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Top Myths and Facts About Cats

Dispelling and Clarifying Commonly Held Misconceptions About Cats

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Don't fall for these myths and misconceptions about cats.This list addresses the most common of those myths and states the true facts about each misconception.

Myth: Cats Are Low Maintenance Pets

Picture of two tabby kittens
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
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, and their overall longevity is proof that cats require responsible care to thrive.

Myth: Declawing is Like Trimming Nails

Photo of Cats' Claw Trimming
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
Fact: Declawing is actually the surgical amputation of the first joint of each toe of the cat, a procedure which is viewed as mutilation by advocates. See my declaw resources for more information.

Fortunately, there are many Humane Alternatives to Declawing, such as routinely trimming cats' claws.

Myth: Cats Can Thrive on a Vegan Diet

Cat Watching Kittens Eating
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
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 Are Unhappy Kept Indoors

Picture of red tabby cat on bench
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
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 plenty of toys, scratching posts, 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: Cats Don't Need Vaccinations

Kitten Examination by Vet Prior to Vaccinations
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
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.

Myth: Neutered Male Cats Have More UTIs

Photo of Veterinarian Spaying Cat
Photo Credit: © iStock Photo/Mark Coffey
Fact: Although one study found that castrating cats did not increase the chance of UTIs, a Winn Feline Foundation study found the greatest risk for certain uroliths (crystals)is the 10 to 15 year old neutered male cat. When measured against the many risks of leaving male cats whole, neutering is still the better choice.

Myth: Female Cats Need a Litter Before Spaying

Picture of Jenny on the Deck
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
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: Cats Only Have to See the Vet Once a Year

Cat With Head Bandage
Owner: iStockPhoto/Александра Шкиндерова
Fact: Depending on their age, physical condition, and known medical problems, most cats will need to see their veterinarian several times each year, including urgent or emergercy care visits. It is important to know when to call the vet for your cat.

 

Myth: Pregnant Women Should Not Have Cats

Photo of Pregnant Woman Holding Cat
Photo Credit: © iStockPhoto/Anna Furman
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 About.com 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 Always Land on Their Feet

Photo of an open window with no screen
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
Fact: Cats usually do land on their feet after a fall, however not always without injuries. Although cats can survive a long fall (the unofficial record in New York City is 18 stories), it behooves us to watch out for open windows, as cats can incur severe injuries while landing on their feet.

Strangely enough, some of the most serious injuries occur in a fall from 10 to 12 feet. Learn how cats manage to land on their feet, and why shorter falls might be more conducive to injuries.

Myth: Cats and Dogs are Arch-Enemies

Picture of Kitty Chepita and her Pet Dog Perla
© M.Isabel Bruce
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

Lance and The Boys
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
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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