Animal Superstitions - Fact or Fiction?

by Danielle Cookish

From fireside folklore to bedtime stories, tall tales about animals have been shared for centuries. Like every good urban legend, some details may change with each retelling.

Cats Have Nine Lives

Cats are associated with keen senses, tactical behavior, and unmatched displays of balance. Cats are the tightrope walkers of the animal world; confident as if they know they’ve got a bank of extra lives, just in case. The true origin of this claim is unknown but has a presence throughout history. Egyptian sun god Atum-Ra was associated with the number nine and was often depicted in the form of a cat. In Chinese culture, the number nine is considered lucky. Nine symbolizes divine completeness in both Hinduism and Christianity and holds a place of purpose in Norse and Greek mythology.

Dog Saliva Has Healing Powers

Dogs have their own set of superpowers when it comes to using their senses to follow a faint scent on a trail or even detect spikes in a person’s blood sugar. Science proves that spending time with a dog can lower your blood pressure and increase feel-good hormones oxytocin and dopamine, which contribute to less depression and anxiety. But do those wet dog kisses really have healing properties? Nope. Canine saliva contains some antibacterial properties, but not nearly enough to kill harmful bacteria or heal wounds. We’ll still take all the kisses, though.

Our Pets Can See Ghosts

We’ve all been there. It’s late at night and all seems calm. Suddenly, your dog or cat’s eyes become fixed on something just behind your shoulder. They freeze, staring into the darkness while you scream internally and silently prepare to see an actual ghost. Lucky for us, this phenomenon is simply a display of their impeccable senses. A speck of dust may have caught just enough light to win their attention or that sharp hearing is collecting sounds that we as humans simply can’t hear. A sudden case of the zoomies is likely just a burst of excess energy. These are all likely explanations, but we’re not saying they’re not seeing ghosts.

Stepping in Dog Poop is Good Luck

This animal superstition brings us to France, and this one has rules. The act of stepping in dog poop doesn’t mean a good luck jackpot. It depends on how it happens. If you’ve made contact with your left foot, expect good tidings and luck. Right foot? Anticipate the opposite, starting with the anguish of cleaning your shoe.  As shelter workers, we associate stepping in dog poop with either foot to be a stroke of bad luck, but if it helps animals get lucky and find their dream home, we’ll keep the hoses handy.

The Human Years/Dog Years Scale

The most difficult part of our time with dogs is knowing that their lifespans are much shorter than ours. We’re all familiar with “dog years”, but how accurate is it? Not at all!


Variables including breed and life stage aren’t accounted for in this popular equation. Small dogs tend to live longer than very large breeds and all dogs grow at very different rates during puppyhood. With all this considered, we’ve got a lot of dogs aging at different speeds. With this in mind, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has established a more accurate guideline. The first year of a medium-sized dog’s life actually equals around 15 human years. A dog’s second year matches up to around nine years of human life. After a dog’s third birthday, they’ll age approximately five human years each year going forward. While it isn’t a perfect estimation, it helps us understand how our dogs are feeling through their many stages of life.

Go back