Throughout the ages, as long as people have been aware of their surroundings, there have been myths to explain what was unexplainable at the time. This is true of everything, and many people and animals were tortured and put to death for beliefs that are now considered nonsense. Many were accused of being witches, for example, and we know what happened to those poor souls. Not all of them were women... some were animals, including cats.
Unfortunately, some of those nonsensical ideas are still around and sometimes cats are still paying the price.
The following beliefs about cats are old wives' tales and need to be discarded for what they are.
1. Stealing a baby's breath. Oh come on... No one knew what SIDS was until recently, but cats are still being blamed for it by some people. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is now better understood, and a scientific explanation has finally been published. Although this is a very recent development, it is still ludicrous to believe that a cat could ever suck the breath out of a child. Cats often will rhythmically press their paws on someone as a gesture of contentment, (called treading or kneading) and they often extend those feelings to infants in the family. Can you imagine patting your favorite uncle on the back as a gesture of love, then being grabbed in the middle of your warm feelings and being beaten to a pulp? Surely, many cats have died while wondering what the heck they did. Wow... loving humans can be dangerous.
2. Eating raw meat causes cats to go wild. OK, Fluffy may growl menacingly while gnoshing on a morsel of raw meat. Yes, it's a throwback to an instinct, harkening back to a wild time in the history of cats, when they had to defend their kill from other predators, even from each other. But today's gentle housecat is just answering the momentary call of the wild, which will be immediately forgotten after they've eaten. Big deal.
3. Cats are not quite domesticated and will go wild if released. Abandoning a housecat to the streets or the countryside is nothing less than a death sentence. They do not "go wild." They can't. If they weren't born out there, with a mother to teach them survival skills, they simply will not survive. Mostly, they die of starvation, exposure, injury and disease. Just watch television one day. Catch a documentary on wild animals. Notice that wildlife experts who rescue orphans have to train them to hunt and find their own way before they can be released back into their territory with others of their kind. Why would anyone expect a tame cat with no training to go wild, when it takes concerted effort to help one that *was* born wild to go back?
4. They'll eat when they get hungry enough. No, they won't. Cats will die for some of the simplest of reasons. Cats are very sensitive, emotionally, and will starve to death if they are removed from their familiar surroundings... and that includes their people. Any shelter will tell you that some cats, surrendered by people who no longer want them or can't keep them, will die because they miss their home or their humans. They will not eat. Period. Soon, physiology takes over and they go into liver failure. They rarely recover from this. A cat that comes into a shelter must be watched carefully to note any signs of depression. If they are not eating, action must be taken immediately to either force-feed, or to find a way to elevate their mood.
5. Cats will soil your bed, pillow, clothes or anywhere that particularly annoys you, as a means of revenge if you don't give them what they want. This presupposes that cats have the human emotion of revenge, which, of course, they do not. Cats do not spend their days plotting to get even with you for perceived infractions. It can certainly look like it, since our Behavior A may be followed by their Behavior B. Generally, though, they are not related, no matter how much it appears to be. If you don't even do Behavior A, the cat still may be found doing its thing anyway. These situations are hard to investigate and solve, because it usually turns into a guessing game as we try, fruitlessly, to find out what we did wrong so we can avoid doing it again. This is a good time to consult with an animal behaviorist. It may be a stress reaction to something you can't figure out, and may have nothing to do with you, such as a new odor or sound in the house you aren't aware of.
Cats are great companions and anyone who denies that isn't paying attention. Learn to deal with problems before giving up on the cat.
For more information about cats, visit http://www.theproblemcat.com