Veterinarians debunk some of the biggest myths about cats

Following is a transcript of the video.

Carly Fox: “Pregnant women can’t live with cats.” This is a huge myth. Please don’t get rid of your cat if you are pregnant. “When cats purr, it means they’re happy.” This is definitely a myth.

Ann Hohenhaus: “Cats think their owner is their mother.”

Fox: Obviously your cat doesn’t think that you’re its mother. I’m Dr. Carly Fox. I’m an emergency and critical-care veterinarian at the Animal Medical Center in New York City.

Hohenhaus: And I’m Dr. Ann Hohenhaus, also at the Animal Medical Center, but I’m an internal medicine and oncology specialist.

Fox: Today we’re going to debunk some cat myths.

Myth #1

Fox: “Cats love milk.” I mean, I think this is sort of an image that has been put forth throughout our childhood, like, in storybooks and in movies and on TV, but unfortunately, cats, as they get older, actually are lactose intolerant. So their bodies actually can’t even digest milk. As kittens, they have an enzyme called lactase, which helps them break down milk, because they are supposed to be drinking their mother’s milk.

But as they get older, that enzyme, which is usually very present, goes away. And then they’re unable to digest milk. So if you feed milk to an older cat, or really any cat after they’ve been weaned from their mother, they really can’t digest it. Even though they seem like they’re really enjoying themselves, it actually can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Hohenhaus: You can go to the pet store, though, and buy cat milk. [laughs] And the cat milk has two things that make it special for cats. One is it’s lactose-free, just like the lactose-free milk you can buy in the grocery store. But it also has extra taurine added to it. And cats require taurine in their diet. So it’s just an extra source of that amino acid special for cats.

Fox: I mean, who knew?

Myth #2

Hohenhaus: “Cats are nocturnal.” How can you be nocturnal when you sleep 23 hours a day? [laughs] The typical cat sleeps 23 hours a day. They wake up long enough to kill some prey, eat that prey, and then go back to sleep until the next time they’re hungry.

Fox: They’re actually crepuscular animals.

Hohenhaus: They’re what?

Fox: Crepuscular. That means that they’re active during dusk and dawn, which goes back to what you just said about them hunting. So, that’s how lions hunt. They hunt in the dusk or the dawn, where they can, you know, see prey better, hunt, and kill, and our domestic cats actually evolved from that. So they’re actually supposed to be most active in the morning and in the evening, but not necessarily in the middle of the night. Though some cats obviously are.

Hohenhaus: Well, and they are most active in the morning. Ask any cat owner. At 4 o’clock in the morning, that cat’s walking on your head and running over the bed, trying to get you up, because they don’t have to hunt for breakfast. They just have to get you up.

Myth #3

Fox: “Cats hate water.” Can’t say that every cat hates water, but, I mean, in my experience, most cats definitely dislike water, as in they don’t like being bathed in water. You’re definitely not gonna see most cats go for a swim. I’d say most cats don’t love water, but when cats are feeling unkempt, perhaps they do like water.

Myth #4

Hohenhaus: “Cats think their owner is their mother.” [laughs] I think that they just see you as a source of food and comfort and cleanliness and a safe place to live.

Fox: Yeah, obviously your cat doesn’t think that you’re its mother, but they definitely think that you’re its caretaker and they need you, but, you know, another person could probably fill in that job just as easily for your cat, honestly, so I don’t think that cats think that you’re their mother. But some people definitely think that.

Myth #5

Fox: “Pregnant women can’t live with cats.” This is a huge myth. Please don’t get rid of your cat if you are pregnant. Cats can sometimes be infected with a parasite called toxoplasmosis, which can be shed in your cat’s feces. If picked up by a pregnant woman, this parasite can sometimes cause birth defects or miscarriage, and that’s obviously something we would want to avoid.

Cleaning the litter box daily will help with this. You definitely don’t want to leave the litter box to go for more than one day because that can increase infection. If you do need to clean the litter box, you should just wear gloves. So the best thing that you can do is have someone clean the litter box for you, which is also just great. Who wants to clean their litter box? It’s a break for nine months.

Hohenhaus: So, if you’re concerned about your health or your cat’s health during your pregnancy, be sure to bring up the topic with both your veterinarian and your obstetrician.

Myth #6

Hohenhaus: “Cats can see in complete darkness.” Cats have great night vision. They have, like, a mirror in the back of their eye. And you know that from taking photos of your cat because you see that yellow-green reflection in the camera, and that’s this mirror that’s in the back of the cat’s eye that helps to reflect light around to improve their night vision. And that reflector area is called the tapetum.

Fox: Cats really can’t see in complete darkness. They still need a little bit of light in their eye for it to bounce back and forth within the eye off the tapetum, so complete darkness they cannot see in, but a lot of darkness with a little bit of light, they actually can see.

Myth #7

Hohenhaus: “Human food is bad for cats.” We don’t recommend feeding a human diet to cats, because it doesn’t meet their nutritional needs. Cats are obligate carnivores, and it means they need to eat meat. So your diet is not appropriate for cats.

Myth #8

Fox: “Black cats are bad luck.” I mean, this is obviously a huge myth.

Hohenhaus: I think that black cats are bad luck for themselves, because they don’t get adopted from a shelter as readily as a pretty gray cat or a flashy tricolor cat. So the bad luck is actually for the cat, not for you.

Myth #9

Hohenhaus: “Cats don’t love people or babies.” My mother was so worried about this when I was having a baby, because I had these cats. And she said, “Those cats are gonna climb in the crib and suffocate my grandson.” Nothing like that happened. Babies are unpredictable, and they smell different than people, and they make different movements than people, and they have stinky diapers. So I think this actually might partly be true. It’s not that they don’t like babies. It’s that they’re different than the people they’re used to.

Myth #10

Fox: “Cats always land on their feet.” Well, cats do have an excellent righting reflex, meaning that a lot of the times they actually do land on their feet, and that has to do with their anatomy and their vestibular system. However, unfortunately, I’m an emergency doctor, I live in New York City. I see many, many, many cats not land on their feet. Definitely don’t think that your cat will just be fine if it unfortunately falls out of your third-story window or even from your top of your refrigerator.

Hohenhaus: And when they fall, they’ll land on their chin, and they often fracture their wrists, and then if they belly flop, as opposed to land on their feet, they’ll also get air in their lungs or around their lungs because their lungs get a little tear in it and start leaking. So these injuries are severe and life-threatening for cats. So the answer is get screens or don’t open your windows.

Myth #11

Hohenhaus: “Cats and dogs don’t get along.” I don’t have any idea where this would have come from. There are plenty of houses and households in the United States where there are both dogs and cats and they’re perfectly fine. Just like some people don’t get along, sometimes a dog and cat don’t get along, but sometimes you have two dogs and they don’t get along or two cats and they don’t get along. So I think this is more about the personality of your dog and your cat than it is that they can’t get along.

Fox: They’re not gonna be the next YouTube sensation, but I guess they maintain a working relationship.

Hohenhaus: Yeah, yeah, that’s good. A working relationship. We have to work together to be good pets.

Fox: Yeah. Let’s do that.

Myth #12

Fox: “When cats purr, it means they’re happy.” This is definitely a myth, and I can tell you I’ve been scratched by many a purring cat. You know, I think purring is oftentimes associated with pleasure in cats; however, sometimes cats can purr for other reasons, like they’re very nervous, or it’s a warning actually, or they’re hungry, not necessarily that they’re happy.

Myth #13

Fox: “One human year equals seven cat years.” This is definitely, definitely a myth. I think this is something we more associate with dogs, but if you apply it to cats, I think it’s even more of a myth.

Hohenhaus: Well, and if you look at it on the reverse end of the lifespan, a cat can have kittens when it’s 6 months old. 6-month-old cat would be 3.5 years in human age, and clearly no 3.5-year-old children are having babies of their own.

Fox: I hope not.

Hohenhaus: So, it doesn’t work in cats, no.

Fox: Today we debunked some cat myths. There is a little bit of truth to some of these myths that we talked about today, and I think that’s very fitting, since cats are these very particular, special animals that are a bit of, like, a mixed bag, just like these myths.

Hohenhaus: My son’s first words were “meow.” [laughing]

Producer: That’s crazy.

Hohenhaus: He would look at the cat and go “meow.”

Fox: That’s cute, really? [laughing]

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in March 2020.

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Fertility experts debunk 19 myths about getting pregnant and fertility

Duke: “Sex position matters.”

Eleswarapu: So, that is a myth.

“IVF guarantees pregnancy.”

Duke: Oh, boy. It’s a tough myth for patients to hear.

Eleswarapu: “Eating pineapple can increase fertility.”

Duke: Oh, that’s a good one. Pineapple by itself, if you have infertility, is unlikely to reverse your infertility.

I’m Dr. Cindy. I am a fertility specialist based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hello,

Eleswarapu: I’m Dr. Sriram Eleswarapu, and I’m a urologist at UCLA. And today we’ll be debunking myths about infertility.

Duke: “Tight underwear is bad for sperm count.”

Eleswarapu: So, there’ve been a number of studies looking at this issue for many decades, and the inevitable question is boxers versus briefs. In truth, it doesn’t matter a whole lot, and we know that if the testicles are a little bit warmer that they are more at risk of having sperm-count issues or sperm-motility issues, but, in general, it shouldn’t matter too much. Just pick what’s comfortable.

Duke: “Sex position matters.”

Eleswarapu: So, that is a myth. No matter what position you engage in, if you ejaculate, you have the sufficient propulsion of the semen to make it up to the cervix, any way you do it.

Duke: People around the world have actually studied it, and no one position has been proven to be better than another.

Eleswarapu: “IVF guarantees pregnancy.”

Duke: Oh, boy. Yes, that is definitely a myth. And it’s a tough myth for patients to hear. IVF does present the highest chances of pregnancy, absolutely. There are a number of factors that play into IVF success. One of them has to do with the age of the eggs being used. It also has to do with the quality of the sperm and the egg when they come together. It has to do with the embryo that is ultimately formed. It also has to do with the genetics of the embryo. But then, on top of that, it has to do with the womb in which the embryo will be placed, and a number of factors are not yet fully known. So, we know the immune system plays a role. Diet, exercise probably play a role, but we’re still investigating that. Biggest thing to know is it’s not 100%.

Eleswarapu: “Stress causes miscarriages.”

I think we’re starting to get away from the term “miscarriages.” We’re starting to use the term “early pregnancy loss.” Is that right?

Duke: That’s correct. And I think it’s because “miscarriage” also comes with certain connotations where blame is also ascribed, and the truth is, both early pregnancy losses, there’s nothing the individual could have done about it at all. So now we call it early pregnancy loss before the end of the first trimester, versus second- and third-trimester pregnancy loss. We do not believe stress causes loss. Many people around the world across millennia have gotten pregnant and remain pregnant despite tremendous stress. So we know it’s not simply stress. Nowadays, though, we know the No. 1 reason for pregnancy loss is chromosomal differences in the formed embryo. And so that’s called aneuploidy. 67% of first-trimester pregnancy losses are due to chromosomal issues within the embryo itself. Other reasons would be if the thyroid was not functioning well, if vitamin D is low, if there’s a fibroid in the uterus. If you have a uterus and you’ve had two or more pregnancy losses, you should be evaluated. We always expected that it would be the individual with the womb and the eggs to be the one that gets evaluated for a pregnancy loss. Now the tide is shifting, and individuals who contribute the sperm are also being evaluated when there’s a pregnancy loss in the couple. There’s emerging data that things like DNA fragmentation, where the DNA that are normally supposed to be very tightly wrapped up in the sperm are somehow unraveled and might have little breaks in the DNA strands, and those breaks can contribute to the pregnancy loss.

“Freezing your eggs guarantees that you can have kids later.”

Myth. And the myth is in the word “guaranteed.” If you freeze your eggs, you can stop the clock. And so you’re basically freezing the youngest version of yourself at that point. However, there’s no guarantee that eggs even when frozen will thaw and yield a live-born baby. So it’s really a conversation that needs to happen with your specialist based on your age, based on your egg number.

“Sperm quality doesn’t decline with age.”

Eleswarapu: There’s a lot of data now that is showing that individuals with sperm that is older, say in the fifth, sixth, seventh decades of life and beyond, is more at risk of forming embryos that have chromosomal abnormalities. Getting exercise, eating well are things that can improve the general biology of an individual. Certainly if it’s good for the heart and it’s good for the brain, then it’s probably good for the penis and the scrotum and the testicles as well. We talked about egg freezing, but sperm freezing has its role particularly for individuals who may not be in a relationship or may not be thinking of a family at this time but later on down the road they might want to produce a family.

“It’s impossible to get pregnant after 35.”

Duke: It is possible to get pregnant after 35. The truth is, though, that the chance of pregnancy progressively declines as the age of the egg increases. And so you might find greater and greater need for fertility treatments. When you’re born, if you’re someone born with ovaries, you’d have somewhere between 1 million to 2 million eggs in those ovaries, usually. By age 30, 70% of those eggs are gone, and by age 40, 97% of those eggs are gone. At the same time, those eggs are also aging. And so what we see is that the chance of pregnancy declines very quickly, and then for some people it declines even faster. So if you have endometriosis, if you’re someone who’s maybe had surgeries of the ovaries or needed to be on medications, chemotherapy, radiation, all of those things can also further the decline in the egg number. So my recommendation is, if you have ovaries, at age 30, you should at least be asking your doctor to do a check of your egg number, or what’s called your ovarian reserve.

“The best way to get pregnant is to have sex every day.”

Eleswarapu: It comes down to the ovulatory cycles and making sure that you’re sort of timing things and tracking things, particularly if you’re trying to conceive deliberately. We always get this question, and I want to know what your thoughts are. Should the couple be trying to conceive every other day during ovulation, or every day during ovulation? I say every other day. One, we need to give the sperm and semen enough time to sort of reaccumulate so we can get those millions of sperm. The other is sperm actually survive in the female genital tract for up to five days. So once the egg is released from the ovary, think of the fallopian tube as an arm with a catcher’s mitt at the end. The catcher’s mitt captures the egg, pulls it into the arm, and then the egg sits around there for 12 to 20 hours waiting for sperm. And then if you have intercourse anywhere within the next 24 hours, sperm will also get to the egg. So that’s why we say every other day around ovulation. There is this movement now, particularly on the internet, discussing what’s called abstinence from pornography, masturbation, and orgasm, or PMO. It’s also a movement called no NoFap. And those individuals say to have the best reserve of sperm or the best sort of power with erections or orgasm, that they should conserve for days, weeks, months at a time. This stuff is not scientific at all. And, in fact, after a week of storing up, the sperm may not necessarily be healthy.

“Eating pineapple can increase fertility.”

Duke: That’s a good one. Pineapple by itself, if you have infertility, is unlikely to reverse your infertility. We know that pineapples have bromelain inside of them, which is a compound that is known to be a blood thinner to a certain degree, but it’s very, very weak, and you’d have to eat so much pineapple to even have enough bromelain to have a little effect. You should be having a meal balancing protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. So getting your usual multivitamins and folate into your diet, because folate is really important for once you’re pregnant. But technically, no, pineapple by itself does not boost fertility. Infertility, while a daunting thought, really there are lots of options available. The first step is actually an evaluation. Fertility and infertility constitute this huge spectrum, and there are many, many ways to get pregnant and many things one can do to help facilitate that. And you don’t have to stay at home feeling embarrassed about it. If you talk to a specialist like myself, like Dr. Eleswarapu, we are experienced with this and know how to treat you or direct you to the right person who can help.

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