Common Cat Myths

Last month we discussed dog myths. Can’t leave out our feline friends, can we? The following are the most common questions and misconceptions and myths that we hear. If you have any questions, feel free to ask us at desk@districtvet.com

Cats always land on their feet.

Not quite true. When cats fall or jump, they try to right themselves and land feet first, but sometimes the fall is from too low a height, limiting the time that a cat can right itself. Many cats that fall break bones in their legs or jaw and can also injure their lungs. Be sure windows have good screens and are as cat-proof as possible. And then there are cats that are klutzes. 

You should give your cat milk.

Please don’t do this. Cats cannot digest lactose, the main sugar in milk, which causes diarrhea in many felines. A lick or two every so often is generally not harmful, but larger or more frequent amounts can lead to problems. 

Indoor cats cannot get rabies.

Almost any mammal is susceptible to the rabies virus. It is also uniformly fatal. An indoor cat should always be vaccinated against rabies as cats may escape (I once treated a cat that fell out of a 13th floor window) or may come into contact with the number-one carrier of rabies, bats (happens much more than you want to believe). Vaccination is mandated by law in most jurisdictions.

Cats are untrainable.

Definitely not true. The problem is that most people do not take the time to train a cat. I have seen cats trained to use the human toilet, trained to sit, roll over, fetch, and myriad other things. Training a cat can increase the bond between you and your cat. And it’s good for their mental well-being. 

Most tapeworms can be caught from cat food.

The most common tapeworm in cats is not obtained from food but from fleas. The common cat flea carries immature tapeworms. Cats, through regular grooming, eat the infected fleas, which then grow into adults in the cat. Cats can also get certain tapeworms from eating infected mice and other rodents. If your cat has fleas or goes outside, it should be treated for tapeworms at least once per year. 

Indoor cats do not need to see the doctor.

The biggest myth of them all, and completely false. Indoor cats age like any other creature. They can develop many problems, from dental disease, to kidney problems, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, you name it. And many viruses are airborne, allowing indoor cats to get common cat illnesses. By having regular veterinary exams and vaccinations, your cat will have the best chance of living a long, healthy life. Cat hasn’t been to the vet in the past year? Schedule an appointment!

Pregnant women should not own a cat.

The concern is toxoplasmosis, a parasite of some cats. It is transmitted via stool, and the easiest way to avoid problems between pregnant women and cats is to avoid touching cat feces. The parasite also needs to sit in the stool for at least 24 hours before it becomes infective, so if the box is cleaned at least daily the risk to anyone is minimal. 

Cats can heal wounds by licking them.

In most cases licking a wound makes things worse. Any cat with a wound that is more than a simple scratch should be seen by your veterinarian. Licking of wounds can lead to infections, which can be life-threatening. 

You can save your drowned iPhone with cat litter.

True! Not a myth. Here’s the skinny. If your phone is dropped in water there’s a good chance it is dead, but try shaking out as much water as possible, let it air dry for an hour or two, and then place it in a bag of silica-based cat litter, aka crystal cat litter. Give it 48 hours. You may get lucky. 

Questions or concerns about your feline friends? Drop us a note: desk@districtvet.com.

Hill resident Dan Teich, DVM, practices at District Veterinary Hospital, 3748 10th St. NE, 202-827-1230.


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