10 Things We Can Learn From Cats That Will Make Us Happier, Healthier Humans
I recently wrote an article “What We Can Learn From Dogs That Will Make Us Happier and Healthier Humans” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-zawistowski/10-things-we-can-learn-from-our-dogs-that-will-make-us-happier-and-healthier-humans_b_7772094.html. Cats, clearly, would want to share their wisdom too. They have a different view of the world than dogs and both make our lives richer. While dogs are seemingly more concerned with your happiness, cats are more concerned with their own. What follows are 10 essentials to being more successful in work and life inspired by observations of my own cats, friends’ cats, and those that just show up for breakfast and dinner.
1. I love you but I love me more. Love yourself first. Clean your fur often, get 18 hours of sleep per day (or the human equivalent), eat little bits throughout the day rather than large meals and pursue things that interest you. Set high standards for yourself in all ways and stick to it as if no other options exist. Make yourself a priority at all times, physically, mentally and emotionally. When you are healthy in every way, you will see a world ripe with catnip mice and opportunity.
2. Accept the gifts and honor the intention. I will occasionally bring you a dead mouse or bird (or mostly dead anyway). It’s a gift. Even if it isn’t a gift you want, I gave it to you because I love you. There are gifts everywhere. Notice them, search for them and honor the intention of the giver whether it be a cat, some inferior animal (anything not a cat), a human or from the universe itself.
3. Focus on what you really want and be relentless about getting it. “No” is not an option. I’m hungry. You will get out of bed now and feed me or I will keep batting your eyelashes and walking on your hair as I cross your pillow. I will be pooping on the floor next to the litter box until you clean it out for me. I need to sit on the porch and I know you would love to get up right now and make that happen. Do the work to get what you need and want and enlist others to help you.
4. You teach people how to treat you. Role model how you want others to treat you and, gently but firmly, do not accept anything less. I would love for you to pet me now so I will rub on your legs and show you my charming side. And if you walk away I will follow you. Ok, now I’ve had enough so I’m going to bat your hand with my claws just slightly exposed. Please do not pet me when I am not in the mood.
5. Act like you are royalty. Be confident on the outside even if you’re not always there on the inside. If you fake being self-assured long enough you will trick your brain into believing it! Royalty does not do tricks, wear frilly clothes or acquiesce to any other ridiculous requests that are beneath me, might dirty my fur, cause me stress or wear me out. If I do something it’s because it’s good for me in some way. Yes, I’m sitting above you, staring down at you. As it should be.
6. Appearance matters. Clean your fur and wear nice accessories. Unlike dogs who will happily wear anything, with my kind the collar matters. It should reflect my personality. Bling, studs or simple elegance. I need my collar and other accessories to make a statement of who I am. Like it or not, your appearance shares how you feel about yourself with the rest of the world. Even though you have eloquent words, if your fur and accessories are a mess you undermine your royalty.
7. Be independent. I rely on you for food and water because I am in your house but I mostly rely on myself. I know that I get me through every day and am responsible for my own happiness. I love companionship but I need downtime too. I am in charge of my moods, emotions and needs.
8. Respect is essential. I will claw you, or at least respond with complete and obvious disdain for an extended period of time, if you wake me from a nap, take my catnip toy, bring a dog home or otherwise disturb my environment. And don’t bring home another cat either. I’m enough. I need all the attention you have time for. Please do bring home as many fish and birds as you like. Respect for me and our shared environment will make your life with me easier and I will be happy. I don’t need much but I do love respect.
9. Walk through your fear. Climb to very high places like on top of the door, refrigerator or a top shelf even if you don’t know how you will get down. Go where you want to go in life and don’t be afraid. You always find your way home even if you don’t know how you will do it while you’re on the journey. Being paralyzed by fear is for lower animals with much smaller brains than mine or yours.
10. Keep moving forward. You will land on your feet when you fall. And then act like you meant to do that. Don’t hold on to the act of falling, hold on to the act of being on your feet after the fall. We all fall from time to time. Get up and go forward. I don’t over analyze why I fell, enlarge the fall to a debilitating story about myself such as “I can’t do it” or “I’m not good enough” or “bad things always happen to me” or blame the fall on someone else. I don’t generalize the fall to other bad things that have happened or could happen. I leave it at, I fell. On to the next adventure.
While the advice dogs would give is more about emotional connection, happiness and love, cats are more practical and likely to teach you that obstacles and setbacks do not define you and that you are in control of your needs, emotions and goals.
Both perspectives are correct and necessary for a happy, healthy and prosperous life. Sometimes you have to take a hard stance with yourself particularly when considering where you are now and where you want to be but live every day to the fullest because the present moment is the only one we know we have for sure. And if you are lucky, you have furry companions close by to remind you what’s important.