Cats are well known for being international animals of mystery; they’ve baffled us humans for centuries and while you pretty much know where you are with a dog, cats keep us on our toes and are a bit more enigmatic and aloof.
Ancient civilisations worshipped them, and over the centuries lots of myths have emerged that try to explain their frankly puzzling behaviour. But is there any truth to these cat stereotypes? We thought we’d take a look at the facts behind some of the most common cat myths.
Cats Have Nine Lives
There are a few different theories about the origin of this; Shakespeare refers to the nine lives of cats in Romeo and Juliet, and ancient Egyptians thought they had supernatural powers. But the myth is more likely to come from cats’ ability to get themselves out of tricky situations, due to their agility. The fact is that, like the rest of us, cats only have one life.
Black Cats Are Unlucky
Black cats are often seen as a bad omen as they have traditionally been associated with witchcraft since the Middle Ages.
There’s a saying that you’ll have bad luck if a black cat crosses your path, unless you’re in Japan, in which case it’s lucky, or in Germany, where it depends on which direction the cat is going (left to right – good times, right to left – we’re all doomed).
In reality, black cats are no different to other coloured cats except that sadly, they can be difficult to re-home. Read our blog about why you should adopt a black cat for more info on this.
Cats Only Purr When They’re Happy
While cats do purr when they’re happy, often when they’re getting attention from their pets, sorry, humans, they can also purr when they feel threatened or scared, or not feeling well; it’s a way of comforting themselves. They also purr to comfort their kittens, and many cat owners would agree that they purr for their humans too!
Cats Love Milk
Of course, all cats love a saucer of milk, right? Well, the truth is that they don’t need it. In fact, cow’s milk can often cause an upset stomach as many cats become lactose intolerant after weaning; they don’t produce the right enzymes required to digest it.
If they’ve always had cow’s milk then they may have kept the ability to digest it, but in general, it’s always better to give them lactose-free milk. They don’t need milk to survive though, past kittenhood, and just plain water is fine and better for their weight.
Cats Are Loners
The wild dogs that are the ancestors of our domesticated doggos lived in packs, whereas wild cats lived alone and were solitary hunters.
Feral cats will often live in colonies, like the famous Tashirojima (‘Cat Island’) in Japan, but this mostly depends on access to resources, such as food and somewhere safe to sleep.
Cats can live alongside each other, as well as with other pets such as dogs; just make sure there are plenty of separate places for them to eat/hide/play/sleep to avoid friction as they don’t like to share. You can find out more about bringing a kitten home if you’re planning to do just that.
Cats Always Land On Their Feet
This cat myth is partly based on fact; cats have a natural ‘righting reflex’ which enables them to twist very quickly in the air if they fall, and they have very flexible spines and no collarbone.
However, this doesn’t always happen and sadly many cats who fall from great heights don’t make it, or suffer from life-changing injuries, so it’s always recommended that you take precautionary measures around open windows and balconies.
Cats Hate Water
Cats are well known for not liking water, and while there are some cats out there who will happily let you bathe them (the source of many entertaining videos on the internet) this cat myth is pretty spot on.
One theory is that it’s because a domesticated cat’s ancestors evolved in dry, desert areas with little or no rain, another is that because their coat doesn’t dry easily, it’s just uncomfortable for them to have wet fur, and the weight of the water could affect their agility and slow them down if they’re trying to escape a dangerous situation.
Whatever the reason, normal, short-haired cats do not need bathing as they can groom themselves unless you have been given different advice from a vet.
As you can see there are lots of myths and superstitions surrounding cats; some of which are based on fact, some on superstition, but whatever you believe, there’s no denying that owning a cat is never dull. If you have your own little feline fur baby, you might want to consider cat insurance with a range of policy types and benefits. You can read more about the importance of pet insurance and get a free, no-strings quote that cuts through the jargon and makes you feel like the cat who got the cream.
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