Top 5 Cat Facts and Myths

Is it true that all cats hate water? Do they really always land on their feet? And should you ever give them milk? We sort the facts from the fiction about these and other common misconceptions regarding our feline companions, and set the record straight.

Do cats hate water?

Most cats don’t like getting wet – you may have the scratch marks to prove it, if you’ve ever tried to give your cat a bath! But there are a few rare kitties who enjoy a soak (as a quick YouTube search reveals), and some breeds actually seem to like the water. Bengal cats, in particular, have a reputation for being comfortable around water, and even happily joining you in the tub, given the chance!

So it’s a bit of a myth that all cats hate water. Generally, though, our pets aren’t keen on being soggy moggies. And fortunately, they tend to do a fantastic job of keeping themselves clean. If you do ever find yourself needing to bathe your cat, specialist pet wipes may be a less stressful option (for both of you) than a bath. Otherwise take things slowly, and get your cat comfortable around the bath or shower before placing them in water.

Do cats really drink milk?

Cartoon cats are often shown enjoying a saucer of milk. But in reality, it’s never a good idea to give your cat milk to drink, even if they like the taste. Many cats are lactose intolerant, meaning drinking cows’ milk could cause sickness, diarrhoea and tummy pain. Cows’ milk is also fatty.

You might see specialist cat milk in the pet shop or supermarket. While these lack lactose, they’re still high in calories, so should only be an occasional treat. Water is all your cat really needs to stay hydrated.

Do cats always land on their feet?

Cats are impressive acrobats, helped by a highly developed ‘righting reflex’. When a cat falls from a height, the balancing apparatus in their inner ear almost instantly lets them work out up from down. Their flexible spine and lack of collarbone allow them to twist the front and back halves of their body in different directions to right themselves. Their legs and back also act as excellent shock absorbers for a purr-fect landing. One New York kitty fell 32 storeys and survived, with only minor injuries.

But not all cats are so lucky – and the truth is, they don’t always land on their feet. Overweight cats, in particular, may have a less effective righting reflex. And falling from a height can cause injuries or death in cats, as in any animal. If your cat lives a high-rise life, use guards around your balcony and windows to prevent them from falling. And if they fall from any height, get them checked out by a vet, even if they don’t seem hurt – injuries from falls aren’t always visible.

Should you put butter on your cat’s paws when you move home?

If you’re moving house with a cat, someone may suggest you rub butter on their feet. The theory is that licking off the butter distracts cats from the move, and helps them feel positive about their new home.

This common cat myth has been thoroughly debunked, however. In fact, putting butter on cats’ paws is only likely to annoy them. What’s more, it isn’t great for their health and it may lead to greasy pawprints around your lovely new home!

Do cats only purr when they’re happy?

One of the loveliest things about cat ownership is the sound of your cat purring. But cat vocalisations don’t always mean exactly what we think they do. Kittens begin purring at just a couple of days old when they feed, and their mother will purr as she nurses them. It’s thought this is a way of mum and babies communicating “I’m here, I’m OK” without making a loud noise that might alert predators.

Adult cats often purr in pleasing situations, such as when being stroked or groomed, but it’s a myth that cats only purr when they’re happy. Some cats purr when they’re exploring; others when they want food (called a ‘solicitation purr’); and some when stressed or in pain. Cats giving birth, or near to death, will often purr. And some cats don’t purr at all.

Some scientists think purring could be your cat’s way of self-calming, like a child thumb-sucking. Others think it acts as a feline painkiller. Some have even suggested it could have a healing effect, by stimulating bone and muscle repair. Purring may just be one of the many puzzling cat behaviours that keep us guessing!

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