worldwide are sensitive to cat allergens, which can stop them from adopting. “And many people think that cat hair is the problem, but it’s actually what’s on it—the major cat allergen called Fel d 1, a protein that cats produce naturally in their saliva. And it’s produced by all cats, regardless of breed, age, sex, body weight—or hair length!” explains Dr. Harris. “As cats groom, Fel d 1 gets on the hair and skin through the saliva, and ultimately into the environment as the cat sheds.”
Talk to your doctor about effective management methods. For instance, Pro Plan LiveClear ($21.58, purina.com) is the first and only cat food shown to simply and safely reduce the major allergen in cat hair and dander in as little as three weeks, according to Dr. Harris.
Myth: Cats are nocturnal animals.
When our cats like to prowl after dark and nap most of the day, it’s no wonder that we often think that they must be nocturnal animals. “Some cats do display higher amounts of activity during the night time hours but they are technically considered crepuscular, meaning their peak activity occurs at dawn and dusk,” says Dr. Harris. Just because a cat is domesticated indoors does not mean that their natural instincts go away. Sleeping during the day is a way for cats to conserve their energy for hunting and playing.
Myth: Black cats are “bad luck.”
This is superstition and nothing more than that. According to Ethos Veterinary Health, some of the negative beliefs about black cats came from stories, folklore, and witch trials in which accused witches were known to own black cats. Dr. Harris says that black cats are often overlooked at shelters and adoption centers but are certainly not bad luck. Consider adopting a black cat the next time you are looking for a feline companion—they have plenty of love to give.
Myth: Cats have nine lives.
Cats have one life to live just like the rest of us, but they do seem to find their way out of risky situations by knowing how to land on their feet. “Cats can live a long healthy life especially when fed a complete and balanced growth diet as kittens and then transition to an adult maintenance food. This helps them to continue developing their natural intelligence and reflexes. Environmental enrichment can also help promote a healthy life,” Dr. Harris says. So, while the belief that cats have nine lives is a complete myth, cats can live anywhere from 15 to 30 years depending on their genetics, general health, and care at home.
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