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Five Cat Myths That Need To Die

I’m not sure how cats got such a bad rap. One of the theories put forth is that many associate cats with women, and that’s the reason so many serial killers start off torturing felines. If true, that is beyond troubling.

One important thing to remember, especially when comparing cats to dogs, is that cats are not domesticated. Their DNA is still very much of a wild cat. Cats chose to be in our company. We didn’t force them to, going on to breed many of their natural inclinations out of them, as we’ve done with dogs. So expecting them to behave like dogs is unfair. A wild dog won’t shake a paw, either.

 

The Myths – Let’s Kill ‘Em All!

1) Cats aren’t as smart because they can’t be trained. I find this myth especially amusing. Who’s smarter — a creature with a will of their own, or one that does whatever someone else tells them to do? Second, cats certainly can be trained, if they see value in it and are in the mood. It’s best to work with a cat’s natural behaviour, but I’ve trained cats to give kisses, to stand on their hind legs for treats, to come when called, etc. But don’t expect to be able to train them out of something they really want to do, like get on the counter, unless you provide them with an attractive alternative. Because free will is a bitch, and cats have that in spades.

2) Cats don’t fetch. Two of my cats loved to fetch, and Sophie, the current fetcher, brings me her sponge balls all day and night, whether I want her to or not. This is accompanied by a lot of fanfare and wailing: “LOOK AT ME! I HAVE A BALL! YES, A BALL! AREN’T I THE BEST KITTY WHO EVER KITTIED?” Every morning when I wake up, there is a colourful collection of sponge soccer balls in the bed with me that weren’t there the night before, proof of her fetching prowess. My other cat, Samba, would get a pencil off the table and bring it up to where I was working and drop it at my feet. This doesn’t mean they are “like dogs.” Some cats enjoy retrieving objects and bringing them back too.

Five Cat Myths That Need to Die

Sophie (left) at rest after a hard day of fetching with Chloe. Photo credit: Chris Brogden

 

3) Cats aren’t affectionate (or are only affectionate for food). This should be changed to “Cats aren’t indiscriminately affectionate.” Anyone who’s bonded with a cat knows that creature chose you, and you alone, to bond with. Some cats are shyer than others, and most don’t care for people who are loud and/or obnoxious. (Who does?) They stay away from those who will play too rough and pull tails. Again, smart. Over my years with cats, I never fail to appreciate just how affectionate they are. Once a cat has decided you are her person, you will never be able to do a thing without her shadowing you. They will insist on accompanying you to the bathroom. They will drape themselves across your keyboard. They will paw at you if they feel deprived of love and attention. And they will claw the shit out of any door that dares to separate them from you. Adopt a shelter cat, and you will quickly see that the cat not only realizes you saved them, but will forever show gratitude and love that you did.

Five Cat Myths That Need to Die

Samba’s favorite napping spot was on my head. Photo credit: Chris Brogden

 

4) Cats are aloof. I think whoever coined this one wasn’t a cat person. They probably pulled tails. The only time my cats are aloof is when I’ve gone on vacation and they feel the need to give me the cold fuzzy shoulder for a while, just so I can realize the magnitude of my sins. Chloe insists on spending most of her life on my lap, no matter how hot it is in the house. Aloof? Hardly. Cats do have autonomy, though. They like their people, but can amuse themselves and do their own thing. Some prefer to nap at a distance, but think of the people you know — some need more alone time than others. (As I’m writing this on my deck, Sophie is howling at me from the kitchen window, wanting me to come in or let her out so she can be with me. Case in point.)

Five Cat Myths That Need to Die

Chloe on my lap, as per usual. Photo credit: Chris Brogden

 

5)  Black cats are evil/bad luck. This particular myth is the most harmful of all, as it’s led to a disporportionate number of black cats ending up in shelters, and being tortured on Halloween, or adopted for the wrong reasons. Historically, black cats (which were once viewed as the luckiest) had the sad misfortune of being linked with witches. Many cats of all colours were murdered because they’d belonged to a “witch.” (And by the way, those “witches” were usually healers, midwives, and medicine women who were slaughtered because of jealousy, but that’s another story.) Sadly, this ridiculous bit of fairy tale continues to persist to this day. Because of their colouring, black cats are able to sneak up on a person easily — they really do blend into the shadows. Spooky enjoys popping out of a hiding place and grabbing my ankle or pouncing on the girls, but it’s all in fun. How anyone could think this little guy was evil is beyond me, but he was abandoned at an elementary school when he was four weeks old.

Five Cat Myths That Need to Die

Spooky: Then and Now

 

Are you a fan of cats? What other cat myths have you heard? Feel free to debunk them in the comments.

PS: If you like this post, you’ll love Five Things Cats Can Teach Us About Success

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25 Comments

  1. Denise

    We always had cats when I was growing up, but then I discovered I am allergic to them – and dogs. One of my sons has two cats, the other two have dogs. I haven’t had a dog since 1994. I just dog sit when needs be. I have always said that in my next life I will be a tiger. A sneezing one, I guess.

    Reply
    • JH

      It’s so nice to see you again, Denise! It must be awful to love animals but have allergies keep you from having a pet. Hopefully in your next life, you won’t have allergies!

      Reply
  2. L. Diane Wolfe

    I’ve always had cats, including two black cats. None of those myths are true.

    One myth is that cats are very graceful. Um, they never met any of our cats. Especially Star, who fell into the fish tank.

    Reply
    • JH

      Poor Star! 😀 What a funny story. I love how embarrassed they look when they’ve done something ungraceful.

      Reply
  3. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    Cats are affectionate if you are affectionate back. They are just smart that way.

    Reply
    • JH

      They are, but then there’s that weird draw to people who aren’t interested in them. They do have that contrary nature.

      Reply
  4. Erik Smith

    Cats are the greatest. Need I say more?

    Reply
    • Lee Lowery

      Total cat person, even though we’ve had some awesome dog family members over the years.

      Reply
      • JH

        I started out as a dog person, but was converted to the “other side.” There’s something so peaceful about cats and their affection. It always feels to me like dogs are demanding in comparison. And the lack of barking–ahh. I’d rather hear Chloe peep any day.

        Reply
    • JH

      That sums it up nicely, Erik!

      Reply
  5. Mary Aalgaard

    I have a fluffy, white cat who looks like one of yours. His name is Leo and we adopted him from the shelter. He DEFINITELY picked us (me). I sat on a chair in the cat observation room. Leo spotted my lap and jumped right up. He purred immediately. When we came back to get him with the pet carrier, he jumped off my son’s lap and walked right in! No cat does that. Also, the first morning we had him, he sneezed in my coffee. (Not as nice a welcome.) Leo is a hunter, and there is no way we can stop him. Which is mostly good, except when he’s out all night in the summer, then we worry about him. Cats are so smart, they train their humans!!!!!

    Reply
    • JH

      Aww, thanks for sharing your story, Mary. It’s illegal in my city to let cats roam free, which has saved a lot of birds, I’m sure. A lot of people see those cute kitty faces and fluff and forget cats are master predators.

      Reply
  6. Samantha J Bryant

    I’m more of a dog girl than a cat woman, but I think this is mostly because I’m looking for companionship for long rambles in the woods, and dogs are better companions for that sort of thing. That said, I’ve lived with a few cats throughout my life, and they can be wonderful in their own right. And I agree that most of these myths are just plain silly.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Samantha. I have heard of cats that you can take for walks, etc., but for the most part, you’re right: not the best rambling companions. Once outside, a cat tends to forget you exist.

      Reply
  7. Birgit

    I have called myself more of a dog person and my hubby is definitely a cat person but…and this is a huge but, I love cats too. We have 3 cats and 1 dog and they are all full of personality and love. They show love in different ways but all show it. I love them all to bits and can’t fathom how anyone can hurt an animal. I think the catholic church was a big reason for cats having a bad reputation especially black cats and even black dogs which is why I love them even more. Now we don’t have a black cat…yet but I so would like to have one but 3 cats are good for now. I also love a good black dog.

    Reply
    • JH

      Yes, the church definitely had a big part of it. A lot of women, men, children, and animals were burned at the stake and tortured in their quest for power.

      Sounds like you have a full, loving house.

      Reply
  8. Mark L'estrange

    ‘Dogs have owners, cats have staff’
    Dear Miss Moncrieff, I cannot possibly start writing about cats, otherwise I will takeover your entire blog. I’ll just say that I presently have five, and they are my life, I love them all so very much.

    Reply
    • JH

      Aw, a man after my own heart! Five kitties is a commitment indeed. I’m sure they love you back.

      Reply
  9. Liesbet

    Yes! I love cats and I grew up with them. Usually two at a time. But, I am with someone who isn’t fond of them (based on past experiences) and is allergic to them, so there won’t be another kitty in my household. Maya can’t be trusted with them either. Luckily, I encounter many cats in neighborhoods or when visiting friends.

    When we volunteered at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah (where we adopted Maya), I learned the two troubling reasons why black pet – cats and dogs – are the least likely to get adopted.

    The first one – as expected – is superstition. The second is because black animals are difficult to photograph! It’s a sad world we live in…

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re wise to not get a cat when they wouldn’t be welcome. I’ve actually known someone who had cats, even though their dog was aggressive towards them, and the inevitable happened. It was so tragic, in part because it was also completely unnecessary and could have been prevented. Poor kitty. 🙁

      I don’t think cats would adapt well to a nomadic lifestyle, either. Cats tend to hate change and are territorial. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been choosing where to move very carefully – it wouldn’t be fair to uproot them again after they’d just gotten settled.

      Difficult to photograph? Understandable, I guess, but how bizarre!

      Reply
  10. Loni Townsend

    My husband has tried to adopt cats twice since we’ve been together. Unfortunately, within a half hour, he can’t breathe anymore and the kitties have to go live with our friends instead. It’s a shame because he really does love them.

    Reply
    • JH

      Aw, that really sucks, Loni. It’s a shame so many people are allergic to them. I think it’s a big contributor to so many cats being homeless.

      Reply
  11. Toi Thomas

    I must admit, that I’ve never underestimated a cat. I always see a tiny tiger when I see them, but they’re still cute. It’s hard for me to be a true cat fan since I’m very allergic to them, but I don’t hold it against them. I can’t take aspirin and don’t go around speaking badly of aspirin, so why do it with cats. It’s not only black cats that have a tough time. Anything, person or animal, that’s black will, likley have a tougher time. More black dogs get put down every year than white or golden ones. That’s something society as a whole needs to work on. Overall, I don’t understand how people can be so cruel to animals, but think about how people treat other people, and there’s your answer.

    Reply
    • JH

      Absolutely, Toi. So sad but true. I’m very sorry you’re allergic to cats. Way too many people are!

      Reply
  12. Lisa

    I grew up with cats and love them still, but am really a small dog person. Found that out nine years ago and am never going back to big dogs or cats…

    Reply

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