Tuesday, May 18, 2010 9:38 AM

Myths About Cats Abound on the Internet

I love doing research on the internet. I love reading and researching anyway, and have spent many hours over the years doing just that in numerous libraries. Internet research, however, allows me to do this type of work in the comfort of my own home. I don't need to drive anywhere - heck, I don't even have to change out of my jammies. It's quick (relatively), and I don't have to return the books to the stacks afterward. However, I can't always rely on the authenticity of the information I find.

The very nature of the web allows anyone with access to a computer to instantly publish anything they want - be it interesting, boring, offensive, true or untrue. Hence, there is a lot of "junk" online that purports to be the gospel truth about any given subject. Many of us are able to sift through this morass and extract the gems, but many others cannot. That is why it is so very important to critically examine everything you read on the internet.

I often run across articles regarding feline nutrition, for example, that contain the same myths and misinformation that we have heard many times before. Recently, I read an article that was encouraging readers to feed their cats dry food because it cleans their teeth. The author, who claimed to have worked with the SPCA at one time, claimed that cats on wet-food-only diets have premature dental problems. She claimed that cats in the wild "chew on large bones" to clean their teeth naturally, and dry cat food takes the place of this activity in the domesticated life of our cats.

Can you see anything wrong with this logic? For one thing, how would wild cats obtain "large bones"? Cats are small animals and thus hunt animals smaller than themselves. Small rodents and birds have bones that the cat consumes for its calcium content. But, as any cat owner with outdoor cats knows, they do not eat the largest bone - the skull. That is always left behind. It is simply not in their nature, and it is not necessary. If one were to apply this logic further, one could claim that cats love tuna because their wild ancestors were often invited on deep-sea fishing excursions! It is true, of course, that cats were often part of the sea-faring crew, long ago, in order to control the mouse and rat populations on board. It is possible that they were given some nuggets of fish to eat on occasion, as well. But their main diet consisted of vermin, which is what they naturally hunt, anyway. The only reason that domesticated cats love tuna is because cat food manufacturers use the remains of the huge tuna fish processing industry as cheap cat food ingredients. Normally, a cat would never even see a tuna, never mind eat one.

Tomorrow: More myths and half-truths regarding feline nutrition.
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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