Making sense of cat myths and legends

by Sojos | May 07, 2013

Cats have a long history as companions to their human owners, and some seriously wild stories have come out of all those centuries. In some societies, they were treasured; in ancient Egypt, cats were so loved that owners shaved their eyebrows in mourning when a prized pet feline died. In others, cats were on the receiving end of dangerous superstition and were seen as the companions of witches. While we can get a good laugh out of some of the hare-brained tall tales of the past, a few myths have a strangely strong persistence and still affect cats today.

* Black cats crossing your path: The myth that bad luck will haunt anyone whose path is crossed by a black cat is tied to more widespread suspicion of black cats. In England and Europe during the middle ages, black cats were associated with black magic ceremonies, and known as “familiars” of witches. We might think we’re too savvy for those beliefs today, but shelters note that black cats are more difficult to adopt out than their more colorful counterparts.

* Cats and seafaring: For animals are supposed to hate water, cats and sailors have shared a surprising bond over the years. Cats were often kept onboard ships as good luck charms, and their behaviors were believed to be predictions of fair or foul weather. Interestingly, sailors’ wives in England kept black cats – maligned as they were elsewhere – as talismans to protect their husbands at sea.

* Cats should have litter of kittens before being spayed: This particularly dangerous myth is still going strong today, even when shelters are full of cats that need homes. Spaying can generally be done when kittens are 8 weeks old, according to the ASPCA.

* Cats don't need as much protein as dogs do. Think your little kitty can get by on a saucer of cream and no meat? Think again! Cats need high levels of animal protein (about 34 percent of the calories in an adult cat’s diet, 40 percent for kittens) to get all the amino acids they need, and a raw cat food diet can help with that. As a ratio of their whole diet, cats actually need more than dogs, which is just one reason why feeding dog food to a cat is a bad idea – kitty needs more protein!

While some old legends can make for an entertaining read, knowing the truth behind the myths still around today is important and can help protect cats’ welfare.