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Cats are independent

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A popular saying states that: “dogs have masters but cats have staff” – and many cat owners might agree. Whatever the truth of this, many pet cats actively seek out the companionship of their owners (or staff!) and appear to enjoy being stroked, petted or played with. Ultimately, it’s important to follow your cat’s lead and not force attention or interaction on them.

Black cats are unlucky

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The belief that black cats are unlucky has its roots in European folklore and, specifically, in the idea that black cats were the companions (or “familiars”) of witches. Clearly, this is absurd. However, sadly, the myth is reflected in the number of black cats in rehoming centers, where they often wait much longer than cats of other colors.

Cats have nine lives

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This is definitely a myth. Like any living creature, a cat has only one life. And, as a responsible owner, your job is to help ensure that your cat’s one life is as long and healthy as possible. This means ensuring your pet receives all necessary vaccinations, has a suitable and nutritionally-balanced diet, and is regularly wormed and treated for fleas.

All cats loathe water

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A pet cat might not enjoy a bath but there’s a good reason for this: wet fur is uncomfortable, takes time to dry and may impede hunting ability. That said, some domestic breeds of cat actively appear to enjoy water and will sometimes even go swimming voluntarily.

Cats can see in the dark

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Although cats have much better night vision than humans – and, indeed, than many other mammals – they cannot see in total darkness. In biological terms, like many wild cats, domestic cats are crepuscular. This means that they are naturally active at dawn and dusk, when light levels are low.

Cats only purr when they’re happy

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It’s true that a contented, relaxed cat often purrs. However, cats sometimes also purr for other reasons, including hunger and stress. Deciphering the reason for your pet’s purr can seem tricky but try to be guided by what’s going on around the cat. For instance, a purring cat who’s standing by its empty food bowl is probably telling you it’s dinner time.

You can’t put a cat on a lead

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As a rule, people don’t put cats on leads. Despite this generalisation, it is possible to buy harnesses for cats (a lead alone would be a bad idea due to the pressure it would place on a cat’s fragile neck). You can then attach a lead to the harness and use it to take your pet for a walk.

Cats don’t like dogs

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True, some cats do not like dogs – just as some dogs do not like cats. However, the two species can and frequently do co-exist perfectly happily. Your best chance for achieving this ideal is to introduce the two animals when both are young or to introduce a new kitten (or puppy) to an older dog (or cat) that’s already used to the other species.

Cats aren’t affectionate

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Cats’ supposed lack of affection is another generalisation. Some cats are as affectionate as the stereotypical dog. Others are more aloof or timid, and may shy away from human contact. Frequently, whether a cat is affectionate or not comes down to how well it was socialised as a kitten.

Cats always land on their feet

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It’s true that cats are better than many other animals at turning in mid-air. This makes them more likely to land on their feet after a fall. However, this isn’t always the case, especially as regards falls from a lower height, which doesn’t give the cat sufficient time to turn the right way around.

Cats are nocturnal

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Contrary to popular belief, cats are not nocturnal. Neither are they diurnal (active during the day). Instead, like the majority of their wild cousins, they are crepuscular. This word derives from the Latin for “twilight” and it very neatly defines when cats are most active.

Cats can drink cows’ milk

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Although many people give cows’ milk to their pet cats, this isn’t a good idea. In reality, most cats are lactose intolerant. Once past kittenhood, they generally lose the ability to digest lactose, which is the main protein in milk, and consuming it can make them unwell. Even a kitten, which still has the ability to digest lactose, is best on a cat-specific formula milk.

Cats don’t like other cats

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Like almost all cats (with lions as an honorable exception), domestic cats are naturally solitary. This means that they may not seek out the company of other cats, unless they’re looking for a mate or looking after young. However, many cats live perfectly happily in a multi-cat household.

Cats make no sound when they walk

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It’s true that the thick, soft pads on a cat’s paws enable it to walk very quietly. Indeed, it’s almost certainly too quiet for a human to hear. However, a vole or mouse on the alert for a predator might pick up on the slight sound.

Cats are low-maintenance pets

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Admittedly, unlike most dogs, a cat doesn’t need two walks per day. However, it does require mental and physical stimulation, a healthy diet, and adequate veterinary care. It’s also not a good idea to leave your cat at home with just an automatic feeder if you go away. At the very least, have a neighbor pop in to check on your cat.

Rubbing butter on their paws helps them find their way home

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It’s a common suggestion to someone moving house with their pet cats. However, there’s no scientific evidence to back up the belief that rubbing their paws with butter will encourage them to return to their new home when they first go out. Indeed, the butter could even harm them if they’re lactose intolerant.

Cats thrive as indoor cats

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Ideally, every cat should have access to outside spaces. However, if this isn’t possible, whether for environmental reasons or because of something specific to the cat, it’s still important to meet the cat’s needs for exercise and mental stimulation. Cat toys, including scratching trees and posts, are ideal but don’t forget to play with your pet too.

Pregnant women should avoid cats

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If you’re expecting a baby, it’s absolutely fine for you to continue interacting with your cat. However, you must avoid contact with your cat’s feces – and this extends to not emptying its litter box. This is because cat feces potentially carry and transmit toxoplasmosis, which can cause birth defects or even kill a developing fetus.

Female cats should have a litter before being spayed

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In the past many veterinarians used to advise that females cats have a litter before spaying. However, nowadays, it’s generally accepted that there’s no sound veterinary basis for this. What’s more, allowing female cats to have unnecessary litters adds to the problem of too many cats and not enough homes.

Cats can’t be trained

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It’s true that you rarely hear of a cat being trained in the same as many dogs. However, just because they don’t (generally) perform tricks or sit on command doesn’t mean they can’t be – or aren’t – trained. Training means positive reinforcement to encourage desirable behavior. Teaching a cat to use a litter box essentially amounts to training.

Cats will steal a baby’s breath

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Clearly an urban myth, this supposition actually has some basis in reality. Cats are inveterate seekers-out of warm, cozy spots – and a baby’s crib is one such spot. As a cat is large and heavy enough to (accidentally) suffocate a baby, it’s prudent to use a cat net to keep your cat out of your child’s bed.

There’s no need to brush a cat’s teeth

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Any cat that eats commercially-prepared cat food (and many who eat a raw diet) will have tartar – and tartar leads to bad breath and tooth decay. To avoid future painful dental procedures, get your cat used to having its teeth cleaned. Your veterinarian can advise on suitable tools.

A bell stops cats killing birds

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Many cat owners really dislike their pet killing birds. As a result, it’s common for cats to wear bells in the hope that this will give birds enough warning to make their escape before the cat pounces. Unfortunately, research suggests that the opposite is true: many cats hone their hunting skills due to the bell, and become more successful hunters.

Cats eat grass when they’re sick

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It may come as a surprise but grass-eating is natural behavior for cats – and doesn’t mean that they’re sick. Many cats seem to enjoy the taste, particularly of sugar-rich new spring grass. However, more importantly, grass fulfils an important biological role: it provides essential fiber and assists digestion.

Indoor cats don’t need vaccinating

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Even if your cat never leaves your house, it still needs vaccinating against endemic feline diseases like Feline Leukemia Virus. This is because many viruses are airborne or could come into the house on your clothes or shoes, or the fur of a pet dog. The risk may be relatively small but isn’t worth taking.

Cats can eat chocolate

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Chocolate is as big a no-no for cats as it is for dogs. That’s because it contains a substance called theobromine that is toxic for both felines and canines. Luckily, unlike dogs, cats are rather less likely to help themselves to your chocolate but do seek urgent veterinary advice if this happens.

Tail flicks mean that a cat is happy

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Feline body language is less well understood than the canine equivalent. However, as a general rule, a cat that’s flicking its tail is more likely to be unhappy or even angry and potentially aggressive. Learning a little about your cat’s body language can help you understand its needs better and give added depth to your relationship.

Table scraps make good cat food

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It may be tempting – and cheaper – to feed table scraps to your cat but this isn’t the best diet for it. At best, you’ll end up with an overweight and indolent animal. At worst, you’ll have a cat that becomes seriously ill as a result of a diet that lacks essential nutrients.

All cats chase mice

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Tom and Jerry might have you believing otherwise but, actually, not all cats chase mice. Some cats have surprisingly little hunting instinct and others divert those instincts elsewhere – such as towards the birds that visit your bird table. This means that getting a cat isn’t a surefire solution to a mouse problem…

Cats don’t need exercise

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While there’s no feline equivalent of the dog park, cats need exercise. A largely sedentary cat that does little more than move from bed to feeding bowl to litter tray and back again is likely to be overweight. It’s also likely to exhibit some level of behavioral distress. In essence, cats need exercise as much for their mental wellbeing as their physical health.

Cats can’t be stopped from killing birds

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Admittedly, if you have a bird hunting cat on your hands, it’s very difficult to stop them. Collars with bells may do more harm than good if the noise teaches the cat to be even stealthier and, anyway, the collar is a potential strangulation risk. The best option is to keep your cat indoors at dawn and dusk, when birds are most active.

A cat without whiskers has no sense of balance

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While a cat does not depend on its whiskers to maintain balance, it does rely on them to help navigate its physical environment. This means that a cat with no whiskers, or with whiskers that have been cut or damaged, may move in an uncoordinated or wobbly way.

Garlic is a good worming treatment for cats

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While there’s some evidence to suggest that garlic can kill worms, it’s definitely not recommended for cats. This is because, like all alliums (onions, leeks and so on), garlic is toxic to felines. And, moreover, out of all the alliums, garlic is considered the most toxic and even a small quantity could kill a cat.

Cats communicate with other cats by meowing

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Interestingly, most animal behavior researchers agree that meowing is a learned behavior that cats mostly use to communicate with humans. As such, it seems that it’s a consequence of the long process of domestication. Communication with other cats is achieved via a combination of scent-marking, body language and, during mating season, yowling.

Cats need declawing

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A cat’s claws can do considerable damage to tables, chairs, soft furnishings – and the human body. However, cats have claws for several good reasons: they help them climb (and potentially escape from danger), scratch themselves, and hunt. Declawing restricts or precludes these natural behaviors and can cause pain, infection and even impede a cat’s walking.

All cats should wear a collar

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Although a collar is a convenient way of attaching ID, it also poses a danger to your cat. That’s because collars can get stuck on branches and twigs, and trap or even strangle a cat. As a result, if you’re set on putting a collar on your cat, choose one with an elasticated section.

Cats are always in danger from foxes

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Many owners believe that a fox will kill their pet if it gets the chance. And, sometimes, this does happen. Equally, however, many cats and foxes seem to coexist, even at quite close quarters, without either seeming bothered by the other. Coyotes, however, are a different matter and frequently actively hunt cats.

Cats must be six months before neutering

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On average, cats become sexually mature at around five months old. At this age, a tomcat is capable of getting a female cat pregnant, and a female cat can get pregnant and carry that pregnancy to term. As a result, many veterinarians and people involved with humane shelters recommend neutering at four months – or, in other words, before the cat is sexually mature.

Cats can eat dog food

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Cats have very specific dietary needs, which are not necessarily met through dog food. In particular, cats need high levels of taurine, niacin and vitamin A. Without these components in their diet, a cat can become seriously ill or even die. As commercial dog food is not geared towards meeting these very specific feline needs, it should never be a cat’s primary source of food.

Cats don’t need grooming

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Most cats are fastidious groomers – and this isn’t out of vanity. Grooming helps keep their fur in good condition and parasites in check. Although the majority of cats manage just fine on their own, long-haired cats need extra help. Without human intervention, long coats easily become tangled and matted.