Cats are, arguably, the most popular pet in the United States. Even so, they seem to be enigmatic to the point where both pet owners and non-pet owners pronounce what is considered “common knowledge” as fact. But what we consider “fact” can be pretty erroneous. Here are some cat myths that people often take as fact.
Myth: Cats Always Land on Their Feet
Believe it or not, cats don’t always land on their feet. They can just about land on whatever body part if they can’t get their feet under them fast enough. A cat has a natural instinct to “right” herself when falling. Her vestibular organ in her ears tells her which way is up. Because cats are naturally flexible, assuming that the cat has the time to right herself, she will land on her feet.
But it doesn’t mean she will land safely.
Myth: Cats Have Nine Lives
Unless you believe in reincarnation, cats having nine lives is just an old saying. I suspect that the saying that cats have nine lives comes from a cat’s ability to get out of tight situations and other problems.
Myth: Cats Suck the Life Out Of Babies
If there ever was a harmful old wives’ tale, this is it. Of course, cats do not suck the life out of babies. This story got started in the medieval era, although the earliest I could find a reference to it was in the 1600s. I suspect that people used it to explain sudden infant death syndrome and were quick to blame cats because people in the medieval era often thought cats were in league with the devil. Not understanding sudden infant death syndrome, people were quick to blame disease and conditions and something nearby, and unfortunately, cats were the scapegoat on this.
Myth: You Should Get Rid of Your Cat If You’re Pregnant
Many doctors have told their female patients who were pregnant to get rid of their cats because of the risk of the disease toxoplasmosis. The truth is that it’s very rare to get toxoplasmosis from your cat directly. There are number of reasons why it is unlikely you will contract toxoplasmosis from your cat.
At least 30 percent of people have already contracted toxoplasmosis. Once you contract it, you have immunity. That toxoplasmosis is unlikely to affect your baby, since birth defects occur only if you contracted while you are pregnant.
Your cat would also have to become infected with toxoplasmosis while you are pregnant. Likewise, if your cat had been infected before, she can’t become infected again. Then, the only way you can get infected by toxoplasmosis from your cat is during a couple of weeks while your cat is sick and you manage to somehow ingest fecal matter that has been sitting in the cat’s litter box.
Toxoplasmosis cannot live on cat’s fur. What’s more, an indoor cat will not contract toxoplasmosis unless the cat catches and eats a mouse or is fed raw meat.
You are more likely to contract toxoplasmosis from undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk, or gardening without gloves and then failing to wash your hands. If you are concerned about contracting toxoplasmosis, have someone else clean the litter box, or wear gloves while cleaning it.
Myth: One Cat and Her Offspring Produces 420,000 Cats in Seven Years
I’ve seen this statement that had been created, no doubt, to convince people to spay and neuter their cats. While I commend sentiment, reality doesn’t quite work that way. According to the Feral Cat Times, this is a myth, and a big urban legend. Three quarters of all kittens born to feral cats die before they can reach reproductive age. The Feral Cat Times had some University of Washington mathematicians come up with an average number of 99 cats. I did some quick number crunching, with the estimated 70 million feral cats and came up with 14.7 trillion cats during the seven year period in my book Why Do Cats Bury Their Poop?, if the urban legend were indeed correct. While the United States does have a homeless cat problem, we aren’t up to our eyeballs in cats yet.
Myth: You Should Give Your Cat a Saucer of Milk
Don’t get me wrong, my cats will beg for me to give them some milk when I am having some. But many cats are lactose intolerant. That means that they can’t digest the milk sugars, and it gives them an upset stomach and diarrhea. So, giving your cat some milk isn’t a good idea. If you want to give your cat a treat, you may want to give your cat milk specially made for cats, like Cat-Sip. That way, your cat isn’t feeling left out when you have a glass of milk.