Cat-Related Health and Safety Myths

cat in garden

Myth: Cats Always Land on Their Feet

Fact: While cats will twist around to land feet first if they have sufficient time, they are not always able to do this. Also, even when they do manage to land on their feet, they can still sustain serious injuries, so screening in high windows and balconies is advisable.

Myth: Cats Need Milk

Fact: While the majority of cats like milk, a properly nourished cat doesn’t need it. Many cats will even suffer digestive upsets such as diarrhea after drinking milk. A little milk can be provided for adult cats as an occasional treat if they can tolerate it, but it shouldn’t be a dietary staple.

Kittens should never be given cow’s milk, as it does not meet their nutritional requirements and can cause life-threatening diarrhea.

Myth: Neutering a Cat Will Make Him Lazy and Fat

A neutered male cat is unlikely to wander, spray, or get into fights, and neutered cats don’t hunt or climb as much. They are also less likely to show aggression toward humans and other pets in the household, or strangers who visit. They may seem lazy because they stick closer to home, but they won’t necessarily become inactive.

Neutered male cats will only gain weight if their wandering and fighting behaviours aren’t replaced with other forms of exercise. A fixed cat that has plenty of playtime with his human companions and consumes a high-protein diet will not gain weight. After they have been neutered, cats should be fed approximately 30% less food per day.

Myth: Neutering a Cat Will Make Him Feel Less Masculine

Fact: While many people are concerned that neutering a cat will harm his self-esteem by making him feel less like a male, cats don’t have a sense of gender identity the way people do. Therefore, they’re not inclined to value one type of sexual identity over another and be psychologically damaged by its loss.

Myth: Cats Try to Steal Babies’ Breath

Fact: Cats are often drawn to babies because they like the warmth. It’s a good idea to keep cats out of the nursery when a baby is too young to turn her head, as the cat may accidentally block her mouth. However, the cat is not intentionally trying to harm the baby when she snuggles up to her.

Myth: Pregnant Women Should Not Live with Cats

Fact: Toxoplasmosis is dangerous to the fetus, but there is a far greater risk of catching it from digging in garden soil or handling raw meat than from a cat. To be on the safe side, pregnant women should either have another person deal with the cat’s litter box or wear a mask and rubber gloves when cleaning it, and the box should be cleaned at least once a day for the duration of the pregnancy.

Myth: Indoor Cats Don’t Catch Diseases

Fact: Although indoor cats are far less likely to succumb to contagious diseases, airborne microorganisms may get into the house through open doors and windows, and most indoor cats find their way outside from time to time, where they are exposed to a variety of diseases.

Myth: Cats Get Tapeworms from Bad Store-Bought Food

Fact: Fleas carry the tapeworm parasite, and pets acquire tapeworms when they groom themselves and swallow the fleas. Eating infected rodents or other animals may also cause an infestation.

Myth: Garlic Cures Tapeworm Infestation

Fact: Garlic is ineffective against tapeworms and it can even be toxic to cats. Tapeworms should be treated with a veterinarian-prescribed medication.

Myth: Licking Wounds Speeds the Healing Process

Fact: Although purring does speed the healing process, licking wounds can actually keep them open and cause further damage. Initial licking cleans the wound. However, if injured animals engage in excessive wound licking once injuries have begun to heal, their owners should use Elizabethan (cone-shaped) collars to prevent this behaviour.

Myth: Female Cats Should Be Allowed to Have One Litter Before They’re Spayed

Fact: Cats that are spayed before having any litters are less inclined to develop mammary tumours, which are particularly deadly in cats. Allowing one litter contributes to the overpopulation problem that leads to many cats being euthanized in shelters each year and provides no medical or psychological benefits for the cat.

For more cat articles, see the main Cats page.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for veterinary consultation and care.

References:

    • Cat Fanciers’ Association. (2007). “Myths and Facts About Cats.” CFAinc.org.
    • Plotnick, Arnold, DVM, ACVIM, ABVP. “Spaying and Neutering: Facts, Myths, and Misconceptions.” ManhattenCats.com.
    • Schneck, Marcus, & Caravan, Jill. (1990). Cat Facts. New York: Barnes & Noble Inc.
    • Schultz, Jacque Lynn, CPDT, for the ASPCA. (n.d.). “Nine Feline Myths.” PetFinder.com.

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