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Understanding your cat is essential to providing a long, healthy life

Know the facts to give the best care possible.

Whether it's a tip from a neighbor or something you discover on the Internet, myths about cats can steer you in the wrong direction. Here are the facts about some common myths:

Cats may have nine lives, but are they immune to rabies?
Just like that big dog in the movie "Cujo," cats can carry rabies, too. But don't expect them to go crazy and hold a family hostage in a remote location (re: Cujo). Nonetheless, cats should be vaccinated regularly according to local laws. Vaccinations are effective in keeping your cat clear of infection.

Should pregnant women avoid cats due to possible disease infection (toxoplasmosis)?
Expectant mothers can interact with cats; it's the litter box that's a no-no. Toxoplasmosis is spread through feces and litter. As long as pregnant women avoid contact with the litter box and have someone else clean the litter box area, there should be no problems. So feel free to continue mothering your cat while you're waiting for your baby.

Without whiskers, does a cat lose all sense of balance?
It's hard to imagine how an idea like this got started! Cats use their whiskers as "feelers," but not to maintain balance. How a cat positions its whiskers can also be an indication of mood. Whatever you do, don't cut a cat's whiskers or pull on them. Whiskers are rooted deep in the skin where nerve endings are abundant.

Got milk? Got cats? Can your cats have milk?
A cute cat quietly lapping at a saucer of milk. What could be more natural? The truth is milk packs a lot of punch for such a small animal. Many cats get diarrhea from milk and too much milk can quickly add up to an obesity problem. Your best bet is sticking with well-balanced nutrition formulated specifically for cats. Save the milk for your cereal.

Brushing a cat's teeth is silly. Give me a break.
Well actually, your cat will have the last laugh when his breath makes your eyes water. Routinely brushing your cat's teeth not only freshens 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 cat more pleasant to be around and help prevent an array of serious health problems down the road. Ask your veterinarian for help getting started.

When cats scarf down grass like it's fettuccini Alfredo, does that mean they're sick?
While several theories about animal grass consumption exist, veterinarians have no proven answers. However, research indicates an amazing possibility: animals may just like to eat grass. So don't panic if your cat nibbles at the lawn from time to time. If the nibbling turns into a daily feast, talk to your veterinarian.

If you put garlic on your cat's food, will it help get rid of its worms?
While putting garlic on your cat's food may give your cat the impression you are a gourmet Italian chef, garlic may cause anemia in cats and should be avoided.