falling cat

“I’m tired of you testing whether I will land on my feet.”

Cats are mysterious creatures whose ways humans have yet to fully understand.  Over the years, we have developed ideas and opinions about why cats behave the way they do, what they need, and what they are able to accomplish.  Whether based on fact or fable, look through the list below and discover which myths are actually fact or fiction.

  • Cats always land on their feet:  Most of the time, this is the case; but there is no strict rule.  Until recently, no one could understand how cats manage to nimbly land on their feet after strange falls and lengthy leaps. The longest fall on record where a cat landed on its feet, was a 7 story building.  Cats generally are able to use reflexes to correct the course of the fall, which is why it seems as if cats always land on their feet.  That is not to say cat’s cannot suffer injury from falling, rather that they reorient themselves in a way unique to cats.
  • Cats have nine lives:  This concept was made famous through an old English adage that goes “A cat has nine lives: for three he plays, for three he strays, for three he stays.”  This saying has been reinforced by the way cats often land on their feet after a dangerous fall, and for testimonies of how they have escaped from disasters, like burning buildings, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.  The idea that cats actually have 9 lives is untrue, however convinced the pet owner might be!
  • Cats purr when they are happy: This is false.  Those attentive to feline behaviors will note that cats do purr when they are content, but also when they are nervous, injured, sometimes while giving birth, and even while dying.  Similar to the way humans smile when they are happy, nervous, uncertain, or even upset.  Most cats seem to purr as a way to stay relaxed or bring about calmness in their immediate experience.
  • Cats are cold, distant and aloof:   Cats certainly are a more independent species by nature than dogs, who tend to be generally warm and enthusiastic pets.  However, many cat breeds are not only affectionate and loving, but can be quite demanding of your attention and playtime. Some cats have been known to follow their master around, meowing for another pat on the head or more cuddles.
  • Milk is a good treat for cats:  There is something picturesque giving your kitty a porcelain bowl filled with milk on your kitchen counter; but while your cat might lap away at the liquid at first, this may not be the best idea. Cats not only can be lactose intolerant, but also have digestive difficulties when they consume another animal’s milk. Though cow’s milk may be a comforting beverage for humans, it does not offer any significant nutritional value to a cat’s diet.
  • All cats hate water:  Finicky felines generally do not like to be submerged in water, but they certainly are fascinated by it.  A running faucet often proves very entertaining for cats, and a shallow koi pond is a tempting feature in any backyard.  Though bathing your cat may not be his favorite way to experience water, a feline is usually very intrigued by toilets, showers, hoses, faucets, etc.  Several wild cats (such as the Asian leopard cat, and the fishing cat) have webbed feet and are adept swimmers and underwater hunters.
  • Cats use whiskers to balance themselves:  Though there are species in the animal kingdom for whom this is the case, cats use whiskers as sensory feelers rather than as a means of balance.
  • Cats need dry kibbles to help clean their teeth:   Kibbles are widely considered unhealthful for a pet’s diet (due to the many additives and harmful “fillers” found in mainstream pet food products), and unhelpful for their oral care.  Felines thrive with balanced nutrition high in protein and moisture, and depriving them of these elements will do no benefit to their health.
  • Cats will learn to stay home if you butter their paws right when you move in.  This wives’ tale sounds bizarre. Some people believe that if you put butter on a cat’s paws while he is in your house, than he will stop and lick the butter off of his paws. Doing this will register with him that the new place is a safe zone where he can eat, rest, and clean himself. This is not scientifically supported however, though it coincidentally may have worked for people in the past.  A better way to help your cat identify the new house as his home, is to keep him inside it for a couple of weeks, and microchip him in case he ever tries to escape.
  • Cats cannot get rabies:  This is not true. Like dogs, cats are warm blooded mammals, and are susceptible to contracting the disease if they are bitten.  They should receive regular vaccinations as stipulated by the state in which the cat lives.
  • Declawing a cat is like clipping his nails:  This is absolutely false.  Cats have nerve endings and blood flow to a certain point in their claws.  Declawing cats is akin to cutting off a human finger after the second knuckle; it is a painful process which robs a cat of the ability to protect himself, stretch his spine, climb, and hunt.  Clipping or trimming the nails will keep cats from being able to hurt anyone, without inflicting any unnecessary pain.
  • Cats can’t be trained:   Most people would agree that cats do not seem either as eager or as willing to be trained as dogs.. However, cats are simply trained less frequently than dogs, because dogs tend to need training more than cats do. When left to themselves, cats are natural explorers and hunters, while an idle dog tends to be destructive. Though it is less common, cats are able to learn tricks as well, as long as they are properly incentivized with treats!  With patient dedication and hard work, treats and a clicker, felines can be trained to do things as complex as playing instruments, turning pages in a book, or using a human toilet. Give your kitty a chance to show you what he can do!