Superstitions about pets go way back and only very few have any sound reasoning behind them. But you know what? They’re quite fun and they give us a laugh – which a lot of us could do with after the year we've had!
As it's almost Friday 13th, I’ve been taking a look at some of my favourite dog and cat superstitions (and the truth of the matter!).
1. Dogs and cats have a sixth sense and can see ghosts
All cat owners have probably experienced their feline friend running crazily from room to room, or dog owners might have seen their pooch barking at apparently nothing. Sadly, there’s no evidence out there to suggest that ghosts are causing this. At all.
Cats and dogs can sense things we can’t (for example their hearing is much more sensitive than ours) but this doesn’t mean they’re sensing anything paranormal. They’re just picking up on things that are happening around us that might be too quiet for us to hear. If your cat is running around like something possessed, the likelihood is that they’re having a funny five minutes to get rid of the excess energy they might otherwise burn when hunting (extra playtime is probably needed) and sometimes our dogs will bark at something we can’t hear or maybe they’re just trying to get our attention!
2. Dogs can sense if a person is good or bad
Now I’m definitely guilty of not trusting people my dog doesn’t seem to like (which is lucky really because he seems to like nearly everyone he meets!). But the reality is, our dogs can’t tell if a person is fundamentally ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – they can only go by what they see. Dogs have an amazing ability to read human body language and facial expressions, so if someone is uncomfortable around dogs or doesn’t like them, your dog might recognise that and not get so excited to see them. Does this make them a bad person? Not necessarily, although I may be biased.
3. Cats have nine lives
Cats might seem lucky and lots of us have witnessed that they often land on their feet, but they definitely don’t have nine lives! Our plucky kitties are tough but they sadly aren’t invincible, although there have been plenty who have had a close call and lived to tell the tale (take a look at some of our PDSA Pet Survivor entrants for more information on that).
4. Dogs eating grass means it’s going to rain
Lots of dogs eat grass – some people believe this means it’s going to rain. If your dog eats grass then it rains, the likelihood is it’s just a coincidence. There are a number of reasons our dogs might take a little nibble of grass every now and again – one of the most common being they just happen to like the taste! There’s absolutely no proof that your dog eating grass means it’s going to rain.
5. Stepping on a cat’s tail means you won’t get married that year
While stepping on a cat’s tail is pretty bad luck (because that cat won’t like you anymore) it definitely doesn’t dictate when you will or won’t get married. That’s still down to you, your venue and covid restrictions!
6. A howling dog means death
This one’s a bit morbid and, of course, untrue. Just because you can hear a dog howling, it doesn’t mean someone has died. It probably just means you live near a particularly vocal dog.
7. If a cat cleans their ears it’s going to rain
Another rain myth, but still our pets cannot predict the weather. Generally, cats are very clean animals and like to groom themselves, so unless it’s going to rain every day, this superstition is completely untrue. If your cat is cleaning their ears (which is always super adorable to watch) it’s just because they’re being clean.
8. Stepping in dog poop is good luck
Personally, I’ve always found stepping in dog poop to be pretty bad luck in itself because a) dog poop is gross and b) I have to clean it off my shoe. If something fortunate happens to you after stepping in dog poop then that’s great, but I definitely wouldn’t make a habit of it.
9. Cats spread gossip
This one started in the Netherlands, where it was believed that you shouldn’t have private conversations in front of cats because they spread gossip. If your secrets are out, please don’t blame your cat. They can’t talk. It’s probably the person you told who has been spreading gossip!
10. One dog year = seven human years
There is actually some sort of truth to this one! Our dogs have much shorter lifespans than humans, so it makes sense that we think they age a lot faster than people. But the seven human years to one dog year isn’t a good rule to follow. Different breeds live for different amounts of time, so they’ll all be ageing at different speeds. Smaller dogs tend to live longer than larger breeds, so they’ll age slower. Puppies also grow and change much faster than older dogs, so the seven human year rule definitely doesn’t apply when your dog is young. Many dogs are pretty much fully grown adults by the time they’re one year old!