One of my favorite websites: www.snopes.com has an extensive collection of Urban Legends with a search-able database. I thought it would be fun to look up some animal related urban legends and share them here. I encourage everyone to check out the site, it has hours and hours of entertaining information.
Claim: Cats suck the breath from babies, sometimes killing them.
FALSE. There are many reasons why people might believe this. A cat is jealous of the newborn or the milk breath attracts the cat. Anyone knows that most household cats don’t actually like milk and would prefer water. As for the jealousy, any actual events on record show only accidental deaths. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) should also be taken into consideration, however very sad. It is a known fact that SIDS is extremely hard on the parents and makes it hard for them to accept the facts. Some turn to possible causes and thus the urban legend may be a way for them to cope with what has happened. Whatever the reason for people blaming the cat, we do know that cats would never intentionally harm us or babies for that matter. I am sure there have been accidental causes of cats sleeping across an infants face and suffocating them. This however, is not what the urban legend suggests. So, if you are worried about your cat having ill intentions toward your newborn infant, please know that this is not the case. What is important to know, for safety purposes, is to be careful not to let a cat crawl all over your infant or sleep in the same room.
Claim: Handling by a human will cause a baby bird to be rejected by its mother.
FALSE. The fact is that most birds have a limited sense of smell and cannot detect human scent. However, if you handle bird eggs while the mother is away from the nest, upon her return she may notice a disturbance in the nest and will take this as an indication that a dangerous presence is nearby. They may temporarily or even permanently abandon their nests as a result. Such behavior is relatively rare, however, and in these situations the mother birds are reacting to visual warnings, not olfactory ones. The best thing to do if you come upon a baby bird or egg is to first determine if the bird is a nestling or a fledgling. Nestlings are featherless or fuzzy and belong in the nest. Fledgelings have feathers and are old enough to leave the nest and be on the ground. Replace nestlings into the nest they have fallen from, but leave fledgelings where you find them. If the nest is damaged you can create a new one from a berry basket or margarine tub that has holes poked into the bottom for drainage. Line it with pine needles or paper towels and tack it up in a tree or shrub as close to the original nest as possible. The parents will return and take up feeding the babies as if they were still in the original nest.
Claim: Tourists who send their dog to a Chinese restaurant’s kitchen to be fed, end up being served their own pooch.
FALSE. This legend is mostly fueled by mistrust of foreigners and their foreign ways. Westerners see these critters as mainly companions. Asian society views these creatures as unproductive and thus as having little intrinsic value. This difference of viewpoints underpins stories playing on the theme of heathen foreigners regarding treasured Western pets as nothing more than foodstuffs. It’s this bit of xenophobia which fuels nasty rumors about Chinese restaurants’ rounding up local cats to turn into chop suey and Koreans being responsible for dog disappearances in any neighborhood they move to.