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14 myths about cats that you need to stop believing

From not being cuddly to being able to always land on their feet, here are some common myths and misconceptions about cats that aren't actually true.

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By Jessica Booth, INSIDER

  • There are a lot of common myths and misconceptions about cats that aren't true.
  • Many cats actually like people and cats are not actually low-maintenance pets.
  • Cats don't always land on their feet when they fall.

Even though cats are some of the most popular pets in the world, they are oftentimes extremely misunderstood by the general public. Like any other animal, cats are complex creatures and there is more to them than what meets the eye.

Some myths about cats can be quite harmless but some of them can actually be dangerous for these creatures, as some people will treat the animals differently due to these beliefs. 

Here are a few popular myths about cats that just aren't true.

MYTH: All cats hate people and they are not cuddly animals

Although not all cats love cuddles and attention, there are many cats that do.

INSIDER spoke to Jackson Galaxy, host of Animal Planet's "My Cat from Hell" series, cat wellness consultant, and New York Times best-selling author, who explained that cats can be very cuddly and they also typically require a lot of love.

Galaxy said this myth is "perpetuated because we are looking at cats through dog-colored glasses." Many people compare the behavior of cats to the behavior of dogs, which may lead them to think cats aren't cuddly creatures.

"Cats are snuggly but in their own way. They don't bark or cry at you or beg for your attention the way dogs do," he explained.

MYTH: Cats are low-maintenance pets that don't require much care

Galaxy said he also thinks this myth is so widely believed because people tend to compare cats to dogs. In certain ways, dogs may require a bit more attention than cats but that doesn't mean cats don't need love and care. 

"They are not high maintenance but they do have maintenance. They just don't need to be taken out three times a day," said Galaxy. He also said that having the mentality that cats are low-maintenance can be dangerous.

"One of the things I have seen as being a real problem is I have many clients who think it's OK to go out of town for a few days and leave their cat with an automatic feeder and some water because they're 'low-maintenance.' Well, they're not," Galaxy told INSIDER. "They get separation anxiety, just like dogs do. They crave the stability of their family life, just like dogs do. They just don't show it the way dogs do."

MYTH: Cats always land on their feet when they fall

Even though cats are pretty graceful and can oftentimes land on their feet, this widespread myth is not always true.

"Cats have what's called a 'righting reflex,' which is a built-in balancing system that helps them orient themselves to land on their feet," Dr. Jennifer Freeman, a veterinarian at PetSmart, told INSIDER. "In addition, there is a vestibular apparatus inside a cat's ear used for balance and orientation. This enables cats to quickly figure out which way is up and rotate their head immediately so their bodies can follow."

But this reflex and the special apparatus aren't always effective, especially if a cat is falling from a high place.

MYTH: Cats are supposed to drink cow's milk

Dr. Freeman said that even though many cats are attracted to dairy products, some types of milk are not actually safe for them to ingest.

"I especially do not recommend cow's milk because it can be harmful and cats can have lactose intolerance and other symptoms like an upset stomach if given too much," she told INSIDER. She said if you're trying to hydrate your cat, your best bet is to just give them water or wet food.

MYTH: It's always best for cats to live outdoors

When you have a cat as a pet, you typically have two options - raise them to be indoor cats by not allowing them to go outside or raise them as outdoor cats, giving them the option of going outside whenever they'd like.

Some people believe that cats, even domesticated ones, are meant to live in the great outdoors but Galaxy said it really depends on the cat, noting that he personally believes it is better if they are kept inside.

"Chances are they will lead a much shorter life if they are outdoor-only cats," he told INSIDER. "As a matter of fact, an outdoor only cat has an average lifespan of two to five years. The average lifespan of an indoor only cat is around 14 years. That's a huge difference."

MYTH: Cats absolutely hate water

Many cats are actually fascinated by water and some even love to play with it, especially if it is running from a faucet. In reality, cats just generally don't like to be submerged in water, said Dr. Freeman. 

MYTH: Cats and dogs are mortal enemies

TV shows and movies may have convinced you that cats and dogs can't stand each other but Galaxy said this isn't always true. He said it's absolutely possible for cats and dogs to get along or at least tolerate each other.

"Sure, we have two species and when you're talking about two different species, there is a communication gap that is bound to happen," he explained. "That's why it's our job to be ambassadors - to do everything we can to ease that communication gap between the two species."

MYTH: Keeping a cat as a pet can be dangerous for pregnant people

Dr. Freeman said this myth is false but she did note that pregnant people should be cautious when handling kitty litter and cat feces.

She said that when cleaning a cat's litter box, pregnant people "should be cognizant of toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by a common parasite that can be transmitted through exposure to infected cat feces." She said a pregnant person should try to avoid changing a cat's litter box, and instead give that responsibility to someone else.

MYTH: You can't train a cat

Even though it seems like cats do whatever they want at any moment, they can actually be trained, said Dr. Freeman.

"[Training a cat] differs from training a dog because cats will not learn from discipline and will run away from any type of punishment," she said. "I recommend short training sessions with a clicker and rewarding your cat for small lessons learned. [Over time,] you can replace the clicker sound by saying 'good' and they will associate it with a reward."

MYTH: Cats are nocturnal creatures

If you own a cat, it's easy to assume they're nocturnal - they always seem to want your attention when you're sleeping. But Galaxy said this is not actually true.

"If left to their own devices, cats are crepuscular. That is to say, they are most awake at dusk and dawn, which makes sense when you think about the fact that, in nature, their natural prey is awake at dusk and dawn, i.e. the bugs, critters, crickets, and the like," he explained.

MYTH: Declawing a cat is quite harmless

Declawing your cat isn't exactly a harmless way to get them to stop scratching your sofa - Galaxy said that the procedure can be quite harmful to your pet. 

"It has great lasting psychological and physical implications for cats as they go on in life. It is a completely unnecessary surgery," he told INSIDER. He said that many countries and a few cities in the US have already banned this practice.

If your cat's claws are a bit too sharp, you can trim them instead of removing them entirely. In some cases, cats will even groom themselves by trimming their own claws using their teeth.

MYTH: Indoor cats don't need as many shots as outdoor cats

Keeping your cat inside doesn't mean they don't need protection from illnesses and diseases.

"It is important to have routine vaccines and dewormers for cats and kittens. One of the most important shots for kittens up to 16 weeks is FVRCP (which stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis/Calicivirus/Panleukopenia), which is considered a core vaccination for all cats regardless of whether they will be indoor only or indoor[and] outdoor," said Dr. Freeman.

MYTH:Indoor cats can't really get sick 

It is true that outdoor cats are generally more prone to contracting certain diseases because they can sometimes attack dangerous, infected prey or fight with stray cats. But that doesn't mean indoor cats are immune to all illnesses, said Dr. Freeman.

"Cats that primarily stay indoors face diseases such as obesity, dental disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, cancer, and arthritis. If you do keep your cat inside, it will help reduce [their risk of contracting] parasites since they will not be preying on any small animals like birds," she said.

"You should routinely take your cat into your local veterinarian to ensure they are in good health," she added.

MYTH:Cats can see perfectly in total darkness 

Galaxy explained that cats can really only see in the dark if they have the slightest bit of light.

"Their eyes gather that light in and they intensify that light in the back of their eye in a membrane called tapetum," Galaxy told INSIDER. He said a cat's eyes are designed in order to help them hunt prey in low-light atmospheres. "They do their best work not in total darkness, but pretty close," he added.

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Pets Magazine: 14 myths about cats that you need to stop believing
14 myths about cats that you need to stop believing
From not being cuddly to being able to always land on their feet, here are some common myths and misconceptions about cats that aren't actually true.
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