Cats are a little more difficult to understand than dogs. So it’s not surprising that many people — even cat owners — believe things about cats that are actually untrue. From cats’ proverbial nine lives to their supposed phobia of water, not everything you’ve heard has a basis in fact.
Below, check out the myths that you should never believe about your cat.
1. Myth: Cats always land on their feet
Let’s start with one of the most often-heard myths about cats: that they always land on their feet. Cats often do land on their feet. But they aren’t immune to injuring themselves — and they certainly don’t land on their feet every time. As Animal Planet explains, a cat’s body reflexively corrects its course during a fall. So when the cat lands, he usually has his feet on the ground.
But cats do sustain injuries, like broken legs, when they fall, particularly when falling from greater heights. That’s because on a longer fall, the cat’s righting reflex has more time to kick in. And as Wired notes, landing legs-down just makes things worse when a cat falls from somewhere very high.
Next: This popular saying isn’t quite true.
2. Myth: Cats have nine lives
Another oft-repeated phrase? That cats have nine lives. But do they? According to PawCulture, the adage likely comes from the old English proverb, “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.” Even though cats do seem quite resilient, often land on their feet, and can survive extreme conditions, the saying is far from true.
While cats are intelligent and intuitive, there’s no scientific evidence that they have nine lives. They are susceptible to illness and injury just like any other animal. And they need your protection and care, just like any other pet would.
Next: Cats actually can make friends with these animals.
3. Myth: Cats can’t get along with dogs
It’s a popular sentiment that cats can’t get along with dogs under any circumstances. But that’s not universally true, and in many cases, it’s false. A cat’s willingness to get along with a dog depends on the cat’s personality and probably his experiences as a kitten.
Plenty of people have a cat who gets along just fine with their dog, or with a friend’s dog. Others have a cat who hisses and growls anytime a dog walks into the room. But some cat breeds are known to get along well with dogs — at least with a proper (and gradual) introduction.
Next: This myth about cats’ relationships with humans is just wrong.
4. Myth: Cats don’t really bond with humans
Cats are a lot more independent than dogs. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t love or bond with their humans. In fact, cats have numerous ways of telling their humans, “I love you.” The next time your cat rubs his face against you, slowly blinks at you, follows you around, or head butts you, you’ll know that he’s expressing his affection. Plus, scientists have found that cats often prefer human interaction to food. If that doesn’t signify love, we don’t know what does!
Nonetheless, researchers have found that though cats form affectionate bonds with their owners, they don’t rely on humans to feel safe and secure. So while your cat probably loves having you around, you don’t have to feel guilty if you aren’t home when there’s a thunderstorm or a fireworks show.
Next: Don’t believe this myth about a cat’s ability to learn.
5. Myth: You can’t train a cat
People who argue that dogs are better than cats often claim that cats can’t be trained. But that’s not exactly true. It comes down to the cat’s personality and his eagerness to please his owner — as well as that owner’s training methods, patience, and persistence.
Many cats can be trained to respond to at least a few commands or to complete a few tasks, especially if you take a measured and patient approach. You can also train your cat on what he shouldn’t do. Most cats can be taught not to jump up on the furniture or not to claw at the couch. And if your cat is avoiding the litter box (for a non-medical reason), you can also correct that behavior with some persistence.
Next: This myth about a cat’s environment doesn’t hold up.
6. Myth: Cats don’t like staying indoors
Cats act like predators. So it seems reasonable to assume that cats don’t enjoy living out their lives indoors, without fresh air or sunshine. But as The Spruce explains, that’s usually not the case. An older cat who has lived outdoors for years might not feel too happy about suddenly being confined to the house. But in most other cases, cats have no problem living indoors.
In fact, the Humane Society recommends keeping your cat indoors. Indoors, they can avoid the “predators, injuries, parasites, and communicable diseases to which outdoor cats may be exposed.” The organization adds, “cats do not require outdoor access to live full and happy lives.”
Next: This myth about cats needing companionship doesn’t always prove true.
7. Myth: Cats get lonely if they’re the only pet in the house
Many pet owners assume that a cat who doesn’t have any feline housemates must feel lonely. But that’s not always true, and adding another cat to your household can cause trouble. Some cats would like it if their owners brought home a playmate. But others would prefer to be the only cat in the house — especially if they didn’t spend much time with other cats as they grew up.
As the ASPCA explains, “Cats are a territorial species.” The organization adds, “While some cats overlap their territories a great deal, others prefer to keep a good distance from their neighbors.” So your cat might take well to having a new housemate — or he might not.
Next: But you definitely shouldn’t leave your cat alone for this long.
8. Myth: You can leave a cat home alone for days at a time
While most people wouldn’t dream of leaving a dog at home alone for days at a time, plenty of people think it’s okay to do so with a cat. Of course, your cat will be fine while you’re at work, and can probably get by if you need to be away from home for a night unexpectedly. But it’s really not a great idea to leave a cat completely alone for several days or nights at a time.
The Nest recommends that if you’ll just be gone for two or three days, you can enlist a friend, neighbor, or pet sitter to check in with your cat once a day. This person can give your cat fresh water and food. They can also clean the litter box. And of course, they can play with your cat, groom him, and give him some attention. If you’re vacationing for longer, or don’t have anyone to check in on your pet, you might want to consider boarding him at a trusted kennel.
Next: Don’t believe this about your cat’s needs.
9. Myth: Cats are low-maintenance
A lot of people think that if they travel often or work long hours, a cat will be a much better fit for them than a dog. That may be true, logistically. (After all, cats don’t have to be let outside to go to the bathroom.) But as The Spruce notes, it’s a myth that cats don’t need a lot of attention from their owners.
The publication explains, “The truth is that the average age of stray cats and ferals is three years; which should be adequate proof against this myth.” Cats have needs like any other pet. And they’re able to live much longer and healthier lives when they have humans feeding them, taking them to the vet, and looking out for them.
Next: Don’t buy into this myth about your cat’s health fool you.
10. Myth: Cats don’t need to be vaccinated
Lots of people have been scared off by headlines about vaccine-associated sarcomas, or tumors that cats develop at the location where they’ve been vaccinated. These aggressive tumors can appear months or years after the vaccination. But as VetStreet explains, approximately one or two out of every 10,000 cats develop these tumors.
That means that while the tumors are serious, they’re not very common. As VetStreet reports, “The chance of your cat contracting a serious disease is much higher than the chance of your cat developing a vaccine-associated sarcoma.” So cats do still need to be vaccinated. Always ask your vet for advice before foregoing a vaccine.
Next: A female cat doesn’t need to do this before getting spayed.
11. Myth: You should let a female cat have one litter before you get her spayed
As The Spruce reports, many cat owners think that they should let a female cat have one litter of kittens before they get her spayed. But that belief is completely erroneous. Spaying a cat while she’s young prevents uterine cancer, mammary cancer, and ovarian cysts. It also keeps the cat from suffering any complications of pregnancy. And, as the publication notes, “A cat can suffer more harm through pregnancy than she can by being spayed.”
Plus, there’s a reason why veterinarians and animal welfare advocates alike want everybody to spay and neuter their cats. Cat overpopulation is a major problem — one to which you really shouldn’t contribute, no matter how much you love kittens.
Next: You should never put a cat through this procedure.
12. Myth: Cats don’t mind being declawed
Cats occasionally scratch up furniture or claw at carpets. Many people think that declawing a cat is just like trimming his nails, but with the effect of lessening the damage to couches and rugs. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. As The Spruce reports, declawing a cat involves surgically amputating the first joint of each toe. Ouch!
Animal welfare advocates take a strong stance against declawing, which they argue is a cruel and completely unnecessary process. They recommend trimming your cat’s nails regularly instead — plus providing items that are okay to claw, like a scratching post.
Next: This cat myth doesn’t hold water.
13. Myth: Cats hate water
If most cat owners agree on anything, it’s that cats hate water. But that may not really be universally true. As Animal Planet explains, one breed, the Turkish Van cat, actually loves getting wet. And that particular breed isn’t the only kind of cat that may not mind the occasional dip.
Many cats develop an aversion to water if all of their encounters with it are negative. (Like if they get stuck in a rainstorm or forced to take a bath.) But many cats are fascinated by water, whether from a dripping faucet or a shower. Cats who get bathed regularly when they’re young will get used to the feel of water. And many cats can be trained to enjoy bath time.
Next: Don’t believe this myth about cats and diets.
14. Myth: Cats can eat a vegan diet, just like you
While people can eat a vegan diet, cats really shouldn’t, no matter how strongly their owners feel about not buying products that contain meat. As The Spruce explains, cats are obligate carnivores. That means that they need to have meat in their diet to get all of the nutrients they need to stay in optimal health.
While people can decide that they don’t want to eat meat for ethical reasons, your cat doesn’t share your sense of moral obligations. Most veterinarians advise against feeding your cat a vegetarian or vegan diet. But if you have concerns, you should always bring them up with the vet who sees your cat.
Next: This myth about a cat’s effect on your health just scares a lot of people unnecessarily.
15. Myth: A cat can cause you to develop schizophrenia
The Huffington Post notes that every few months, a flurry of articles scare cat owners with headlines about the dangers of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite sometimes found in cat feces. Infections can cause mild flu-like symptoms in people, or, much more rarely, schizophrenia. And a pregnant woman who contracts the parasite can potentially suffer a miscarriage.
However, as the Post notes, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t recommend that pregnant women, or anyone else, give up their cats. Instead, the CDC advises thoroughly washing your hands after changing the litter box and using gloves if possible.”
Read more: Secrets You Never Knew About Your Cat