We run across a lot of myths when we're teaching. I thought we'd cover a few on the blog so that you can see what's out there. There are a few that we hear over and over and over again and those are the three that I'm sharing with you today.
1) Once they taste blood, they crave it. This isn't just something we hear out of the children. We've heard this out of adults as well. I've had concerned adults ask me if feeding a raw diet to my dog is smart because it encourages blood thirst. I'm not really sure where this started. I know it's often used as an excuse to kill wildlife (bears, mountain lions, tigers) - and I've never read any proof of that either. Dogs and cats attack for various reasons, none of them craving blood. Behavior problems exist. When untreated with proper behavior modification, the aggression can escalate. Fear based training can make the problems worse as well. That dog that is repeatedly biting isn't doing it because the first taste of blood made him or her crave more. This has been a hard myth to combat, but we're trying.
2) Cats have nine lives. This one is mostly from the kids. I blame cartoons. I can't remember how old I was when my father busted this myth. This does not come to us in question form like #1 does. "Cats have nine lives." That comes out as a statement. Not just from elementary school students either. I had a high school student make that statement a few weeks ago. There is much shock, and more outrage, when I debunk this one. "What?!?!" I had an eight-year-old proclaim while crossing his arms indignantly upon hearing, "Cats only have ONE life. Once they're dead, that's it. They don't get another chance."
3) Swallowing a hair, whether it is dog or cat, will give you cancer. The kids tell us that their dog or cat can't sleep inside the house because if they sleep on the bed and you swallow a hair, you get cancer. This is a hard one to fight because it's ingrained in certain cultures and passed down from generation to generation. Dogs are viewed as dirty and if you swallow their hair, it has very serious health consequences. How do we try to combat it? We use ourselves as examples. Lily doesn't sleep on the bed with us because the cats won't let her. But I tell the children that I've been sleeping with cats on my bed for the last twenty years - cancerfree (knock on wood). Meredith has been sleeping with dogs on her bed for almost ten with no health consequences. Dogs don't have to sleep on the bed with you, but they should sleep inside the house with their family.
4) Owls can turn their head all the way around. This is kids and adults (my own mother being one of the adults - thankfully, she's attended my City Wildlife presentation and no longer believes this one). Did the Tootsie Pop owl turn his head all the way around? Because I remember growing up believing this one as well. I hate disappointing the kids, but I tell them that they can still turn their heads 270 degrees! That's more than our 180 degrees. It falls short of all the way around, though.
What about you - any myths you hear? Or ones that you grew up believing?