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Cat Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction

Cat myths and facts for cat-lovers.

In today's world, there's lots of information available at our fingertips about anything we may care to learn.

Still, not all information is good information, and there are some pretty pervasive myths about cats and cat care out there.

Here are some common myths that many people have about cats.

Myth 1: Rubbing a Cat's Nose in an "Accident" Teaches Him Something

If your cat urinates or defecates outside of his litter box, you absolutely should not grab him, rub his nose in the urine or feces, and toss him in the box.

Not only is rubbing your cat's nose in urine or feces cruel, it doesn't serve any useful purpose. The only thing this type of punishment will do is frighten your cat, and that stress can lead to more inappropriate elimination.

If your cat isn't using his litter box, it's important to determine why. The first thing to do is visit a veterinarian and check for a medical problem. If your cat gets a clean bill of health, you will need to investigate issues such as litter box cleanliness, location, and type of litter used as possible causes of the problem.

Take a look at this article for more in-depth information about this issue: "Cat Not Using Litter Box? Inappropriate Urination in Cats."

Myth 2: Milk Is a Great Treat for Cats

While many cats love to drink cow's milk, it's not a good idea to give it to them. Most adult cats are lactose intolerant, and drinking milk will result in digestive tract problems like vomiting and diarrhea.

An adult cat doesn't need milk, but if you must give some to your cat, it is recommended that you purchase specially formulated milk for cats.

Myth 3: Fish-Based Diets Are Great for Cats

It's probably fine to give you the occasional treat of fish, but it should not become a big part of your cat's regular diet.

Eating too much fish can result in yellow fat disease, or steatitis, which is caused by vitamin E deficiency.

Fish often contains toxins such as ethoxyquin and mercury, which can be harmful to cats that eat too much fish or fish-based diets.

Fish-based diets have also been associated with increased rates feline hyperthyroidism, a serious disease that is common in older cats.

Myth 4: Neutered and Spayed Cats Become Fat and Lazy

Spaying or neutering your cat prevents him or her from contributing to the very serious cat overpopulation problem we have.

Unneutered male cats are at risk of developing testicular cancer, and they have higher rates of abscesses caused by fighting, being hit by a car while roaming, and contracting FeLV or FIV.

Unspayed female cats are at risk of developing pyometra, a life-threatening uterine infection, every time they go into heat, which can be several times a year. Their risk is also much higher of developing aggressive mammary cancer later in life.

If you find that your cat is becoming overweight, seek advice from your veterinarian before implementing a diet because losing weight too quickly can cause hepatic lipidosis, a serious liver condition.

Be sure to spend time every day playing with your cat using interactive toys to help him maintain a good weight and great mental health.

Myth 5: Cats Always Land on Their Feet

While cats falling from a high spot will usually right themselves and land on their feet, that isn't the case if they fall from a shorter height. They must have enough time to get turned over.

Not only that, but cats that land on their feet are often still seriously injured in falls. "High rise syndrome" is a term that veterinarians use when a cat falls from a high building when a window is left open or the cat is allowed on the balcony. People often think that a cat won't fall or won't be injured if he does fall, but that is simply not the case.

Myth 6: Declawing Doesn't Hurt Cats

Declawing is more than a nail trim. The last bone on a cat's toe is amputated during this procedure, which is repeated for each claw. The procedure is extremely painful, and the cat is then expected to walk on the amputation sites.

Post-surgical complications such as infection and opening of the wounds are common after declaws, and many cats develop arthritis, regrowth of mutated claws, and general toe and foot pain for life after surgery.

Behavioral problems such as inappropriate urination are common in declawed cats because of the stress they have from chronic pain. They may also associate their foot pain with the litter box.

Learn more here and find out what to do besides declawing to dissuade inappropriate scratching: "Declawing Cats: Just Don't Do It."

Myth 7: Cats Will Not Mate with Siblings, Parents, or Offspring

Cats do not share the same taboos about incest as humans do, and if they are not spayed or neutered, closely related cats will mate. Inbreeding can lead to higher rates of genetic problems.

Spay or neuter your cats before they are 6 months old in order to prevent this.

Myth 8: Some Cat Breeds Are Hypoallergenic to Humans

Certain breeds of cats, such as sphynx, Devon Rex, and Cornish rex, are sometimes thought to be hypoallergenic for people.

The most common cause of human cat allergies is Fel D1, a substance which is present in cat saliva, dander, urine, and feces. All cats produce Fel D1.

Some people who are allergic to cats do seem to experience less trouble with certain cat breeds, but we don't know why, and it is not a reliable experience. In other words, each individual allergic person needs to "test" his or her level of allergies against each individual cat.

Myth 9: Indoor Cats Can't Get Diseases or Parasites

It's common for people with indoor cats to believe they don't need vaccinations or other preventative measures for diseases and parasites.

Unfortunately, many illnesses and parasites are airborne, can be carried into the home on people's clothes, or be brought in by other pets in the home, such as dogs that go outside.

Your veterinarian can help you determine which illnesses and parasites your indoor cat may be at risk for and tailor a preventative program specifically for him.

Learn more here: "Why Should I Take My Cat to the Vet?"

Myth 10: Cats Are Independent and Great for Someone Who Isn't Home Much

Cats are individuals, and some of them are more independent than others. Still, all cats need care and companionship, and leaving them home alone with nothing to do for long stretches isn't going to be good for any cat's emotional or physical health.

If you are gone a lot, you may wish to consider having more than one cat to keep each other company. You can even provide distractions such as the Frolicat Cheese Toy, which can be programmed to turn on periodically throughout the day, giving your cat something interactive to play with.

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Ethoxyquin, Mercury, and PCBs: Is Feeding Fish Safe for Cats?

Giving Your Cat Clean and Fresh Water

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