Tuesday, February 2, 2010

10 Myths About Cats

Cats have been demonized in the media more than any other domesticated animal. Remember “Cinderella?” The cat’s name was Lucifer for heaven’s sake. And don’t forget the multitudes of other movies in which cats are portrayed as the villain. Why is all this animosity directed at such tiny furry creatures? As with most cases of prejudice and misguided hatred, I believe that a lot of it comes from misunderstanding cats. On the flip side, there are people who love cats, but unfortunately do damage to their pets due to other misconceptions. Today I will explore many common myths, (one of them an allegedly scientifically proved fact,) and see if I can clear the air in regards to these enigmatical felines.

1.) Cats suck the breath out of babies or smother them. I am starting with this one because it is the most damaging and most asinine myth out there, besides the one saying cats are in league with the devil. Not only is it physically impossible for a cat to “suck” anything, it is also impossible for the cat to fit its mouth over an infant’s mouth and nose to obstruct breathing. There have been no documented cases of a cat smothering an infant, though there have been a few where parents have accidently smothered their babies in their sleep.
However, the sight of a cat curled up around a baby, and even having its face near the baby’s is not uncommon. What is the cat really doing?
A.) Cats love warmth. Babies are warm, so they make great sleeping companions.
B.) Many cats love milk, so one can assume that the smell of milk on a baby’s breath is quite pleasing to the pet.
C.) Cats consider themselves equal members of the family. They think of their humans as part of the colony. Cat colonies raise their babies together. So, your young is their young. Though some get jealous of a newborn in rare occasions, most cats are protective towards the new member of the family.

2.) Cats don’t do anything good or beneficial for humans. A cat’s purr releases endorphins in the cat as well as any other living thing it is in contact with. An extra release of endorphins will lower blood pressure in humans. A cat’s presence has also been proven to benefit Alzheimer’s patients. It is also proven that people who own dogs or cats tend to live longer and healthier.

3.) Cats are “low maintenance” or anti-social. Though it is true that cats don’t require being walked, or cleaned up after, or bathed like dogs, that doesn’t mean that you can just leave them alone or ignore them all the time. Cats need exercise and attention. Long haired cats need to be groomed. Cats are very social creatures, but most of their communication is nonverbal, and a lot of it is by scent. When your cat is sitting by you, it is communicating. When a cat deposits a corpse of a critter on your porch it is gesture of respect and goodwill. When a cat rubs on you, it is scent-marking you.

4.) Pregnant women can’t be around cats: Sometimes cats can pick up a toxin from raw meat or certain soils that can be harmful for a pregnant woman. As long as she stays away from the litter box, she will be fine.

5.) Cats can be vegetarians/ vegans. People who adopt a vegetarian/ vegan lifestyle often wish to impose such a lifestyle on every member of their family. Cats are specific carnivores, which means that they will DIE if they don’t eat meat. Though dogs are omnivores, they need meat too. Here is a cool link that shows how a cat’s nutritional requirements differ from dogs: http://www.thepetcenter.com/article.aspx?id=3405

6.) Declawing is like nail trimming and the cat will suffer no ill effects. It is illegal to declaw a cat in many countries. The US is behind. Declawing is amputating the first bone on a cat’s paws, which has all sorts of negative effects on the poor kitty. Here’s a link for more info on this inhumane practice: http://www.declawing.com/htmls/declawing.htm

7.) Cats always land on their feet. They don’t and can suffer severe injuries from jackasses trying to prove this. Interesting fact: Cats falling from higher places are often less injured than cats falling from lower places. Why? Because if they fall from a higher place, they have time to relax their muscles and almost turn their bodies into parachutes. I saw it on National Geographic, it was bitchin’.

8.) Cats cannot be trained. That’s a bunch of B.S. Cats are very intelligent and can be trained to do much cooler stuff than a dog. They just have to give a damn. Behavioral psychologist, B.F. Skinner once taught a cat to play the piano. Can a dog do that? YouTube is full of videos of cats using the toilet, talking, and even scuba diving.

9.) Putting butter on a cat’s feet will prevent them from getting lost if you move. I just heard this one last night and put it in since it’s so weird. Um…no. Who the hell came up with that?

10.) Cats can’t recognize human faces. This link describes the experiment that allegedly “proves” this. http://www.journalofvision.org/5/8/49/

Okay, now it is tangent time. I disagree with this conclusion because

A.) The test was based on recognition of “handlers” that worked with the animals for 2 hours a day. Cats aren’t stupid. They know when people are just handlers and are not part of their family. That’s why shelter cats don’t suffer any separation issues from the shelter workers and is also why most are so eager for the attention of prospective owners that visit.

B.) Cats have a very intricate social hierarchy system. A handler that only works with them for 2 hours a day, and in a group scenario, no less, will not have a significant standing in their hierarchy. In layman’s terms: They don’t give a damn about pictures of a handler.

C.) It was proven in the experiment that the cats recognized the pictures of the handlers over 50% of the time. Again, I think the rest of the times they just didn’t give a damn. Unlike dogs, it takes more than bribes to earn loyalty.

D.) The cats recognized the other familiar pictures in the experiment, so why should human faces be any different? Again, they just didn’t give a damn.


  1. Very interesting, Annarkie! I'm so glad I decided against declawing my cat. I've heard so many horror stories. :(

    I still can't believe the one about the butter. How silly is that! Maybe the person who came up with the idea was dealing with a different kind of catnip, lol.

  2. The first one reminds me of how one of my cats lies next to my face as I sleep...to suck out my breath. Just kidding.

  3. I loved this, especially the comment about vegan cats. I have seen one cat forced into a vegan diet (it was also declawed) and it took everything in my power not to sneak into that person's house that night to steal the cat. It is so sad to see what happens to them.
    I knew about the butter on the paws, but I have never heard about it preventing them from getting lost. I have noticed that doing it reduces the stress of a new environment in some of my cats.

  4. Probably because it tastes good, and there is tryptophan in dairy products, which produces a calming effect on people and animals. I love learning new things!

  5. They need to talk to my almost ten year old daughter--she's an expert on cat behavior and would be able to knock those myths out of the water. We have three rescued cats and she reads everything she can find on them then lectures all of us:)

    Medeia-- BAHAHAHAHAHA I can't stop laughing at your comment. Yes, cats are actually psycho killers who stalk us at night and try to suck the life out of us:)

  6. Great info - and beautiful kitty ;o) I agree about the declawing - we have (3) and do not believe in that. We trim them, doesn't take that long... I love my babies, they get a work out now that we have the puppy... LOL

    Thanks for sharing :o)