Things everyone gets wrong about cats

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Debra Kelly @_EllaSaturday

Cats are undeniably cool. They’re adorable, furry little ninjas that share our homes and have an overwhelming urge to push things off other things. We’re cool with it, though, because they’re so darn cute that they can get away with a lot. We opened our homes—and our hearts—to them a long time ago, but there’s still a ton of misinformation floating around out there that just refuses to go away.

Myth: Cats love milk

Well, no. Cats drink milk as kittens, of course—all mammals do when young. But once they’re weaned off their mother’s milk, they stop producing all the enzymes they need to digest the stuff. So yes, that means that most cats are lactose intolerant, although milk and dairy in small amounts is usually all right. Regular milk’s lactose collects in the cat’s digestive system and leads to all sorts of stinky problems—the same problems that happen if a lactose intolerant person chugs a milkshake with their cheese-filled dinner.

There’s another problem with milk, too, and that’s the fat and calorie content. Give a cat a saucer of milk as big as their head, and that’s like you sitting down and eating a gallon of full-fat ice cream with some extra fat for good measure. (We won’t judge, we’ve been there.) That means not only will milk make a cat unacceptably leaky, but it’ll make him fat, too. They still might like the actual taste of milk—just like you’re still going to want some more of that triple-cookie-dough-chunk-fudge ice cream the next day—and that’s why they make lactose-free, low-fat cat milk. We’re still waiting on the ice cream version.

Myth: Their whiskers help them to balance

Firstly, what is with all the savages on the Internet asking what happens when they cut off a cat’s whiskers? Just … no. These people should not be allowed near cats.

Now, the myth. Popular belief says that whiskers are tied to a cat’s sense of balance, and it makes sense that something explains their effortless ninja skills. It’s not their whiskers, though, as those delicate little feelers are used for navigation and sensory perception.

That’s right, they’re cooler than you thought. A cat’s whiskers are made of the same material that makes up other animals’ horns: keratin. Where they’re connected to the cat’s face is a whole bunch of nerves, and they can feel the changes in the air that happen as they get closer to walls and other obstacles. If you’ve ever noticed the fine hairs on the top of a cat’s head or on the backs of their legs (not all cats have those), those are whiskers, too, and they work the same way.

As for the rumor that the cat’s whiskers are as wide as its body and lets it know if it can fit through a tight space, that much is true (as long as Puss isn’t overweight). And as for cutting them off, sometimes it’s necessary for the vet to do it, but you shouldn’t. The loss of sensory input can make the poor cat disoriented, confused, and scared, so seriously, just don’t do it.

Myth: Your cat’s fine with being vegetarian

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So you’re a vegetarian. Congratulations, we’re sure you’d like to tell us all about it. But before you put your cat on a strict vegetarian diet because you enjoy forcing your lifestyle choices on others, know that your cat is not at all fine with the idea.

A handful of nutrients that cats need to survive, like taurine and arachidonic acid, come from meat. They also need a heck of a lot of protein, more than most other animals do. They can’t easily get all that from a plant-based diet, and deficiencies mean they’re going to suffer from skin problems, hearing loss, and even heart and liver problems. There’s also the problem of vegetarian diets being high in carbohydrates, and cats can’t process that. Sure, a handful of professionals will swear a vegetarian diet is fine, but considering they’re largely manufacturers of vegetarian cat food, you can guess exactly where their interests lie.

Some vegetarian diets have artificial versions of all the meat proteins cats need, and that all sounds great … until you keep reading and find out that cats can’t process artificial ingredients as efficiently as they process natural ones. That’s going to mean a weakened heart and shortened lifespan, and if you’re so worried about the ethics of meat consumption, what about the ethics of putting your cat through that? Research has also found that cats forced onto a vegetarian diet at home will simply head out into the great outdoors and start picking off the local wildlife to supplement the crap diet you’re giving them, because they will have none of your fascist ways.

Myth: Stray cats are the same as feral cats


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Stray and feral cats are often lumped into the same category: nuisances that live outside and knock over your garbage cans. But they’re completely different, and here’s why.

Feral cats were born and raised on the wrong side of the tracks. They’ve never had a good relationship with humans, they’re usually scared of them, and they’re definitely not going to accept your invitation to come inside and sit on your nice warm lap. They’re not socialized, and they’ve had the kind of life that means they never will be socialized.

Stray cats, on the other hand, are pet cats that the world’s been incredibly unfair to. They know people, and they know people can be kind, and they’ve probably been socialized at some point—and they can be again. They might be standoffish and scared, but you can earn their trust and make them lap cats again. Stray cats can turn into feral cats if they’re on their own long enough, and the perfect example of a stray cat is a house pet who was kicked out and left. Both groups have gotten the short end of the stick, but stray cats can forgive. Feral cats will tell you where you can go.

Stray and feral cats are often lumped into the same category: nuisances that live outside and knock over your garbage cans. But they’re completely different, and here’s why.

Feral cats were born and raised on the wrong side of the tracks. They’ve never had a good relationship with humans, they’re usually scared of them, and they’re definitely not going to accept your invitation to come inside and sit on your nice warm lap. They’re not socialized, and they’ve had the kind of life that means they never will be socialized.

Stray cats, on the other hand, are pet cats that the world’s been incredibly unfair to. They know people, and they know people can be kind, and they’ve probably been socialized at some point—and they can be again. They might be standoffish and scared, but you can earn their trust and make them lap cats again. Stray cats can turn into feral cats if they’re on their own long enough, and the perfect example of a stray cat is a house pet who was kicked out and left. Both groups have gotten the short end of the stick, but stray cats can forgive. Feral cats will tell you where you can go.

Myth: Cats always land on their feet


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They might land on their feet most of the time, but not always. They can do it because they have the ability to twist their spines in a way that would kill a human, so when they jump, their sense of balance aligns the front half, while the twisty spine snaps into action and reflexively aligns the back half for a safe—and impressive—landing.

Even though it’s a reflex, it still takes time. If a cat falls from a low height, they commonly won’t have time to flip completely, and they’ll land on their side. And even if they do land on their feet, they don’t always come out of the incident unscathed. If they’re falling from too high and their legs can’t absorb the impact, it can result in all sorts of horrible things like broken bones, internal trauma, and even brain damage. It’s more common than you think, too, so common there’s a name for it: high-rise syndrome. Remember that old saying about curiosity? That’s true, and the ASPCA—and common sense—says that you really need to make sure your cat’s safe, because not even ninjas are perfect.

They might land on their feet most of the time, but not always. They can do it because they have the ability to twist their spines in a way that would kill a human, so when they jump, their sense of balance aligns the front half, while the twisty spine snaps into action and reflexively aligns the back half for a safe—and impressive—landing.

Even though it’s a reflex, it still takes time. If a cat falls from a low height, they commonly won’t have time to flip completely, and they’ll land on their side. And even if they do land on their feet, they don’t always come out of the incident unscathed. If they’re falling from too high and their legs can’t absorb the impact, it can result in all sorts of horrible things like broken bones, internal trauma, and even brain damage. It’s more common than you think, too, so common there’s a name for it: high-rise syndrome. Remember that old saying about curiosity? That’s true, and the ASPCA—and common sense—says that you really need to make sure your cat’s safe, because not even ninjas are perfect.

Myth: Cats are solitary by nature

Dogs might be pack animals, so it’s ironically cats that are usually seen as the lone wolf, staking out their own piece of territory and definitely not wanting or needing to share it with anyone—not even a human. Because who needs you, anyway? When researchers took a look at how cats interact with each other, though, they found that they are social creatures.

Cats absolutely can survive on their own, we’ll say that right up front, and they almost always hunt alone. But when they do gather in groups, they form close-knit relationship that often revolve around a core group of females. Not only do feral cats gather in colonies, but they share responsibilities, team up in raising and even nursing each others’ kittens, and they even have besties. Cats in feral colonies usually pair off and hang out together, spend a huge amount of time grooming each other and greeting each other with nose boops. It’s thought that all that grooming isn’t just about getting clean, either, but that it’s a way to mingle everyone’s scents into a colony odor that identifies each individual as a part of the group, kind of like sorority girls sharing clothes.

Myth: Calicos are always female, orange tabbies are always male

Always is a dangerous thing to say, unless you’re talking about something like whether or not beer should be cold, or whiskey should be served on the rocks. (Always.) When it comes to cats, things are a little less certain.

In both these cases, you could replace “always” with “most” and be completely correct. You’d be more correct when it comes to calicos, as only about 1 in every 3,000 calico cats is male. On the flip side, about 1 in 3 orange tabbies is female, so while you’re more likely to find a male, statistically speaking, you could have a whole flock of female orange tabbies, if you wanted. (We do.)

It’s all down to genetics. The gene that makes a cat orange is only carried on the X chromosome, and when you factor in things like recessiveness, you’ll find the only way to get a calico pattern is two X chromosomes. That means male cats can only present as just orange or not orange, not a mix of colors. When male calico cats do happen, that’s only because they’re genetically different—an XXY set of chromosomes, rather than the usual XY. There’s even a name for those genetic weirdos: Klinefelter males, after the doctor who first figured this out. On the flip side, since orange is on the X chromosome, male cats are gingers with only one copy of the gene. Female cats have to inherit two, and that’s why they’re not as common. Also, it has nothing to do with the condition of their souls—cats do have souls, but they have no bearing on coat color.

Myth: All blue-eyed, white cats are deaf

Another form of this myth says they’re all blind, and while there is a bit of a correlation between at least deafness and white cats, it’s definitely not all-or-nothing. We’re not entirely sure what’s going on here, but deafness seems to be linked to coat color along with eye color.

Your chances are this: white cats with eyes that aren’t blue have somewhere around a 20-percent chance of being deaf, white cats with one blue eye are at about a 40-percent risk, and two blue eyes bumps that up to between 65 and 85 percent. The mechanics aren’t really known, but we do know that cats with one blue eye tend to be deaf on the same side, if they do end up having hearing problems. We also know that sometimes we can’t even tell if they’re deaf or not, because let’s face it, they’re not known for coming when they’re called.

Myth: Color is linked to personality traits

If you want a little love bug, get an orange cat. If you want a princess, get a tortie. And if you want someone to cast spells with, get a black cat. We might be exaggerating on the last one, but it’s a common belief that certain colors are associated with certain personality traits.

Researchers at UC Berkeley took a look at the myth and found absolutely no evidence to back up the theories. What they did find, though, was the belief is so firmly entrenched in the collective consciousness that light-colored cats are considered friendlier, so they get adopted more often. Cats are picked on appearance rather than personality, and since the belief usually doesn’t prove true, they’re often returned. So remember: don’t be a cat racist.

Myth: Cats are colorblind, but can see in the dark

Cats aren’t completely colorblind, but they are almost red-green colorblind … sort of. Cats’ eyes are tuned to pick up blue-violet colors as well as greenish-yellow colors, so they see the world similarly to a person who’s red-green colorblind, but they pick up a bit more of the green. Cones are the eye structures responsible for color vision, and while we have more than a cat does, we also have fewer rods. That brings us to the second part of the myth.

The number of rods in a cat’s eye means they process information faster than ours do, which is why they can pick up the flutter of a mouse’s tail in the grass, for example. The rod cells responsible for their crazy refresh rate also help them see in the dark (and gives them an extra 20 degrees or so of peripheral vision, compared to us), but they still can’t see in complete darkness. Cats need a bit of light to be able to see, but in low light and twilight conditions, they’re miles ahead of humans. This is a bit of knowledge they’d like us not to forget.

Myth: Declawing is a quick fix for behavioral problems

People think declawing is painless, sort of like getting your nails cut permanently. Not quite. Declawing removes part of the cat’s paws, and the human equivalent of the same procedure would be cutting off each and every one of your fingers at the first joint. Doesn’t sound so harmless now, does it?

A whole bunch of medical problems are associated with declawing, like permanent nerve damage and bone spurs that make it painful for the cat to even walk. There’s plenty of short-term horribleness, too, like bleeding paws and a high rate of infection. Open wounds on your feet when you’re trying to use the litter box isn’t something we’d wish on anyone.

That brings us to the behavioral part of the myth. People who think it’s a good idea to get a cat declawed often say they do it to put an end to things like scratching the furniture or scratching humans, and while they might not be scratching, they still have teeth, and are you going to pull those out?

The moral of the story is: don’t declaw, at all. It even rhymes, almost.

Myth: Cats are standoffish and aloof

People study cat behavior for a living, and yes, they work at real universities. They’ve found cats are every bit as affectionate and loving as dogs—they just don’t express it the same way.

Researchers point to a few key findings when it comes to cat affection. Purring has traditionally been interpreted as happiness, but it’s more akin to something like, “Please don’t stop petting me, I rather like it.” When they rub against you, it’s literally the cat equivalent of giving you a big hug, and how adorable is that? There’s also the slow blink, which means they’re totally comfortable with you being around, and they can’t fake it, either—it’s an involuntary response to lowered stress hormones. They also found out that every cat and owner has their own super-secret language, which was discovered during a study that found an owner could tell exactly what a cat was saying when they were played a variety of meows … but only if it was their cat.

So, there you have it—not only are cats affectionate, but they like you so much they develop a secret language just to talk to you. If that’s not love, we don’t know what is.

 

COMMENTS FROM LOVINMYPUP.COM:

I totally enjoyed reading this article,  I guess i did not know anything about the real facts of owning a feline fur baby..  I had always heard that white cats with blue eyes were always deal.  Not true!   I also  have never seen a cat with one blue eye and one dark eye.   I definitely disagree with declawing of cats.   Any surgical procedure is inhumane unless it is medically necessary.    And I am sure there is massive pain involved.

This article is full of great information for all current pet parents and those who are contemplating the addition of a feline fur baby!   Hope you enjoy!

Don’t forget to check out the banner/links to the various on line stores to the right of this page  (lap top) or beneath the article (smart phone).  There are traditional pet stores as well as well as  specialty stores for gifts that would make any pet parent ecstatic!  There is also a link to Amazon and Walmart where you can purchase anything that they sell.   Purchases through these links give me a small percentage of sale in order to  help me keep this site up and running.   Your assistance in this area would be greatly appreciated    And don’t forget to leave a comment so I can tell if  i am meeting your needs.   Your fur babies are important  family members.
 Make sure you share your love with them each and every day!

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