As someone who grew up with cats and still loves everything feline, I think cats are amazing companions. Historically, though, not everybody has held such positive beliefs about kitties. But by teaching your kid not to believe the old wives' tales about cats, you're setting the record straight for the next generation. In reality, cats are awesome pets that deserve all the love in the world. (But I'm kind of biased.)
However, plenty of myths about cats are still very present in the culture today. Most of them are pretty harmless, but they might give kids the wrong impression about kitty friends. The myths make cats sound like these evil, almost supernatural beings, instead of the sweet and playful pets that they are. But when your kid knows the truth about cats, and understands how to play with them in a gentle and respectful way, they've made a friend for life.
Instead of viewing cats with fear and superstition, it's so much kinder to share your appreciation for these creatures. "I regard cats as one of the great joys in the world. I see them as a gift of highest order," said animal communicator Trisha McCagh. Hopefully your kid will appreciate the gift of cats, too.
1. Cats Steal The Breath From Babies.
This is an old and persistent myth. In fact, print records blaming cats for suffocating babies date back to the early 1600s, as noted by fact-checking site Snopes. However, the myth has been proven false, as further noted by Snopes, and it was most likely born of the belief that cats are evil. In reality, your older kid can safely share a bed with Fluffy.
It's still a good idea to keep your cat out of the baby's crib, though, for the safety of both child and cat, as noted by Romper. Your baby doesn't get swatted, and your cat escapes any potential tail-pulling. They can become best buds when everyone's a little older.
2. A Black Cat Crossing Your Path Is Bad Luck.
It's an old-school superstition, sure. But I've personally met people who believe black cats are bad luck. In reality, though, it looks like these gorgeous creatures are genetically lucky. The genes that make some cats black may be associated with longer life spans, as noted in PLOS Genetics. More research is needed to fully understand this connection, but your dark-hued pet may be with the family for years to come.
3. Cats Always Land On Their Feet.
Well, this is partly true. Cats do have an air righting reflex that allows them to turn in the air and land upright if they fall from some weird position, as noted in Experimental Brain Research. Still, it’s important for your kid to understand that high falls can still be very dangerous for cats.
4. Cats Are Antisocial.
Although some cats are pretty standoffish, the majority of them need love and attention like anybody else. Really, most cats have a strong preference for human social interaction, as a recent study in Behavioural Processes discovered. Encourage your kid to spend quality time with the cat, whether they’re cuddling or playing.
5. Cats Love Milk.
OK, so this may not be the freakiest of myths, but it's still important to know the truth. Although cats may be depicted as milk-drinking fiends in movies and TV shows, it's probably not the best beverage for them. In general, cow milk does not agree with kitty tummies. “Most adult mammals have at least some degree of lactose intolerance — and cats are no exception,” said Dr. Cailin Heinze, VMD, MS, DACVN, in Vetstreet. “The amounts of lactase (the enzyme that digests lactose) that the body produces declines after weaning.” In other words, reconsider that saucer of milk for the cat, which can make them sick. Water is a safer bet.
6. Cats Hate Dogs.
Sure, cats and dogs don’t always get along. But plenty of them form cross-species friendships. As long as you consider each dog and cat living situation on an individual basis, it’s entirely possible for these pets to coexist, as explained by the Best Friends Animal Society. Your kid can learn that even these stereotypical “enemies” can live together peacefully.
7. Cats Have 9 Lives.
It's a comforting thought, but your family pet is not some demigod. However, as long as your kid knows how to gently and respectfully play with the cat, he’ll have a great friend for many years.