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A lot of the information you hear about cats is useful, but some of it is incomplete, or just plain wrong! Here we take a look at five of the common myths concerning cats, and what is actually the truth...
Of course cats don't really have nine lives! But their formidable survival skills have enabled many of them to escape from what looked like certain death, and so over the years this is probably how the myth arose. With their finely tuned senses, cats can spot the first hint of trouble, and disappear before things get really bad. They can move with a blinding burst of speed for short distances, go up a tree or over a fence incredibly quickly, and wriggle through tiny little holes. They are finicky eaters, which sometimes protects them from poisoning. And if they fall, they can usually right themselves in mid-air to land on their feet. In addition, although cats tend to avoid fighting if possible, they are equipped with sharp teeth and claws, and can put up a good fight if they have to. They also manage to survive for long periods without food and water if necessary, and seem to have an instinctive ability to look after themselves.
Looking at all of these, it is easy to see how the 'nine lives' myth arose. But of course it isn't true. Cats, like you and me, only have one life to live.
As stated above, cats have excellent survival skills. But they do often get themselves into trouble when investigating things, especially anything that darts, scurries, or flutters. After all, that's what predators do – they detect, pursue, attack, and kill prey. And in so doing, they can sometimes run into the path of an oncoming car of a waiting dog, fall from a great height, end up trapped in a basement, or find themselves looking at a wild animal which really doesn't like cats. In such a case, it is possible for a cat to come to come to grief, and you might then think this has proved that 'curiosity killed the cat'. But this rarely happens. More often that not, the cat escapes unscathed, and lives to fight another day, often having had a useful learning experience. But the few times it doesn't do that have led to the origin of this myth. In general, your cat can be as curious as he likes without getting into any serious problems.
It is true that some dogs hate cats, and there are even a few breeds of dog which will try to kill cats. And some cats are scared of dogs, and some will even try to fight them. But generally this is not the case. Dogs are often merely curious when they see a cat. But the cat, seeing an animal much larger than itself, will probably obey its survival instincts and run. And the dog will do what dogs do when they see something to chase – be it ball, stick, or cat – they'll run after it. Then, if the cat is cornered, it will hiss and get ready for a fight. And so the myth arose.
In fact, if properly introduced, many dogs and cats get on just fine, and can even live together in harmony. Some even become great friends and will curl up together. So if you want to have both a dog and a cat, take things slowly. Introductions should be gentle and gradual, with the dog not being allowed to scare the cat or chase it. You may then find that the dog and cat will get on very well – though in some cases, they won't. But all dogs and cats are definitely not mortal enemies.
It is true that most cats are not that keen on water. This is probably because they are descended from desert dwelling African wild cats, and being in water was never a part of their life. But not all cats dislike water. Turkish Vans, a breed which developed around Lake Van in Turkey, for some reason actually enjoy swimming. In their native land they are known as 'the swimming cats' because of this rather unusual trait. And other cats can usually swim if they have to. In addition, many show cats have regular baths before cat shows, and some of them quite enjoy it once they get used to it. And many cats like to play with water coming out of taps or fountains. So it is really not true that cats hate water, although it is not on the whole their natural environment.
This idea has been around for a long time. Cats aren't like dogs, people say. They won't become part of the family in the way dogs will; they are totally independent and aloof. This isn't quite true. Cats are not like dogs in that they don't depend on their owner for companionship, and it is unusual to find a cat which will go for a walk with its owner or follow him or her around the house. But cats are certainly not aloof. All cat owners know that cats need our companionship and in fact, some will go through separation anxiety if left alone too often or for too long – something most people only associate with dogs. A cat may not display separation anxiety in the way we associate with dogs, so it can be easy to overlook the signs that a cat is concerned and confused if it is left alone or abandoned.
Cats also show affection in so many ways, although you might even not notice some of the more subtle ones. Your cat doesn’t have to be a lap cat to be affectionate. She may enjoy sitting next to you, or maybe even a several inches away, but that doesn’t mean she’s not affectionate. Think about how many times your cat has rubbed her head against you, given you one of those slow-blink cat kisses, rubbed alongside of you, and purred or given you some scratchy-tongue kisses. Those are all signs of affection.
Cats can cope alone if they have to, and are rather better at this than dogs. This is probably how they acquired the reputation of being independent – they can be if they have to. But they idea that this is how most of them want to be is definitely a myth.
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