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Myths and Facts About Cats

Are these statements true or false?  
  • Cats always land on their feet.
  • Cats should drink milk everyday.

The correct answer to both is FALSE.

These are common misunderstandings that veterinarians frequently hear from pet owners, according to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Following is a list of popular myths that AAHA veterinarians and The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) would like to dispel.

Myth: Cats always land on their feet.
Fact: While cats instinctively fall feet first and may survive falls from high places, they also may receive broken bones in the process. Some kind of screening on balconies and windows can help protect pets from disastrous falls.

Myth: Cats should drink milk everyday.
Fact: Most cats like milk, but do not need it if properly nourished. Also, many will get diarrhea if they drink too much milk. If it is given at all, the amount should be small and infrequent.

Myth: Cats that are spayed or neutered automatically gain weight.
Fact: Like people, cats gain weight from eating too much, not exercising enough or both. In many cases, spaying or neutering is done at an age when the animal's metabolism already has slowed, and its need for food has decreased. If the cat continues to eat the same amount, it may gain weight. Cat owners can help their cats stay fit by providing exercise and not over-feeding.

Myth: Cats cannot get rabies.
Fact: Actually, most warm-blooded mammals, including cats, bats, skunks and ferrets, can carry rabies. Like dogs, cats should be vaccinated regularly according to local laws.

Myth: Indoor cats cannot get diseases.
Fact: Cats still are exposed to organisms that are carried through the air or brought in on a cat owner's shoes or clothing. Even the most housebound cat ventures outdoors at some time and can be exposed to diseases and worms through contact with other animals feces.

Myth: Tapeworms come from bad food.
Fact: Pets become infected with tape worms from swallowing fleas, which carry the parasite. Also, cats can get tapeworms from eating infected mice or other exposed animals.

Myth: Putting garlic on a pet's food will get rid of worms.
Fact: Garlic may make the animal's food taste better but has no effect on worms. The most effective way to treat worms is by medication prescribed by a veterinarian.

Myth: Pregnant women should not own cats.
Fact: Some cats can be infected with a disease called toxoplasmosis, which occasionally can be spread to humans through cat litter boxes and cause serious problems in unborn babies. However, these problems can be controlled, if the expectant mother avoids contact with the litter box and assigns daily cleaning to a friend or other family member.

Myth: A cat's sense of balance is in its whiskers.
Fact: Cats use their whiskers as "feelers" but not to maintain their balance.

Myth: Animals heal themselves by licking their wounds.
Fact: Such licking actually can slow the healing process and further damage the wound.

Myth: Cats are Low Maintenance Pets.
fact: Cats' aura of independence fools some people into thinking they need only minimal care. The truth is that the average age of stray cats and ferals is three years; which should be adequate proof against this myth. When we domesticated cats thousands of years ago, we assumed the responsibility of adequately caring for their needs. My own cats have thrived because our family has a very strong sense of responsibility toward our cats. We really do treat them like members of our family.

Myth: Declawing is Like Ttrimming.
Fact:  Some people who choose a vegan lifestyle also subject their cats to a meatless diet. By and large, veterinarians disagree, because cats are
obligate carnivores and need animal tissue, e.g. meat, to meet their dietary needs. The fact is, cats do not have a "moral sense" where it comes to their nutritional needs. It is morally wrong to try to force them into an unnatural diet to satisfy our own moral convictions.

See also Vegan Cats Dialogue, and let your own conscience guide you.

Myth:  Cats Don't Need Vaccinations.
Fact: The scare about VAS (Vaccine Associated Sarcoma) a few years ago has made some people reluctant to allow their cats to have any vaccinations. The VAS Task Force has listed certain vaccines as core, and almost all cats should receive them. Cats who routinely roam outdoors should also receive both the rabies vaccine (required by law in many states) and the FeLV (feline leukemia) vaccine. The latter two are now given in the hind legs, with killed virus, as called for by the Association of Feline Practitioners' protocol.
More Info

Myth: Cats Are Unhappy Kept Indoors.
Fact:  While an older cat who has been outdoors for years might be unhappy at being kept inside, cats that grow up indoors, even in apartments, can be very happy, as long as they are provided with pleny of toys, window perches for looking outside, and climbing towers for exercise. There are also a number of safe compromises for those times when you (or your cat) want him to be outdoors for fresh air and sunshine.

Myth: Female Cats Need A Litter Before Spaying.
Fact:  A cat can suffer more harm through pregnancy than she can by being spayed. The truth is that some people just want kittens, and will use any excuse. Spaying will prevent uterine cancer, and help prevent mammary cancer, ovarian cysts, as well as complications of pregnancy, including stillbirth and malformed kittens. Need I even mention the overwhelming cat overpopulation problem?

Myth: Pregnant Woman Can't Live With Cat.
Fact: Toxoplasmosis is a zoonotic disease that can cause birth defects if contracted by the mother during pregnancy. It is found in soil outdoors, and also in raw or undercooked meat (the most likely source of contact.) It can also be found in cat litter boxes if the cat has been exposed. The truth is that you absolutely don't have to get rid of the cat. Our Guide to Miscarriage has also written an excellent article about cats, toxoplasmosis, and human miscarriage. Also read Toxoplasmosis: Not Just for Pregnant People for more info.

Myth: Cats And Dogs Are Arch-Enemies.
Fact: Cats are capable of affectionate relationships with dogs as well as other family pets. The link to the Cats and Their Pets Picture Gallery is visual proof of this attachment to other species.

Myth: Cats Are Cold And Aloof, Therefore Not Good Pets.
Fact: Cats can and do share deep bonds with their human families, which is why most of us consider them family members, as opposed to just "pets." Cats do not exclude non-family members from their circle either, as witness the many therapy cats that give love and comfort to patients in hospitals, and convalescent homes. Cats are indeed very loving creatures, and their bond with us is so strong that it extends beyond death!

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