Fact or Fiction? Common Cat Health Myths

SOURCE: CATSTER


Lots of fibs have been told about felines through the ages. For example, consider the popular notion that it’s supposedly healthy for cats to drink cow’s milk.

The reality is that most cats are lactose intolerant and can’t break down the sugars in milk, says Joseph Wakshlag, DMV, an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Kittens will — and should — drink the milk from mother cats. But once they are weaned, other milks, such as cow’s milk, are not recommended for feline diets. “Much like (some) humans, cats don’t have the enzymes to break down lactose,” Dr. Wakshlag says. “Evolutionarily, it’s not part of what cats need in terms of nutrition.” Furthermore, he adds, it can add fuel to the fire if a cat already has an upset stomach. “It’s the last thing you want to give a cat with a GI disturbance,” he says.

As with most popular myths, there’s usually some grain of truth. Over the years, farmers would sometimes put out saucers of milk for kittens. However, it would be a supplement to a meat-and-tissue diet, since the cats would catch mice in the barn.

The spreading of myths about feline health is akin to a game of “telephone” in which someone says something and others pass it on and on.

“They’re just like urban legends,” says Arden Moore, author of The Cat Behavior Answer Bookand editor of Catnip magazine. “No one bothers to figure out if it’s fact or fiction,” Moore says. “They figure, ‘I’ve heard that. It must be true.'”

Sometimes the myths are harmless, such as the common belief that cats are aloof creatures — perpetuated by such fictional characters as Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat. But sometimes the tall tales can cause harm. When the myths deal with feline health and nutrition, owners like you need to take extra steps to verify what you might have read on the Internet or heard from your grandparents.

Sooo…fact or fiction? Here are common assumptions to help you test your kitty smarts:

Cats Always Land on Their Feet

Fact: Cats do have a “superior righting reflex” and a flexible spine. They can instinctively fall feet first, but they may also end up with broken bones from a fall, says Moore. She advises owners to check screens on windows and ledges to prevent cats from falling from high buildings.

Spaying or Neutering Will Cause a Cat to Gain Weight

Fiction: There is little scientific evidence tying the act of Fact or Fiction? Common Cat Health Myths spaying or neutering to weight gain. The primary reason that cats’ gain weight is inactivity, which is more prevalent in housebound felines, Wakshlag says. However, the fact that Tomcat is no longer on the prowl — looking for love, so to speak — may reduce its overall activity level.

Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Own Cats

Fact: It is true that some cats are infected with a disease called toxoplasmosis. It’s possible for this disease to spread to humans through contact with cat litter boxes, thereby harming unborn babies. However, says Wakshlag, pregnant mothers can avoid handling cat litter. They can make sure to wash their hands thoroughly and keep them away from their mouth if they come into contact with cat waste.

Cats are Nocturnal

Fiction: Even though they have keen eyesight, cats cannot see in total darkness, according to Moore. The truth is that cats are most active in the early morning or early evening. “In the wild, cats did most of their hunting at dawn and dusk,” Moore says.

Garlic on Food Will Keep Fleas and Worms Away

Fiction: Garlic and onion have the potential to cause anemic conditions in cats, says Wakshlag. To date, no one has ever been able to prove that garlic will keep worms or fleas away.

When it comes to debunking cat myths, your best bet is to exercise caution before trying out old wives’ tales on kitty. Ask your veterinarian about any myths that you’ve heard, or check out reputable cat health and research websites, such as the ones run by the Morris Animal Foundation or the Winn Feline Foundation. There is also a website run by the American Association of Feline Practitioners for veterinarians with a specialty in feline medicine.

Few, however, have addressed what is perhaps the most common cat myth query of all time — do felines have nine lives?

“They have but one, although they seem to be able to get themselves out of trouble quite often,” Moore says. “We only wish that they had nine lives.”

 

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5 Tips for Teaching Your Kids How to Properly Handle a Cat

SOURCE: CATSTER

Using gentle handling and respect, children can learn to be the best of friends with cats.

Like humans, each cat has a unique personality. Some crave lots of affection and love to be held and cuddled, while others are more independent and don’t enjoy much handling. Kids love pets and, of course, are usually eager to shower them with love and cuddles. It’s essential that we educate children of all ages on proper cat-handling techniques. This will help the bonding process, as well as ensure safety for both the cat and child.My son was an energetic toddler, but he eventually learned how to properly handle our cats. Now they love to spend time with him.

My kids grew up with cats so they had to learn how to properly interact with them at an early age. There were some ups and downs during this process, but eventually they learned that gentle behavior meant the cats wanted to spend more time with them.

Here are six tips to help teach children proper cat-handling.

1. Set the mood

Cats are excellent mood readers and pick up a lot about us by our voices, actions and general vibes. When we are stressed, they sense it. If a child wishes to connect with a cat, it’s important that she approach him in a relaxed manner, using a calm voice tone. Younger kids can be energetic and loud, which scares cats. On that same note, teach children they should never chase kitty. This “game” only teaches the cat to fear the child. My daughter was very calm as a young child and my son was a little more rambunctious, but in time, the cats wound up feeling comfortable with both of them.

Calm, gentle behavior is the way to a cat’s heart.

2. Take time to become acquainted

Cats feel more comfortable when we greet them on their level. Encourage the child to lie on the
on the floor and slowly offer the cat her hand so he can smell her. Kitty may positively respond by rubbing his face on her hand or pressing his head against her hand, encouraging her to pet him. This is a good sign! If he acts apprehensively, be patient. Forcing affection on a act who doesn’t want it will only push the bonding process in the wrong direction.

Cats will likely want to be around kids who treat them respectfully. 

3. Gently pet kitty’s back, shoulder to tail

If the cat is responsive to the child’s touch, it’s usually safe to pet him gently from the shoulder to the tail. This is not the time to try and rub the cat’s belly. Some cats enjoy tummy rubs, but many do not, and it’s definitely not a great way to make initial contact with a cat. Over time, if you discover the cat enjoys pets to the belly, go for it. One of our cats loves it, while the other two will bunny kick your face off if your hand lands anywhere near the gut. Again, honor the cat’s individual personality and preference.

Calm interactions are best.

4. Use caution with picking up kitty

If the cat has shows signs of warming up to the child — and you know kitty likes to be held — you may choose to take cat-handling to the next level. Also remember that, along with respecting the cat’s personality, make choices based on the child’s personality, age and demeanor. You know what you can probably expect from your child, and if you believe the cat may not be safe in your child’s arms, don’t place him there.

Cats like to feel safe and secure.

Older children or ones who’ve demonstrated they can responsibly hold a cat may next learn how to properly pick up kitty. Cats like to feel stable and secure, so it’s imperative to pick them up correctly. Make sure kitty is relaxed — picking up an agitated cat could mean scratches and tears. Always use both hands: Press one hand flat against kitty’s chest and use the other to support the hindquarters. Hold the cat securely — but not too tightly — against your chest so he feels safe and comfortable.

Do not cradle a cat like a human baby. A few cats enjoy being held that way (one of mine loves it), but most do not. The cat feels unstable and his paws and face are perfectly positioned for scratches and bites. Don’t try this position until the child and cat feel completely comfortable together and you are absolutely certain kitty enjoys this position.

Kids and cats can become best friends if they start out on the right foot.

5. Sit or stand

Especially at first, children should sit or stand while holding a cat. Motion may spook a cat who is just becoming accustomed to this up close and personal relationship with a small human. Younger children also may have the tendency to take off running, which will definitely make kitty feel scared and unsafe.