The following are 15 urban legends about our Dog and Cat Companions that deserve debunking:


  1. You should give your cat cow’s milk. Adults of any species typically have trouble digesting the milk of another species – and that includes cats. Like humans, many cats are also lactose intolerant, and cow’s milk offers minimal nutritional value to your kitty and could cause an upset tummy.
  2. Giving your dog leftovers will reduce waste. While your trash can or bin won’t fill as quickly, you could be feeding your dog harmful bones, high-fat content foods and even ingredients that are toxic to your dog. Cooked bones are especially known for splitting and splintering, and just imagine what those splinters could do to your dog’s internal organs. Other issues involve gastrointestinal problems and pancreatic concerns. Do your dog a favour and stick to dog food and treats. If you want to reduce waste, try composting instead.
  3. Cats are cold and aloof. If you want a loving, loyal pet, get a dog. Many cats are very loving. Cats are not small dogs, so other than having four legs, a tail and fur like their canine counterparts, they are very different animals and comparisons don’t make much sense. Dogs are by nature pack animals, while kitties are more independent. But cats that enjoy the same status in the family as dogs are often just as loving, attentive and present as their canine companions.
  4. A dog will be fine in the car as long as you crack the windows. Never,ever do this, even if you think you are only running out for a minute. Even in cool temperatures the heat inside a vehicle can rise quickly, and this is even more dangerous in warmer temperatures. Leaving your dog inside the vehicle is as bad as placing your dog in an oven and turning up the heat.
  5. Cats that live indoors don’t get sick or need to see the veterinarian regularly. While it’s true, indoor living is much safer and less disease prone for domesticated kitties, they still need regular wellness visits to a veterinarian. And no matter where your cat spends her time, if she’s not eating a species-appropriate, nutritionally balanced diet, she’s at risk for poor health. An annual physical examination and blood work to detect early organ dysfunction is priceless, in terms of being a proactive pet owner.
  6. A wagging tail is a sign of a happy dog. This is not always true. Tail wagging can also be a sign of fear, anxiety or impending aggression. The tail may wag slower, erratically or while inverted on a dog’s back. Look at the total body language before approaching a dog you don’t know.
  7. Cats don’t stress. Even healthy cats can exhibit symptoms of illness—including going to the bathroom outside the litter box, vomiting, hiding, and a decreased appetite—if there’s a change in their routines.
  8. Female dogs need to have one litter of puppies before they can be spayed. This myth is one of the worst — and one that keeps overpopulation a constant problem. Dogs do not have to produce a litter before they can be altered. There is no evidence that proves this method offers any health benefits, yet there is ample evidence that spaying reduces the frequency of future health problems while reducing overpopulation. Not all dogs are natural mothers, and keep in mind that you can’t predict a litter size. Imagine you allowed your dog just that one first litter and out come 11 puppies. When you can’t care for them or find homes or adopters, they end up at the shelter. Approximately 1 million dogs and cats are euthanised per year in South Africa alone. More info:
  9. Cats can eat dog food. A regular diet of dog food can be extremely dangerous for your cat as it does not contain essential nutrients that your cat needs, such as taurine and arachidonic acid. Taurine deficiency can lead to blindness and arachidonic acid can lead to dry, scaly skin. If your cat has a habit of eating the dog’s food, try to feed your cat and dog in separate areas at the same time and remove any leftovers. If the dog eats the cat food, lift the cat food onto a counter to prevent the dog getting access; this will also make the cat feel more comfortable eating.
  10. Dogs get all the exercise they need in the backyard. Dogs go outside to do their business and maybe investigate around, but they are natural pack animals and want to be by your side. Unless you’re outside in the yard with them encouraging play and exercise, plan to take your dog for a daily walk, hike, swim or any activity that gets them moving. Regular exercise helps promote stable weight and increases health benefits.
  11. Cats are independent, so we can just leave them at home while we holiday. That is a very false statement. It’s really a myth that cats can fend for themselves, they need care and attention and our absence causes them stress and anxiety. They also get bored quite quickly and could develop behavioural issues if left alone too long. What if they had to knock over their water or hurt themselves and there was no one around to help them, you could be seriously injuring your cat by not providing the proper care while you are away. Note: Interactive games are good for cats, if they are left alone for long periods during the day.
  12. A little chocolate won’t hurt. Chocolate can be toxic and life-threatening to dogs. As little as 30g of dark chocolate may be enough to kill a small dog. Keep the chocolate for yourself and nobody gets hurt.
  13. Don’t waste your money on flea and tick products. Just feed your dog lots of garlic. Garlic may keep pests at bay during a short walk, but it should not be seen as a preventive. Opinions differ on the consumption of garlic by dogs, but most agree that trace amounts are okay, but the difficulty with garlic is knowing at what amount it becomes toxic to your dog. It is best to avoid giving your dog garlic for this reason and stick with your vet’s recommendations for flea and tick prevention. Too much garlic can cause an anaemic reaction, gastrointestinal problems and red blood cell damage.
  14. Bathing often is good for my dog. Not really, unless otherwise specified by a Vet, keep the bathing to a minimum and make sure you only use Shampoo that’s made specifically for canines. Human shampoo can irritate a dog’s skin, cause it to dry out and change its PH balance. If you take these steps and still notice flakes or a really bad odour, talk to your Local Vet to make sure you’re providing proper nutrition for a healthy coat.
  15. Brushing a dog’s teeth is silly. Your dog might have the last laugh when his breath makes your eyes water. Routinely brushing your dog’s teeth will not only freshen their breath, it also limits the risk of oral disease and gives you a chance to notice anything unusual happening to teeth and gums. Seriously, don’t brush off brushing. It can make your dog more pleasant to be around and help prevent an array of serious health problems down the road. Ask your Local Vetshop or Vet for help getting started.