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Top Myths and Misconceptions About Cats and Dogs


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When it comes to our pets, there are cat myths and dog myths that keep being accepted as fact. These are untruths we’ve heard and possibly retold over the years, and they’re often harmful to our pets.

Be it thinking cats can drink milk or the belief that dogs operate in a pack and must thus be taught who’s the “alpha” – there are several pet misconceptions that we seem to keep believing. We’ve rounded up some of them in this article…

Dog myths and the “alpha”

There’s a belief dogs operate in packs that follow and submit to one dominant leader – the alpha. With this myth, in order to train a well-behaved dog you should establish yourself as the alpha in the household so they know where they stand. This is also referred to as dominance training, and has been a popular way to train dogs since the 1940s.

In the last few years, vets and animal behaviourists (read about what is a pet behaviourist here) have dispelled this myth. They’ve instead revealed that it’s a cruel and often ineffective way to teach your dog.

The alpha dog myth originates from a study in which researchers observed a pack of wolves in captivity to draw conclusions on dog behaviour. The first problem with this study is that wolves don’t behave the same in captivity as they do in the wild. The second is that dogs just simply aren’t wolves, and we shouldn’t be basing our assumptions of their behaviour on that of a wolf.

Dominance training typically relies on fear and punishment to establish command over a dog – which is not the way you want to build a relationship with your pet. There’s also evidence that this form of training may increase a dog’s aggression. Positive reinforcement dog training is a much kinder way of establishing a relationship with your pup.

This Bulldog and Alaskan Malamute are fighting about dog myths and cat myths

Cat myths about milk

One of the most enduring myths about cats is that they can drink cow’s milk. The truth is, though most kitties certainly like milk it isn’t really good for them.

Cats are lactose intolerant, so cow’s milk upsets their stomachs. Like humans, their digestive systems don’t have the enzymes required to process lactose. Drinking milk can lead to gastrointestinal and other digestive system problems.

You should never give cow’s milk to kittens, as it may cause diarrhoea, which can actually be life threating to them. If you have a kitten younger than six weeks old that, for whatever reason, can no longer suckle on its mum, be sure to get them special kitten formula.

A lick of your ice cream or a small amount of milk every now and again won’t harm your cat, but you shouldn’t be giving them bowls of milk daily. Milk also has a high fat content, which can lead to obesity. Got you wondering? You might want to check the average cat weight to determine if your cat is a healthy size.

If eliminating milk just narrowed your cat’s breakfast options, you may be wondering what your kitty likes to nosh on. We have some ideas in our ‘what do cats like to eat for breakfast‘ article.

Beautiful little kitten, licking water from a bowl placed on the living room floor next to a window, breaks the cat myth about liking milk

Cats and dogs eat grass when they’re sick

Research shows that 79% of dogs eat grass. But why? Grass tends to induce vomiting in cats and dogs – which can alleviate nausea. So yes, they may eat it when they’re feeling sick, but that’s not the only reason.

Some eat it because grass actually tastes nice to them – especially in spring when it’s green and fresh. Puppies and kittens who are learning about the world experiment with snacking on just about anything. Grass is one of those things.

You should become concerned about grass eating if your pet is doing so excessively and throwing up several times in the space of a few hours, or if they’re eating grass and not their usual food. This may be the sign on an underlying issue.

Read more in our write-up on why dogs eat grass.

5 other popular cat myths and dog myths

Here are some more myth-busting facts to take to your next dinner party:

1. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks
While puppies may pick up information quicker than older dogs, it’s still very much possible to teach an older dog new tricks. Here are 5 easy dog training tricks to get you going.

2. All cats hate water
The majority of cats aren’t fond of water. But some are! Ragdoll cats, for instance, are known to love pawing the water from the tap, fountain or stream. Other cats swim like pros and can spend hours in the water! Just check this little whiskered wader go:

3. Cats have nine lives
Of course, we know that cats only have one life – but this age-old saying may have contributed to pet parents thinking cats are more robust than other animals and don’t need regular vet check-ups. That’s not true; cats need annual wellness check-ups, vaccines, dental exams and nutritional consultations to spot or prevent an illness BEFORE it becomes a problem.

4. Not a cat myth! They always land on their feet (OK, almost always)
This is one that’s actually not one of the myths about cats! Unless they’re severally injured, cats will almost always land on their feet. The reasons are pretty interesting – check out our piece titled “Do cats always land on their feet?” to see why.

5. Dogs are colour blind
Dogs aren’t, in fact, completely colour blind. They see in more than just shades of grey, but they don’t see a full spectrum. Check out our piece called “Can dogs see colour?” to learn more.

two stripey cats jumping in the air

Other animal misconceptions

If you’re a dog or cat parent, you may have other pets in your home. Twitter user @catherinesclaw shared an interesting thread of animal misconceptions you might want to look at. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but we really shouldn’t be putting fish in bowls or hamsters in metal cages… and so much more.

Just click on the image below:

Here’s a myth we’d like to bust: pets don’t need insurance

Now that we’ve busted some common cat myths and dodgy dog myths, here’s another important one that needs correcting: You don’t need pet insurance.

Wrong! Many people believe that pet insurance is unnecessary, or that it’s only for certain breeds known to have health issues. The truth is, all pet owners should seriously consider safeguarding their finances and fur kid with pet health cover. Read up if you’ve ever asked: Is pet insurance worth it? 

PD Insurance offers comprehensive cat insurance and dog insurance plans that are affordable and can be paid month-to-month – so you’re not locked into any annual contracts. And that’s no myth! Get a quote today.

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