7 cat myths and their explanations: we’ll also discuss milk drinking

Szénási Szimonetta

2024. May 14 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

There are many misconceptions circulating about our purring companions, some of which even endanger the health of the animal. Below, we'll explain what's true about each.


You likely recognize several of the following 7 myths about cats. Moreover, it’s possible you’ve even held some of these beliefs yourself.

We’ll also delve into the fascinating history of the Egyptian mau

Myth 1: Milk is the ideal food for cats

While cats indeed enjoy the taste of milk and dairy products (especially the fatty cream), the lactose they contain can cause trouble. Adult cats are unable to break down lactose, so consuming milk can lead to abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea depending on individual sensitivity. Since your pet primarily needs meat-based foods, it’s best to choose high-quality cat food to provide the necessary nutrients.
Choose quality food for your pet instead of milk!

Myth 2: Cats cannot be trained

In reality, cats can be trained just as well as dogs, although the motivation differs between the two pets. While a dog may learn solely for the attention and praise of its human, cats are most motivated by food. Teaching them requires a longer process as their attention needs to be continually captivated. The reason why owners spend less time training cats can be explained practically: while a cat, as an excellent hunter, naturally performs household duties (such as pest control) without any training, a dog’s abilities are mostly harnessed through training.

Nevertheless, training can make your cat’s life easier. Firstly, spending time with them strengthens the bond between you, which is essential for the animal’s mental well-being. Secondly, teaching them, for example, to use a carrier, can reduce stress during travel.

You can teach your cat many tricks too

Myth 3: Curiosity killed the cat

The saying goes that a cat’s curiosity is so strong that it will risk its life for exploration (which likely led to the belief that they have 9, or sometimes 7, lives). However, the reality is that the level of adventurousness varies from cat to cat. During mating season, their instincts may indeed lead them to take risks. Courage can be advantageous for a cat, for example, if they are the first to secure food. But it can also lead to their demise, as they are both predators and prey. Hence, caution can also be beneficial.

According to Science Focus, the earliest record of this saying dates back to the 16th century when it was phrased as “care killed the cat,” with “care” meaning worry and stress. It’s interesting that this phenomenon, which still holds true today, was noticed back then. Cats are very intolerant to stress, which can manifest in physical ailments like bladder or skin inflammation. Therefore, it’s crucial to provide a stress-free environment for your purring companion.

Stress is a real enemy of cats

Myth 4: Cats are domesticated animals

Representatives of various breeds are undoubtedly domesticated cats. But let’s take a look at cats living in colonies! Their lifestyle is closer to wild animals, so we cannot say that they are domesticated pets. However, their lives are not simple (to put it mildly), and they cause numerous problems, especially concerning bird populations. For example in Hungary, their mixing with European wildcats presents a challenge. This is why it’s essential to spay/neuter stray cats and ensure that domestic pets actually live inside the house or the yard.
Indoor life is much safer for your pet

Myth 5: Cats know what their owners are thinking

Scientists have long been interested in whether animals, besides humans, are aware that another being also thinks. While this is an integral part of our communication and our understanding of our fellow humans, it works differently for our pets. Based on observations, dogs can assess whether another dog understood their signals and can modify their behavior accordingly, but this cannot be equated with our thought process. The same goes for cats; they don’t read our minds.

However, our pets can read us, that is, they can interpret various physical and physiological signals from us! Is this contradictory? No, it’s not about mind-reading but decoding different physical and physiological signs. Our emotional changes affect our hormonal processes, so if we’re stressed or anxious, it can be deduced from our sweat or breath. Our body language and vocal tone also speak volumes. In this sense, animals can indeed read us.

Your cat can read many things about you

Myth 6: Dogs have a more sensitive sense of smell than cats

If we look at the number of olfactory receptors, then indeed, dogs have a sharper sense of smell. However, both animals possess what is called a vomeronasal organ, located on the roof of their mouths behind the upper incisors, as an extension of the nasal cavity. Cats utilize this organ much more precisely. They can process a lot of information with their vomeronasal organ.
They can process a lot of information with their vomeronasal organ

Myth 7: The origin of domestic cats can be traced back to ancient Egypt

It’s still true that based on archaeological evidence, the earliest domestic cats indeed come from Egypt, specifically around 4000 years ago, but the latest research on cat DNA pushed this story back by about 5000 years.

Dr. Carlos Driscoll and his colleagues at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, examined the mitochondrial DNA of hundreds of domestic and wild cats. They concluded that domestic cats diverged from the African wildcat Felis silvestris lybica not 4000 but 10,000 years ago. After this, domestic cats spread from their place of origin throughout the Near East and North Africa. Occasionally, they interbred with wildcats while gradually becoming more distinct from them, especially concerning their tamability.

The exact location of this place of origin is still uncertain: the DNA of today’s wildcats from that region should be very similar to that of domestic cats worldwide, but due to the prevailing political situation in the region, it has not been possible to collect enough samples to determine this.

It seems, therefore, that domestication of cats did not occur in a single event in Egypt but rather gradually over thousands of years from wildcats. Over time, they became increasingly domesticated while retaining their hunting abilities, which proved invaluable in keeping food stores free from rats and mice.

dairy flehmen reaction milk myth myths about cats smell

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