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14 Common “Facts” About Cats That Are Actually False

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By Morgan Cutolo, Reader's Digest


Cat myths

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Most cat lovers would do anything to defend their favorite pet, but cats can still be very misunderstood. We gathered some of the most common cat “facts” that are actually false to set the record straight.


Cats are nocturnal

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Cats are actually not nocturnal. “We probably think so because we are most aware of our cats when they are running over our faces at 3 o’clock in the morning. Cats are actually crepuscular, which means they are most awake at dusk and dawn,” says  Jackson Galaxy, renowned cat behavior and wellness expert, host of Animal Planet's My Cat From Hell and New York Times best-selling author. “This is because in nature, their natural prey is awake at dusk and dawn.”

Over time, you can adjust your cat to your sleeping schedule. You should feed them around the same time every day so that they get into a rhythm.


Cats are not trainable

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“Cats are just as trainable as dogs! Most people do not train their cats because they don’t know how or have heard the myth that cats don’t listen or learn,” says Russell Hartstein certified dog and cat behaviorist and trainer. “However, nothing could be further from the truth. Cats love training and learning just like dogs!”


Cats are low maintenance pets

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Cats are not low maintenance pets. “Cats that are housed exclusively indoors need a lot of enrichment in order to stay happy and healthy,” says feline veterinarian Lynn Bahr. They require attention, good quality food, and clean litter boxes.


Cats like to be alone and aren’t loving like dogs

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“In comparing their behavior to that of dogs, we end up calling cats things like 'aloof,' 'overly independent,' even 'unloving.' It’s not fair that because of who they are (and who they aren’t), we judge cats simply because they are not programmed to make us humans happy as their primary objective,” says Galaxy. “When seen through no other lens than their own, we can see that most cats thrive in communities and in relationships with humans and other animals, and absolutely can and do show love—it just looks different than the love that we perceive dogs give to us.”


Milk is a great treat for cats

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Just like some humans, cats can be lactose intolerant. Even though cats are often associated with milk, you should never feed your cat milk. “All mammals are born with the ability to digest their mother's milk because their bodies contain the enzyme lactase which breaks down the lactose protein,” says Dawn LaFontaine, a cat shelter volunteer, cat blogger, and founder of Cat in the Box. “Once a kitten is weaned, however, her gut stops producing this enzyme.” Feeding your cat milk can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea.


It's OK to leave cats at home alone for a long weekend

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Many people misjudge cats as “loners” and think that if you set them up with an automatic feeder and enough water that you can leave them home alone for a few days. They can get separation anxiety just like dogs do, says Galaxy. They crave attention and having their family around even though they may not show it in the most obvious way.


A purring cat equals a happy cat

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If your cat is curled up next to you purring while you scratch their head that is typically a sign that they are very content. However, when a cat purrs it can mean a lot more than just happiness. “Cats purr when they are frightened and when they're threatened. They purr in pain, when they're injured, in labor and even when they are near death,” says LaFontaine.


Declawing is not harmful

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“Declawing is a completely unnecessary surgery. The idea of saving your furniture by destroying your cat’s body is just unacceptable,” says Galaxy. It can physically hurt your cat’s body and takes away a part of them.


Cats hate water

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It’s true that cats hate getting baths, but they don’t hate water. “Cats are less "waterproof" than dogs, thanks to their constant grooming which keeps their fur oil-free and fluffy, so they do tend to soak through and get cold more easily if they get wet,” sat LaFontaine. “But many cats and kittens are fascinated by water and love splashing and playing in a running faucet, or dipping their paws in full tub.” Two cat breeds that love water and will voluntarily hope in the bath are the Turkish Van and the Bengal.


Indoor cats live longer

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“This is only true if you are comparing indoor cats with homeless outdoor kitties,” says Bahr.  “Otherwise, cats that are owned and have access to the outdoors live just as long as indoor cats do.”


Cats and dogs can’t get along

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On occasion, some cats and dogs don’t get along. But it’s the same as two humans not getting along. It’s all about knowing how to communicate with one another, says Galaxy. Cats and dogs can easily get along as long as we, as their humans, help them to communicate and co-exist.


Cats always land on their feet

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“[Cats always landing on their feet] may be thanks to a cat's "righting reflex," an internal balancing system, combined with very flexible backbones, which allows him to twist his body the right way mid-fall,” says LaFontaine. “Cats also have a 'vestibular apparatus' in their inner ears which enables them to discern up from down.” However, these systems are not foolproof and during a short fall, a cat may not have enough time to react resulting in a clumsy fall. And, even cats that do land on their feet are not immune to an injury.


Dry food is better than wet food

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When it comes to cats, the opposite is actually true. “Canned food is better than dry because it is higher in protein, lower in calories, and contains needed moisture,” says Bahr.


All cats love catnip

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“Actually, only about 50-75 percent of cats are susceptible to catnip's charms. Sensitivity to the essential oil catnip, called nepetalactone, is actually an inherited trait, and most cats in Australia aren't susceptible,” says LaFontaine. “And while most cats who respond to catnip seem to enjoy a kind of euphoric high from the plant, catnip can actually make some cats aggressive.”

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