Black cat with green eyes look into the camera

Fact or fiction? Pet myths explained

Discover the truth behind these 24 pet myths.

  1. 1. Dogs can fall in love


Although we can’t ask dogs how they feel about us, the powerful bond between dogs and people is clear to see. Dogs develop very strong attachments to their owners, and the majority seem to miss their owners when they are not around.

Many studies also show that dogs release the hormone oxytocin in the presence of people they know – this hormone is linked to positive emotional states such as love and friendship.

Myth Can dogs fall in love
  1. 2. Neutering my pet will change their personality


There is a lot more to personality than just sex hormones, but some behaviours may be reduced, such as roaming, mounting, fighting or urine spraying depending on the species.

Read more about neutering your dog or cat.

  1. 3. Dogs can only see in black and white


Although they can’t see the world in full technicolour like we can, dogs can see some colours. Their eyes detect fewer colours than ours, so their sight is similar to humans with colour blindness.

  1. 4. All cats hate water


Most domestic cats are not big fans of water, but there are some exceptions. Experts think the reason most cats hate water could be because their coats don’t dry very quickly, which can leave them feeling pretty uncomfortable and cold.

Cats' ancestors also evolved in desert areas, where the land is barren and has very little rain, if any at all.

Myth cats hate water
  1. 5. It's better for your female to have a litter before she is spayed


There is no evidence from a medical or behavioural perspective that suggests that this is the case.

Myths horse memories
  1. 6. Horses have extraordinary memories


They say elephants never forget. But studies have shown that horses also have an extraordinary memory, and can remember human friends after long periods of separation. They also have the ability to recall complex, problem-solving strategies for 10 years or more.

 7. Cats only purr when they are happy


Cats do purr when they're happy, but that’s not the only reason they produce this noise. They can also purr when they’re frightened, feeling unwell, in pain or as a way to provide comfort to themselves.

  1. 8. I need to show my dog who’s boss by being the pack leader


Dominance based dog training is based on studies of captive wolves in the 1970s, which popularised the theory that ‘alpha’ wolves become the leader of the pack by being aggressive towards other wolves. But science has moved on and this theory has now been debunked.

Dogs should be treated with kindness and respect, and trained using reward based techniques.

9. You don't need to neuter same sex pairs of rabbits


It's important to neuter your rabbits regardless of whether they are living in a same sex pair. Neutering can help your rabbits to live happy and healthy lives. It can reduce the risks of certain cancers, help your rabbits sustain a healthy bond and help them to become easier to handle.

  1. 10. Horses only sleep standing up


When standing, a horse will sleep lightly, but horses do also need periods of deeper sleep and cannot achieve this while standing. Horses will lie down for a couple of hours every four to five days to get enough rest.

  1. 11. Dogs have their own unique ‘fingerprint’


Only this unique print is not found on their paws, but on their nose. This nose print is as unique as a human fingerprint, and is so distinct that it can actually be used to identify them.

Myths dog noses
  1. 12. Dogs only eat grass when they are sick


Dogs also eat grass because it’s tasty.

  1. 13. Cats always land on their feet


More often than not, cats will land on their feet when they fall from a reasonable height due to their incredible instinctive 'righting reflex'. But, this is not always the case.

They need to be able to 'right' themselves when falling, which might not be possible. Even if they do land on their feet, they can still get seriously injured as their body may not be able to absorb the shock of the fall.

Every year Blue Cross vets treat cats that have become injured after falling from a height.

  1. 14. Rabbits should eat lots of carrots


Rabbits should only be fed carrots as occasional treats. Their diet consists of plenty of hay and/or grass, leafy greens and small amounts of rabbit pellets.

myths rabbits
  1. 15. Cats can see in complete darkness


Cats are much better adapted to seeing in low levels of light than us, but they can’t see in the dark.

  1. 16. I won’t be able to show my dog if I have them neutered


Changes in the Kennel Club regulations mean that neutered pedigree dogs can be shown.

17. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks


Puppies’ and younger dogs' brains soak up new information like sponges and they learn quickly but, while it takes a little longer, you can train an older dog.

Some senior dogs develop a condition called cognitive dysfunction, which makes it harder for them to learn new tricks and can cause them to forget their training. Contact your vet if you notice changes in your dogs behaviour.

myth dog tricks
  1. 18. Rabbits have near to 360 degree vision


With their eyes placed high and to the side of their skull, rabbits only have a small blind spot directly in front of their face. In the wild, this remarkable field of vision allows them to quickly detect predators approaching from almost any direction.

  1. 19. Dogs and cats are left or right handed


Most pets use one of their front paws more than the other, in the same way humans are left or right handed.

  1. 20. Black cats are unlucky


Black cats have been the subject of myth and folklore for centuries. In some countries, they are considered unlucky, while in others, black cats are said to bring good fortune.

  1. 21. Pets licking their wounds helps to keep it clean


Letting your pet lick their wound is likely to do more harm than good. Your pet's mouth is often full of bacteria that can build up inside the wound, leading to infection.

Your pet can also cause additional damage to wounds, causing slow healing because they don't know when to stop licking.

Always follow your vet's advice to prevent your pet from licking their wound.

22. Rats are dirty animals


Because rats can live in sewers in the wild, many people assume they are dirty animals. But that could not be further from the truth.

Rats enjoy grooming and are therefore one of the cleanest pets you can own. They are also intelligent, enjoy human company and make wonderful pets.

myths dirty rats
  1. 23. Cats are nocturnal


Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. This is when hunting opportunities are rife and there’s enough light for them to see well.

  1. 24. All dogs and cats hate each other


Although dogs and cats are often portrayed as enemies, if introduced carefully, they can actually get on extremely well.

myths dogs and cats
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• 18 June 2024

Next review

• 18 June 2027

Claire crouching next to her white staffie dog
Approved by
Claire Stallard

Animal Behaviourist ABTC-CAB

Approved by
Anna Ewers Clark

Veterinary Surgeon MRCVS