Cats are mystical animals. Pop culture would have you believe they’re capricious, confusing, clever, and conniving. Cat people (or the people who belong to cats, in more accurate terms) have struggled for millennia to understand cats and their mysterious appeal to humans.
The problem with mysticism, of course, is that it gives rise to conspiracy theories that somehow end up being treated as fact — or even policy, in certain cases. People operate under the misguided belief that cats are evil, that cats can’t love, that cats need to be declawed, and that cats destroy stuff just for the hell of it.
Let’s debunk four common cat misconceptions that are actively harming cats:
1-The ‘empty’ food bowl myth
One of the funniest cat memes on the internet is that cats think they’re “starving” when their bowl has plenty of food in it, just pushed to the sides.
Nobody talks about the true reason. Cats aren’t being capricious, lazy, or stupid. They’re being sensitive.
Cat whiskers are finely tuned instruments of detection, effectively giving them a whole new sense and tons of extra information according to Live Science. Unfortunately for them, this means they also get what Pet MD calls whisker fatigue. When your cat is eating out of a bowl and his whiskers are repeatedly hitting the sides, this can actually be too sensitive or even painful for his delicate senses.
So they eat what they can — the middle — and leave what is literally too painful for them to eat.
This myth has fueled many a meme but can cause harm to cats because it makes you believe your cat is being intentionally duplicitous or lazy. They’re not — they just have delicate whiskers. Consider a wider bowl that lets them eat in peace.
2-The spiteful behaviour myth
My cat, Astrid, started peeing all over the house. Obviously, I was annoyed — have you ever smelled cat pee? It’s nasty. Plus, I was doing everything right: I had three litter boxes, I kept them all clean, I made sure she had enough water. But still, she peed.
My first thought was that she was punishing me, or that she was just doing it to spite me. But on a hunch, I took her to the vet where I found out she had a urinary tract infection which was causing her to act up.
Cats don’t show pain! They hide it because by nature they try to disguise any vulnerabilities. Instead, cat people need to look for clues in their behaviour. A lot of what we could consider “bad” or “rude” behaviour is actually our cats trying desperately to tell us they’re in pain.
The internet prefers to believe that cats have a bad attitude. But usually, they’re just bad at telling you they’re hurting.
3-The myth that cats need to go outside to live happily and fulfilled lives
Cats are domesticated animals, which means they can live perfectly happy and healthy lives indoors. In fact, letting them go outside shortens their lifespan, contributes to a huge amount of biodiversity loss, and doesn’t provide them with many benefits.
Cat people often believe that their cats are bored, so they put them outside to relieve that boredom. Cats are often bored, and need more territory, but there are safer alternatives.
Cats have a three-dimensional view of their territory. By installing tall cat trees (I love Cat Kings trees for my cats), as well as spending more time with your cats and providing a diversity of toys can relieve them of their boredom and territorial disputes.
4-The ‘cats don’t love you’ myth
This is a myth perpetrated primarily by the “dog person” community. Again, when compared to dogs, it might seem like cats don’t love humans, they just see us as convenient tuna can openers. This can lead to a stereotype of cats as ungrateful jerks, which in turn can cause a lot of pain for cats.
People believe this myth because we have a very ingrained idea of what love looks like, and cat love doesn’t always meet it. Dogs show their love in obvious ways that match human behaviour more closely, so no one questions their affection.
But cats do love us, just not always in the ways we know to look for. Nobody questions a baby’s love for their parents, even though babies scream, cry, refuse to explain their moods, and produce vile odours. Cats are the same. They love us, they rely on us, they trust us and they need us.
Petplan lists 10 common ways cats show they love you. My cats display several that you might recognize: head butts, intense eye contact, sleeping on or near you.
Cats really do love their people. You might just have to open your eyes to see it.