Cat and dog together on couch

The Truth About Cats and Dogs: Top Pet Myths Debunked

Do felines really have nine lives? Do dogs only see in shades of black and white? While there’s some truth to every lie, don’t believe everything you hear!

We’ve debunked the top myths pet owners fall for, and revealed the truth about your cats and dogs so you and your four-legged friends can live your best, most honest life! 

The Truth About Cats…

Do cats like water?

MYTH: Cats Always Land on Their Feet

Even though cats are pretty graceful and known for landing on their feet despite the height of their fall, the widespread myth that cats always land feet-first is not always the case.

“Cats have what’s called a ‘righting reflex,’ which is a built-in balancing system that helps them orient themselves to land on their feet,” Dr. Jennifer Freeman, a veterinarian at PetSmart, recently shared with INSIDER. “This righting reflex, paired with a vestibular apparatus inside a cat’s ear used for balance and orientation, enables cats to quickly figure out which way is up and rotate their head immediately so their bodies can follow.”

So, while cats do have built-in, gravity-defying abilities, the height of the fall can affect their ability to always stick a landing on all-fours.

MYTH: Cats Have Nine Lives

The proverb cats have nine lives originated due to the fact that cats are one of the most agile, quick-witted and independent pets out there. And, because of that “righting reflex” we talked about, they’re able to withstand falls (up to 32 stories!) that would normally kill humans and other four-legged pets, and sustain minimal injuries from impacts.

So while your cat doesn’t actually have nine lives, their lightning-fast reflexes, quick  decision-making skills, and remarkable agility makes it seem like they can cheat death and walk away from most incidents unscathed. 

MYTH: Cats Hate Water

Although most domestic cats don’t like water, there are a few breeds, like the Maine coon, Bengal and Abyssinian, that love the water, and are even known to enjoy a few laps around the pool! 

Maine Coons especially are known for their ability to fish, and can sit (and even swim!) happily for hours in a pond waiting for an unsuspecting fish to swim within reach.  

MYTH: Milk is Good for Cats

Cats are attracted to milk because of the fats and protein in the dairy – but that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. It’s actually quite the opposite.

Surprisingly enough, cats are lactose intolerant, meaning they don’t have the enzyme (lactase) to properly digest the sugar in milk (lactose), so drinking milk can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain for cats. It’s best to just stick with water to keep your cat hydrated and healthy! 

… And Dogs.

MYTH: One Dog Year = 7 Human Years

The seven dog years to every human year rule comes from simply dividing the average human lifespan, around 80 years, by the average dog lifespan, around 12 years. However, the correlation isn’t so linear. In fact, new analyses show that one human year being the equivalent of seven dog years is far from the truth.

As a general guideline, the American Veterinary Medical Association suggests finding your dog’s true “human-age” works like this: 15 human years = the first year of a medium-sized dog’s life; Year two for a dog = about nine years for a human. And after that, each human year would equate to about five years for a dog

Thankfully, for simplicity’s sake, the American Kennel Club spun up this helpful chart:

MYTH: A Wagging Tail Means a Happy, Friendly Dog

Dogs wag their tails to communicate, and it doesn’t always mean they’re communicating that they’re happy. A wagging tail can convey a range of emotions, including happiness, nervousness, feeling threatened, anxiety, submission, and excitement.

Instead, pay attention to the pace and position of the tail wag. While a happy or excited dog will often have a fast-paced, upright wag, a slow, stiff, vertical tail wag can indicate aggression, and its best to give that pup some space,

MYTH: Dogs Are Color Blind

We’ve all heard the age-old tale that dogs are color blind, but research has shown that dogs have two color receptors (cones) in their eyes. So your dog not only sees more than black and white – they can see in color! They do, however, have trouble distinguishing between shades of green and red, which appear instead as tones of gray, brown, blue, and yellow.

MYTH: A Dog’s Mouth is Cleaner Than a Human’s

Contrary to popular belief, your dog’s mouth is not cleaner than your own!

Aside from the obvious reasons to suspect that dog’s mouths aren’t so clean (we’ve all caught fido licking something unidentifiable off the sidewalk from time to time!), dogs’ mouths are home to an entirely different grouping of bacteria than human’s mouths. Additionally, dogs not only have more bacteria in their mouths than humans, but also have a less-than-optimal dental hygiene schedule, meaning that bacteria continues to live in dog’s mouths longer than that of a human’s. 

However, because your dog houses an entirely different bacteria ecosystem than you, their saliva is mostly harmless. In fact, a kiss from your dog is probably safer thana kiss from a human who shares similar bacteria with you!

As you unlearn some of these common myths, we’ll leave you with one more factoid that’s sure to bow-wow you – although dogs and cats are often portrayed as enemies, they can actually be great companions, so long as they’re introduced properly and aggression is minimized from the start!

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