Fact or Fiction? Feline Myths ExposedPublished December 15, 2008
Humans have always found felines somewhat of a mystery. Therefore, it only goes to reason that cats have endured many (and oftentimes preposterous) myths about them for centuries. Many of these tales have been absolutely absurd, while many others are believed by a fairly large number of people. Of course, since a myth is a type of story or legend, many other people wonder if these kitty chronicles are absolutely true, partially true or completely false. Below are just a few of the many myths - complete with the truths and/or falsehoods shadowing them - behind the mysterious creature known as the cat. MYTH: Cats only purr when they are happy. FACT: While it is a well-known fact that cats do indeed purr when they're happy, this isn't always the case. Oftentimes, they will purr when they are in pain and, believe it or not, even when they are dying. Also, cats have been known to purr when they are giving birth - which is an extremely distressing, laborious and excruciating experience. Unbeknownst to most humans, a feline's purr is more an expression of emotion than an expression only of happiness. MYTH: All Tortoiseshell cats are females. FACT: While the immense majority of Tortie cats are indeed female, an occasional male, although extremely rare, will show up in a litter of kittens. However, the vast majority of these multi-colored males are sterile and cannot reproduce. MYTH: Cats will "suck the breath" out of a newborn if it gets in the infant's crib. FACT: This myth simply is not true and is an old wive's tale. The reason people have believed this legend is much simpler than a cat "sucking the life" out of a baby. Although infants have been found deceased while a cat is in its crib, the truth of the matter is that kitty was only cuddling with its little pal and accidentally smothered the little one by stretching out and covering the infant's mouth and nose. In no way is this an intentional act. To keep this from happening, however, parents should NEVER leave the family cat (or dog) unsupervised around their child. MYTH: Black cats bring bad luck and have long been associated with witchcraft. FACT: For a long time in Europe pagan religions -- such as witchcraft -- were the dominant belief and all cats, but especially black ones, were supposedly the witches' comrades. During the rise of the Christian religion in Europe, the church decided that witchcraft was evil. And since the church attributed cats to witches, cats were thereby deemed evil by proxy. Also, since felines are primarily nocturnal and are unbelievable stalkers -- allowing them to sneak around during the night - made humans extremely paranoid. So, being associated with the darkness of night, unfortunately didn't help their image since the color "black" has always been associated with evil -- due to our ancestor's misinterpreted fear of the night. MYTH: Red/orange cats are almost always male. FACT: While the statistics are high that a red/orange tabby is usually male, the female gene sometimes sneaks in and creates a somewhat unusual red/orange female -- although it seems most cat owners have had at least one of these supposedly "uncommon" cats in their lifetime. Perhaps their uncommonness is becoming more common. MYTH: Cats always land on their feet -- no matter how far they fall. FACT: It is true that cats can twist their bodies around while in the air if falling from a great distance and, most times, will land on their feet (which probably doesn't feel too good on their precious paws). However, broken bones are a concern from a fall from a balcony in someone's apartment. Owners must NEVER allow their cats out on a balcony unless there is some kind of screening in place and there is no chance for kitty to escape. Because the worst accidents usually occur from city high-rise buildings, this phenomenon has been termed "High Rise Syndrome" by veterinarians. Cats who fall from shorter distances, however, may become seriously injured because they do not have enough time to twist their bodies around and "right" themselves, thus they may not land on their feet. Sandra L. Toney is an award-winning author who lives in Plymouth, Indiana. She is proudly owned by her three cats.