Congratulations, you’ve decided to get a cat for your family. No doubt you’re looking forward to lots of purrs and cuddles from your new fluffy friend but how much do you actually know about these adorable animals?
While cats can make wonderful companions, their behaviour isn’t always that easy to interpret, especially if you’re new to being around them. Add to that the many myths and superstitions that are still circulating about cats, and some clarification could make all the difference to your successful pet ownership.
- Cats have 9 lives
Sorry to burst the bubble, but being living creatures like you and me, they only have one physical life. With that knowledge, it’s up to you as a responsible cat owner to ensure that you keep your pet fit and healthy for as long as possible. Proper care and feeding, regular vet check-ups and annual vaccinations are a good start for looking after your kitty who may surprise you by living well into her twenties!
- Cats love drinking milk
Actually, this one isn’t true either. Contrary to popular belief, the idyllic image of a cat lapping up dairy milk or cream is far from reality. In fact, milk has no nutritional value for cats and can do them more harm than good. Feline stomachs find it difficult to tolerate milk and overconsumption can lead to diarrhoea and longer term obesity. Better stick to a well balanced, cat appropriate diet along with plenty of fresh water.
- Healthy titbits from the table are OK
It’s a good idea not to get into the habit of feeding your cat scraps from the table, however ‘healthy’ you may consider them to be. Cats need balanced nutrition and, left to their own devices, will eat just the right amount for their physical needs. Spoil them with bits of cheese or ham and you will upset this delicate balance. Not only will your cat be ingesting what are essentially harmful substances, chances are you’ll make your pet fat with all those unnecessary calories.
- Cats’ teeth don’t need brushing
Do you love your purry companion but are finding her bad breath off-putting? Cats can suffer from plaque build-up, oral or dental disease just as we humans can. Dental plaque in cats should never be underestimated. Left untreated, it can lead to tartar and calculus, gum inflammation and infection and even tooth loss. Here’s a good guide to how to practise good feline dental care, and yes it does include brushing your cat’s teeth on a regular basis.
- Declawing your cat is no worse than cutting nails
A regular trim of your cat’s claws is recommended for a number of reasons, including reducing the chances of your furniture being shredded. But however tempted you may be to go one step further, total declawing is akin to mutilation, since you’re essentially surgically amputating the first joint of each toe. No claws will leave your feline fluffball unable to climb and basically defenceless in a fight. Why would anyone want that?
- Cats need their whiskers for balance
This statement is only half true. Cats do need their whiskers; they use them as feelers to determine their location and avoid bumping into things in the dark. However, it’s the tail they use to keep their balance. Interestingly, the exact positioning of your cat’s whiskers is also a sign of what mood she’s in. Whatever you do, never cut or pull whiskers – they are deeply rooted in the skin and attached to a multitude of nerve endings!
- Cats always land on their feet
It is true that cats have what’s called a labyrinthine righting reflex that corrects the orientation of the body as it falls from height. That’s why cats do normally land on their feet, even from several floors up. The longer the fall, the more the body has a chance to rights itself before landing on the ground, but shorter falls can often result in injury as there’s simply not enough time to turn the right way round.
- A wagging tail indicates a happy cat
All cats express themselves through their body language and vocalising (miaowing) and it’s worth getting to know your individual pet’s ‘language’. That said, we know that happy dogs wag their tails but with cats you can’t be sure. If anything, cats tend to flick their tails when they’re cross, upset or eyeing up prey and about to pounce.
- When a cat purrs, it’s happy
Again, this is not a black and white issue. Yes, purring is certainly a noise that a contented cat will make, but did you know that there are other times when felines purr? It is a proven observation that cats also purr when they’re scared, when they’re ill, when they’re in childbirth and when they’re dying. Perhaps it’s more accurate to view a purr as an expression of intense emotion per se.