Those that are conversant with the traditions of the Yoruba people in the Southwestern part of Nigeria know that respect for the elderly is considered one of the pleasant attributes an individual must possess. Consequently, the elders of the society are considered infallible and whatever they say is considered sacrosanct - that was in the past though, things are changing rather at a fast pace now.
Due to the infallibility with which the elderly are held, many misconceptions relating to lifestyles generally have been passed across several generations. Thanks to science and education in general, some of the fairytales that have been passed down as facts have been, and are still being, challenged and the misconceptions clarified.
A few days ago, just after praying in the mosque, I got in an exchange with someone that is elderly - old enough to be my father, as the Yorubas always say it. We were talking about how Proxy's - a cat that my family will not allow me to bring homw - appetite improves with the addition of palm oil to his foods. Then the elderly man exclaimed how wonderfully strange cats can be. He went further to explain how cats mate with the male cat just jumping over and across the female cat. In order words, he simply said that mating in cats does not involve any form of coitus.
"That is not possible sir." I interrupted.
"Ask everywhere, that is exactly how cats mate." he insisted.
Some of the younger folks, like my agemates, also corroborated what the old man said. Yes, I was outnumbered but I was not going to allow a major misconception to pass without me challenging it. Yes, I have never read about cats mate in reality, but I was 100% certain that what the man said cannot be true. It does not sound logical that a female cat will become pregnant simply because a male cat jumped over her. At least, we all know that the egg of the female must be fertilized by the sperm of the male before fertilization and pregnancy can take place.
Could it be that the male cat's sperm traveled by air into the fallopian tube of the female? The answer is outright NO.
Thank goodness I went to the masjid with my Tablet. I quickly Googled how cats mate in real life and showed it to the educated youths among us that have taken sides with the elderly man. I asked them to read it.
Domestic cats, indeed, do mate normally like every other animal in the cat family. The male cat has a penis that is usually barbed - a feature that helps stimulate ovulation in the female. Thus, the female cat does not ovulate normally until during coitus.
Basically, the female cat signals her readiness to mate by certain attributes which the male cat picks up as an invitation to mate. The set of features displayed by the female cat is known as lordosis. They include raising the tail to one side in order to expose the vulva, bent forelegs, raised back, etc.
During mating, the male cat will mount the lordosis-displaying female cat from the rear, use his teeth to hold her neck, and then insert his penis through the vulva of the female cat. On average, a round of sex in cats is known to last from 2 to 3 seconds to as long as 10 seconds. The withdrawal of the penis often leads to a cry by the female cat because of the barbs and this is known to stimulate ovulation about 20 hours after.
All these processes are what I explained to the man. Of course, cats are generally known to be shy animals and as such, might not be seen around having sex in the open quite often. The male and the female cats might play with one another and that might involve them jumping over each other. However, that cats have not been seen mating in the open does not mean that seeing them jumping over each other is what leads to fertilization and pregnancy.
Like I said earlier, society considers the elderly infallible to the extent that they often consider themselves so. Despite all the explanation, I was not sure the elderly man was convinced. I mean, how can a boy that is young enough to be my last born tell me that a belief that I have been holding since self-awareness is no longer true?
At least, I did my part by educating them.
Do you know of any scientific misconception about cats in your country? Feel free to share.
Thank you all for reading.