You can't teach an old dog new tricks, cats taking revenge on their owners by urinating next to the litter tray, etc. We all know them, the many proverbs and myths told about dogs and cats. Whether it's a family member who says that cats can't learn anything, or a Facebook post that calculates the equivalent human age of your dog, there are lots of myths doing the rounds that can sometimes be quite damaging. This month, we separate fact from fiction and tell you which information about your dog or cat is a myth!

1. You can't teach an old dog new tricks

You're sure to know this saying, and perhaps you've also used it a few times, but is it true? Many dogs really enjoy learning new things. Not only does that stimulate their brains, it's also a great way to work on your bonding. Old dogs also enjoy learning a new trick, although you'll need more time and patience to succeed. Old Fido would love to learn something, but it has to be at their pace! And of course, you mustn't try to teach any ambitious acrobatic tricks, because their joints and muscles just can't cope with that any more.

2. When a cat exposes their belly, they want you to rub it

Cats have various reasons to expose their belly, but not a single one has to do with rubbing. The belly is the most vulnerable part of the cat, because that's where the organs are. Thus, it's a sign of trust when they turn on their backs in a certain situation: it means they feel so safe and relaxed that they don't have to watch out for predators. So don't rub their belly, but caress the head instead. But do pay good attention to the cat's body language. Cat's also lay on their back when they are being attacked, because they then have all four paws (with claws!) free to tackle the attacker.

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3. Dog mouths are cleaner than human mouths

Yet another persistent myth that we often hear. But have you ever really noticed what your dog licks and chews? Human mouths naturally contain many bacteria too, but at least we don't use it to wash our rear end 😉. Luckily, this doesn't mean that a dog's kiss will immediately make you sick. Want to do something about the hygiene of a dog's mouth? Then make sure your dog is free of parasites (like worms) and also brush their teeth regularly.

4. You can't train a cat

This myth arose from the fact that cats stem from solitary animals. As a house cat, they are also solitary and do what they like, which is obviously inconvenient if you want to teach them something. But just as cats are perhaps less solitary than we think and do like to have other cats, humans or pets around them, cats can be trained. In fact, it can lead to lots of behavioural problems if your cat can't learn anything. You can teach cat all kinds of things, from letting you brush their whole body to tricks like rolling over, or sharing a high-five! Just like with dogs, positive training works the best. So don't punish them for undesired behaviour, but reward them for good behaviour! Thus you can teach Fluffy the craziest things, even walking on a lead!

5. You mustn't try to reassure your dog if they are afraid of fireworks or thunder

This myth is persistent, and very harmful too. Some say you should ignore a dog if they're afraid of something like fireworks or thunder, because that might make even more frightened. But that is far from the truth. When dogs are afraid, they namely seek comfort by those they trust the most. Ignoring your dog in these situations is actually counter-productive and could cause more stress, making your dog even more afraid.

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6. Kittens don't have to be socialised

This is another myth arising from the notion that cats are solitary and so must also be raised in solitude. But an unsocialised cat suffer from great behavioural problems. The socialisation period of a cat takes place around week 2 to week 7. In this period, a cat coming into contact with strange people, other cats, different rooms in the house and perhaps even other animals, will be much easier to deal with. Not only will the cat be more sociable and easier with others (like the veterinarian), but such happy, social cats are more likely to build a strong bond with their owner.

7. 1 dog year equals 7 human years

This is an old myth, probably based on the fact that humans live to be 70 years old on average and dogs 10 years. Therefore, 1 dog year equals 7 human years. But this isn't entirely true. Dogs do age faster than humans, but it's not as simple as 1 = 7. A dog ages faster in the first years of their life than in later years. So after 1 dog year, a dog is 15 human years old, and in the early 20s after their second year. It also varies according to breed. Smaller dog breeds live longer than larger breeds, something that scientists don't yet fully understand A small dog of 16 equals about 80 human years, while a really big Fido is already 120 human years old.

8. A cat misbehaves to annoy me

We often wonder where all these negative cat myths originate from. Some believe that cats behave badly to annoy their owners, like defecating outside the litter tray. But cat's don't have feelings of resentment or revenge. There are often underlying reason why your cat suddenly shows undesirable behaviour. It can be a health issue, or your cat can be suffering from stress or anxiety. Punishing this behaviour can be counter-productive, because it raises the stress and deteriorates your bond. If your cat suddenly behaves strangely, always try to find and then remedy the cause, perhaps with the aid of the veterinarian.

 

Our general knowledge is full of pet myths that have arisen through proverbs, language and, yes, animal myths! Hopefully, we've managed to deflate a few for you, for not all myths are harmless. Some can even have great consequences for the bond between your and your pet. Happily, these myths will no longer bother you (or your pets!)