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Common Myths and Misconceptions About Cats
CatsBehavior

Common Myths and Misconceptions About Cats

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Apr 29, 2022

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Cats are among the most popular pets across the globe. Even though our feline friends are everywhere, they're often very misunderstood. Many things people get wrong about cats come from attempts to explain mysterious behaviors. A long history of myths influences beliefs about cats as well. Some kitty stereotypes are viewed as loveable quirks. On the other hand, inaccurate assumptions may have negative consequences too.

1

Cats aren't affectionate

woman smiling and cuddling cat AaronAmat / Getty Images

The belief that cats aren't affectionate is a common and polarizing misconception. Sometimes people assume kitties are aloof or indifferent because they don't act like dogs. Cats are very loving; they express their emotions through subtle behaviors. Head bunting, which is the cat bopping his head against yours, and cheek rubs are strong signs of affection and trust. Your kitty can also show affection by rubbing against your legs and purring while you pet him. A cat watching you while slowly blinking his eyes is happy to be near you.

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2

Cats aren't social animals

two cats snuggling AspenPhoto / Getty Images

Another widespread myth is that cats don't like other cats. Felines evolved as solitary hunters with strong territorial instincts, but they don't need these traits in safe, comfortable homes. Several cats can happily live together as long as they have access to plenty of food, water, litter boxes, and comfortable places to sleep. Even big cats that live solitary lives in the wild can live in groups in captivity.

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3

Cats enjoy being alone

grey cat sitting on windowsill lkoimages / Getty Images

Kitties often seem very independent, but this doesn't mean they enjoy being alone. In fact, loneliness is very stressful for cats — they can quickly develop separation anxiety. Kittens are even more susceptible to loneliness as they spend the first few months of life surrounded by their mother and siblings, so an abrupt change to a new home without other cats can be traumatizing. Consider adopting two kittens at once, so they'll grow up with a furry friend. This is especially important if the kittens will be alone for long stretches while people are at work or school.

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4

Cats don't need a lot of attention

cat playing with feather toy

Cats are sometimes thought of as 'low-maintenance' pets that don't require much attention from their owners. This isn't true at all. They love to play, and cats are inquisitive. Bored cats may find entertainment options that make a mess, such as unrolling toilet paper or shredding the mail. Cat owners can purchase toys or make them out of household items. Save empty boxes for your kitties. A cat can turn an empty box into a bed, hiding spot, and toy.

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5

Purring means cats are happy

woman owner holding cat Evrymmnt / Getty Images

Purring is directly linked to a cat's emotional state. A cat purrs when the brain sends a signal to the throat. This signal triggers vibrations in the voice box that produce the humming sound we call purring. Your kitty purrs when it's happy, relaxed, and calm. Purring can also signal anticipation for something good, such as outdoor playtime or a favorite treat. However, cats can also purr when they're sick, scared, or in pain.

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6

Cats always land on their feet

cat lying and stretch oneself

Almost everyone has heard the phrase 'cats always land on their feet.' While they're very agile and possess a natural ability to reorient their bodies during a long fall, this doesn't mean they can always reorient themselves for a safe landing. Short falls can actually be more dangerous because kitty doesn't have time to reposition itself. Many owners have seen sleeping cats roll off the furniture, so kitties aren't always as graceful as one might think.

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7

Cats are nocturnal

A cat observing the sunrise sitting outside home Kryssia Campos / Getty Images

Despite their longstanding reputation as nocturnal animals, cats are actually crepuscular — meaning they're most active at dusk and dawn. The ancestors of our domestic cats were hunters that frequently lived in desert environments. Cats hunted at sunset and sunrise because they had enough light to see while it was still dark enough to reduce their risk of being attacked by other predators.

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8

Milk is good for cats

Cats drinking milk from bowl

Most cats like milk and creamy dairy products, such as ice cream or cottage cheese. Unfortunately, adult felines are lactose intolerant. Milk can upset their stomachs or give them diarrhea. Kittens have an enzyme called lactase to digest milk, but lactase production stops after kittens are weaned. A small percentage of adult cats may continue producing lactase, but this is rare. Some kitties can tolerate lactose-free dairy products or products fortified with lactase enzymes. Ask your veterinarian before introducing these products to your cat's diet.

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9

Cats can't be trained

The cute Bengal cat gives a high-five paw to the owner Svetlana Sultanaeva / Getty Images

Kitties are very intelligent, but many people believe they're untrainable. This misconception frequently comes from comparing cats and dogs. However, positive reinforcement is the cornerstone of training for both species. Every cat is a unique individual, so you have to figure out the best way to motivate your kitty. Potential rewards include treats, praise, or special activities. Many owners also use clickers to enhance training techniques.

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10

Pregnant women shouldn't have cats

pregnant woman holding cat petrunjela / Getty Images

There's no shortage of inaccurate information regarding pregnant women and cats. Much of the concern revolves around a parasitic illness called toxoplasmosis. Cats can pick up the parasite by eating raw meat then spread Toxoplasma eggs in their feces. Toxoplasmosis is a very mild disease in healthy adults, but it can cause birth defects in an unborn baby. This parasite shouldn't be taken lightly, but there is minimal risk of catching toxoplasmosis from a cat. A cat only sheds eggs for 2 to 3 weeks after the first infection. Pregnant women can reduce risk even more by giving litter box duties to someone else in the household.

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