A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

14 Common “Facts” About Cats That Are Actually False

Updated: Jul. 26, 2021

How many of these cat myths did you believe were true?

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Relaxed domestic cat at home, indoor
Aaron Amat/Shutterstock

Cat myths

Most cat lovers would do anything to defend their favorite pet, but cats can still be very misunderstood. We gathered some of the most common cat “facts” that are actually false to set the record straight. Also, make sure to read up on these true cat facts that are purr-fectly fascinating.

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Small Kitty With Red Pillow

Cats are nocturnal

Cats are actually not nocturnal. “We probably think so because we are most aware of our cats when they are running over our faces at 3 o’clock in the morning. Cats are actually crepuscular, which means they are most awake at dusk and dawn,” says Jackson Galaxy, renowned cat behavior and wellness expert, host of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell and New York Times best-selling author. “This is because in nature, their natural prey is awake at dusk and dawn.”

Over time, you can adjust your cat to your sleeping schedule. You should feed them around the same time every day so that they get into a rhythm. Make sure to avoid these dangerous mistakes that cat owners make.

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Calico cat standing up on hind legs, begging, picking, asking food in living room, doing trick with front paw, claws with woman hand holding treat, meat
Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

Cats are not trainable

“Cats are just as trainable as dogs! Most people do not train their cats because they don’t know how or have heard the myth that cats don’t listen or learn,” says Russell Hartstein certified dog and cat behaviorist and trainer. “However, nothing could be further from the truth. Cats love training and learning just like dogs!” These are the things you do that your cat actually hates.

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A British Shorthair cat looks away as she lies on the edge of a grey sofa in a house in Edinburgh City, Scotland, UK, where, where a yellow blanket can be seen in the background
Carlos G. Lopez/Shutterstock

Cats are low maintenance pets

Cats are not low maintenance pets. “Cats that are housed exclusively indoors need a lot of enrichment in order to stay happy and healthy,” says feline veterinarian Lynn Bahr. They require attention, good quality food, and clean litter boxes. These are the signs that your cat trusts you.

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Top view of a furry tabby cat lying on its owner's lap, enjoying being cuddled and purring.
Impact Photography/Shutterstock

Cats like to be alone and aren’t loving like dogs

“In comparing their behavior to that of dogs, we end up calling cats things like ‘aloof,’ ‘overly independent,’ even ‘unloving.’ It’s not fair that because of who they are (and who they aren’t), we judge cats simply because they are not programmed to make us humans happy as their primary objective,” says Galaxy. “When seen through no other lens than their own, we can see that most cats thrive in communities and in relationships with humans and other animals, and absolutely can and do show love—it just looks different than the love that we perceive dogs give to us.” If your cat seems more mellow than normal, learn about these subtle signs that your cat is depressed.

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 Old tabby cat drinks milk from a cup.

Milk is a great treat for cats

Just like some humans, cats can be lactose intolerant. Even though cats are often associated with milk, you should never feed your cat milk. “All mammals are born with the ability to digest their mother’s milk because their bodies contain the enzyme lactase which breaks down the lactose protein,” says Dawn LaFontaine, a cat shelter volunteer, cat blogger, and founder of Cat in the Box. “Once a kitten is weaned, however, her gut stops producing this enzyme.” Feeding your cat milk can cause an upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. Here’s more of the science behind why cats shouldn’t drink milk.

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Small grey pet kitten starring out apartment window
AlexandCo Studio/Shutterstock

It’s OK to leave cats at home alone for a long weekend

Many people misjudge cats as “loners” and think that if you set them up with an automatic feeder and enough water that you can leave them home alone for a few days. They can get separation anxiety just like dogs do, says Galaxy. They crave attention and having their family around even though they may not show it in the most obvious way. These are some ways your cat secretly shows affection.

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Closeup of angry hissing cat showing his teeth
Norman Chan/Shutterstock

A purring cat equals a happy cat

If your cat is curled up next to you purring while you scratch their head that is typically a sign that they are very content. However, when a cat purrs it can mean a lot more than just happiness. “Cats purr when they are frightened and when they’re threatened. They purr in pain, when they’re injured, in labor and even when they are near death,” says LaFontaine. Here’s how you can determine what your cat’s purr means.

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Little cat playing on the bed
Lucky Business/Shutterstock

Declawing is not harmful

“Declawing is a completely unnecessary surgery. The idea of saving your furniture by destroying your cat’s body is just unacceptable,” says Galaxy. It can physically hurt your cat’s body and takes away a part of them. If you want to get a cat that’s cuddly, these are the most affectionate cat breeds.

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Maine coon cat drinking water with tongue from tap

Cats hate water

It’s true that cats hate getting baths, but they don’t hate water. “Cats are less “waterproof” than dogs, thanks to their constant grooming which keeps their fur oil-free and fluffy, so they do tend to soak through and get cold more easily if they get wet,” sat LaFontaine. “But many cats and kittens are fascinated by water and love splashing and playing in a running faucet, or dipping their paws in full tub.” Two cat breeds that love water and will voluntarily hope in the bath are the Turkish Van and the Bengal.

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Cat outdoors on a green lawn, walking towards you
l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock

Indoor cats live longer

“This is only true if you are comparing indoor cats with homeless outdoor kitties,” says Bahr.  “Otherwise, cats that are owned and have access to the outdoors live just as long as indoor cats do.” See what the cutest cat breeds look like as kittens.

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Dog and cat together. Dog hugs a cat under the rug at home. Friendship of pets
Gladskikh Tatiana/Shutterstock

Cats and dogs can’t get along

On occasion, some cats and dogs don’t get along. But it’s the same as two humans not getting along. It’s all about knowing how to communicate with one another, says Galaxy. Cats and dogs can easily get along as long as we, as their humans, help them to communicate and co-exist. Here’s how to decode your cat’s behavior.

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Funny cat flying in the air in autumn
Grigorita Ko/Shutterstock

Cats always land on their feet

“[Cats always landing on their feet] may be thanks to a cat’s “righting reflex,” an internal balancing system, combined with very flexible backbones, which allows him to twist his body the right way mid-fall,” says LaFontaine. “Cats also have a ‘vestibular apparatus’ in their inner ears which enables them to discern up from down.” However, these systems are not foolproof and during a short fall, a cat may not have enough time to react resulting in a clumsy fall. And, even cats that do land on their feet are not immune to an injury.

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Beautiful feline cat eating on a metal bowl. Cute domestic animal.
Aaron Amat/Shutterstock

Dry food is better than wet food

When it comes to cats, the opposite is actually true. “Canned food is better than dry because it is higher in protein, lower in calories, and contains needed moisture,” says Bahr. Also, learn about why cats can’t eat dog food.

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Calico cat licking catnip from lips
Tanya Plonka/Shutterstock

All cats love catnip

“Actually, only about 50-75 percent of cats are susceptible to catnip’s charms. Sensitivity to the essential oil catnip, called nepetalactone, is actually an inherited trait, and most cats in Australia aren’t susceptible,” says LaFontaine. “And while most cats who respond to catnip seem to enjoy a kind of euphoric high from the plant, catnip can actually make some cats aggressive.” This is what catnip really does to cats.