Cats have fascinated humans ever since the day, probably about four thousand years ago, the first domestic cat made himself at home on the hearth by the fire. From ancient times to our modern age, myths and superstitions have surrounded cats. The ancient Egyptians worshiped them as gods, but people in later centuries feared them as harbingers of witchcraft and evil.
In today's high-tech world, we may think we've outgrown such fables. Yet a surprising number of modern-day myths about cats persist.
Did you know that the following are feline fables, not facts?
CATS ARE "NO-MAINTENANCE" PETS. Because cats are litter-trained, some people think that simply giving their cat food and water is enough. Not so. Cats also need regular veterinary care and, just as important, lots of love and attention.
CATS ALWAYS LAND ON THEIR FEET. While cats can often land on their feet after a short fall, falling from heights is another story. Upper-level windows and porches, unless securely screened, should be off-limits to cats, particularly in high-rise buildings.
CATS CAN'T BE TRAINED. Cats will, of course, do things their way if left to their own devices. But most cats can be taught to obey simple rules like not scratching the couch, eating plants, or jumping up on the kitchen counter. Repeated, gentle, and consistent training gets results. Also, if a cat understands the rules and has an approved outlet for her scratching impulses, such as a sturdy scratching post, there will be no need to have her declawed, a painful and unnecessary operation.
CATS AREN'T HAPPY UNLESS THEY CAN GO OUTSIDE TO ROAM AND HUNT. Cats like to play, prowl, and pounce, and they can do all those activities indoors with you and a few toys -- without being exposed to predators, disease, traps, poison, and traffic. Indoor cats are healthier, happier -- and safer!
CATS BECOME FAT AND LAZY AFTER THEY ARE SPAYED OR NEUTERED. Cats, just like people, generally become fat because they eat too much and don't get enough exercise. The fact is, cats who are spayed or neutered live longer lives and make better companions. And they don't contribute to the pet-overpopulation problem in this country, where millions of unwanted cats and dogs are destroyed every year. There's no need to wait until a female cat has had a litter to have her spayed; it can be done before her first heat cycle.
CATS CAN SEE IN THE DARK. Cats cannot see in total darkness any better than a person can. They can see better than other animals in semidarkness, however, because of their eyes' anatomy.
CATS DON'T NEED TO WEAR A COLLAR AND TAGS. An identification tag is a lost cat's ticket home. Every cat, even an indoor cat, should wear a collar with an ID tag to help him come home if he is lost. Many cat owners believe a collar can injure a cat. But a breakaway collar lets a cat escape if the collar becomes snagged.
CATS WHO DISAPPEAR FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS ARE JUST OUT HUNTING; THERE'S NO NEED TO WORRY. The prolonged disappearance of any pet is cause for alarm. Cats are no exception, and as domestic animals, they cannot cope with the dangers posed by the outdoors. For their own safety and well-being, cats should always be kept indoors, but if your cat does somehow become lost, he needs to be looked for immediately -- before it's too late.
CATS WILL SUCK THE BREATH FROM SLEEPING INFANTS. Curious by nature, a cat may want to climb into the crib to see what new manner of squalling creature her family has brought home. But she won't suck the baby's breath. She may feel a little jealous, however, so introductions should be gradual. Lots of lavish attention will also help reassure her that she's still an important member of the family. Cats can suffer from sibling rivalry, too!
CATS ARE ALOOF, INDEPENDENT ANIMALS AND DON'T REALLY WANT A LOT OF ATTENTION FROM HUMANS. Cats are domestic animals because they live in the home. They crave human companionship and establish loving bonds with their human families. They may not always show it, but that's just the feline way. If you toss the cat outdoors, or spend little time with him, you'll never know the rewarding -- and very special -- relationship that comes from making a cat a true member of the family.
Copyright © 2001 The Humane Society of the United States All rights reserved.