Dawn Armstrong
Special to the Tribune

Back to: News
February 18, 2013
Follow News

Pet column: Some of the truth about cats

Cats, wild and domestic, fascinate scientists and pet owners alike. However, shelters overflow with stray and abandoned cats. The reason is a lack of understanding of the unique qualities and the real needs of the species. Cats are the pet least likely to receive veterinary care, including basic vaccinations. They are assumed to be self regulating, self entertaining, and just plain "selfish." Here are some cat truths. -

Coat color determines personality. Limited studies give credence to this idea, but it's mostly human lore - that calicos and tortoiseshells have way too much attitude, for example. There's a thought that black cats have been victimized through the centuries because they are among the most friendly felines and thus were easiest to catch.

Milk and fish are favored and nutritional treats. Many cats refuse milk and fish. After kittenhood, a cat's digestive tract usually becomes lactose intolerant so that drinking milk brings diarrhea and stomach upset. Milk offers no nutritional benefit. Fish is not a natural cat food, lacking taurine which is essential for feline health. Working cats on ships ate rodents.

Being independent and aloof is a typical trait. Cats hunt alone but naturally form communities. Pet cats most often are affectionate with humans and each other with no competition for food. A shy or wary cat will blossom with time, nonthreatening enticements and patience.

Pregnant women should avoid pet keeping. Toxoplasmosis infection can come from direct contact with cat waste, but most often comes from a person eating rare meat. Contracting the disease is remote, especially if the litter box is changed with gloves on, hands are washed with soap, and no stray cats are handled. The best precaution is simply for someone other than mom to take on litter box cleaning duty.-

Humans get punished if they offend their feline. Unusual or undesirable behaviors such as spraying signal a medical issue or stress. Cats do not act in spite, nor do they exert what is termed "dominance." Behaviorists have determined that fear causes cat aggression.

Punishment works - you can't train a cat. Teaching a cat house manners is no different than teaching a human child or a dog. Positive reinforcement or withholding attention or a treat gets a point across without causing anxiety or defensive aggression while preserving the human-animal bond.

They always land on their feet. Agile and flexible, cats can turn in the air to right themselves if a fall is high enough and there is enough space to twist body and tail in time. Even then, broken bones, jaws, and internal injuries can result. Cats do not always land on their four paws.

Purring and kneading mean contentment. Purring does signal contentment. In addition, in both wild and domestic cats, purring can signal pain, illness, stress or need. The purr may helps a cat calm and heal. There are a variety of purr tones. Kneading, and even drooling, in a human lap is thought to be kitten communication transferred from queen mom to person caretaker.

Night vision is perfect. With large eyes for their body size cats can make the most of dim light for hunting success at dusk and dawn. Felines need only one-sixth the brightness humans need to detect movement and light changes. Focus is poor, however. Cats cannot see any better than people in total darkness.

Black cats are bad luck. In many countries, black cats are good luck. White cats are the ones who bring on the bad.

Visit the shelter to discover how a fascinating feline can challenge your mind, enrich your life, and warm your home.

- Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help "Keep Tahoe Kind." Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.


Explore Related Articles

Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Feb 18, 2013 04:33PM Published Feb 18, 2013 02:44PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.