Cat Mysteries Solved

    5 Common Myths explored

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    So you think you know cats? Let’s take a closer look at this often misunderstood creature.

    Myth #1: Cats are solitary animals that don’t need exercise or play time. Cats entertain themselves.

    Somehow the idea has gotten around that cats are aloof and solitary creatures. This probably comes from the fact that most cats do not seek to please their masters or show obvious signs of affection in the same way most dogs might. Tail-wagging comes to mind. But the truth is, cats are very social creatures that crave attention and affection from their human family. Prolonged separation or lack of attention can be stressful for cats. This stress can manifest as excessive grooming, inappropriate litter box use, hiding, or vocalization. Sharing playtime with your cat is great exercise for the cat and a great stress reliever for both of you.

    Myth #2: Cat litter box issues are a behavioral problem or occur out of spite.

    Improper litter box use is one of the top reasons cats are given up to shelters and humane societies. Failing to use the litter box may be associated with a medical issue, box placement, number of boxes in the home, type of box, type of litter, or stress and anxiety. Always start with a visit to your veterinarian. If the problem is medical, your vet may prescribe a special diet or medication. If not, there are many changes you can make to your cat’s home environment and litter box to help retrain your cat to use the box properly.

    Myth #3: Cats are grazers and need to have dry food left out for them all day.

    Many cat owners object to canned food due to cost, smell, or mess. Besides, free feeding dry food is much easier. But think about what and how wild cats eat: meat, in small meals. Leaving dry food out all day can lead to kitty obesity, which in turn can lead to many other health issues. Meal feeding is not for everyone’s lifestyle, but it can help with portion control and appetite monitoring, especially with obese cats or cats with medical conditions. Canned food helps with weight loss because it has a higher protein to carbohydrate ratio than dry food. Talk to your veterinarian before changing your cat’s current diet. Most cats will benefit from a combination of both dry and canned formulations, fed in measured portions at meal times.

    Myth #4:  Cats and dogs can’t get along. Adult cats never get along with other cats.

    Bringing a new dog or cat into an existing cat’s household usually requires an adjustment period. When introducing a new pet, it is extremely important to provide your cat with its own space and resources (food, water, bedding, litter box). Introductions should be limited and slow at first, and they should never occur without an adult family member present. Every cat is different and will require a different amount of time to accept a new furry family member. Many cats truly enjoy the company of dogs and other cats.

    Myth #5:  Cats are easier to own. They don’t require much maintenance or care.

    Unlike dogs, cats don’t need to be let out to use the bathroom and they groom themselves. This has led to the notion that cats require little maintenance on the part of their human family. Cats require the same regular veterinary care as dogs, and most cats demand attention (play or petting) from their humans in much the same way a dog might. Cats need to be fed regularly and have their litter box tended to on a daily basis. Having any pet is a huge responsibility, but all cat owners know that the rewards of that furry companionship are immeasurable.

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    Samantha Tisnado, DVM
    Samantha Tisnado, DVM, owner of Gayton Animal Hospital and co-founder of John Rolfe Animal Hospital in the West End, has a passion for cat behavior and nutrition and has been working with all kinds of animals for fifteen years. She lives in Midlothian with her own mini-menagerie of furry friends.