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.
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.
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.)
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.
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