9 life lessons I’ve learned from my cats

Kasha and Scooter with Annette

At the beginning of each year, we often consider how to change the way we live. This year, I’m going to use my cats as role models.

The ancient Egyptians worshiped cats. I suppose in some ways I follow their lead. My husband Jens and I have two cats, and they have the upper hand in our house. We get lots of pleasure and affection from them, and they’ve also taught us some valuable things about how to live life. Here are nine life lessons I’ve learned from my cats.

1. Be appreciative. Purr when someone does something nice for you.
One reason we enjoy petting cats is that they often purr in response. Purring is a cat’s way of showing thanks and appreciation.

People like to be appreciated—whether that’s giving a smile and a thank you to the person who holds the door for you, or giving kudos to your spouse for cooking a nice dinner or even just taking out the trash. Every day, think of a way to let someone know you appreciate something they’ve done for you.

2. Focus on a single task.
Cats are great at focusing their attention on one thing at a time. Maybe it’s the bird on the other side of the window or the spider crawling up the woodwork. A cat couldn’t catch a mouse if it was multi-tasking. You will be more successful if you quiet your mind and only do one thing at a time.

3. Connect with your people.
One of our cats, Kasha, is a homebody. Jens and I are her people. She almost always greets us when we walk in the door. When we’re at home, she may come visit us to ask us to play with her, to sit on our lap or just to hang out in the same room, to spend time near us.

Our other cat, Scooter, is gregarious. When he goes outside, he has a busy social schedule. Neighbors tell me he has walked into their living room, hung out on their front porch or slept in their apartment. They tell me these stories with fondness. It’s clear they all think they have a special relationship with Scooter.

Scooter recently had an abscess and had to stay inside for a few days until he got better. After a couple of days, the next door neighbor knocked on the door to make sure Scooter was all right. He missed his friend.

4. Find sources of comfort—and bask in them.
Our cats seek out patches of sunlight and luxuriate in them. Yesterday I found both cats asleep on chairs facing the sun coming in a south window. They stretch out to maximum length so they can absorb more of the sun’s glow.

Kasha has a favorite spot in front of the heat register and behind the bathroom door. She’s found a way to capture the warmth and concentrate it in a small space. Scooter is good at finding a towel, pile blanket or pillow that makes his life just a little more cozy, then he settles in for a long winter’s nap.

5. Speaking of naps—get more sleep.
I saw a cartoon recently that showed a cat getting up to leave the room. The cat said, “I’d better hit the hay. I’ve got to be up in 23 hours.” I don’t think cats really sleep 23 hours a day, but they are the king and queen of the long nap.

I always thought a cat nap was something short—that is, until I had cats. Now I realize the priority they place on a good night’s rest, and then a good day’s rest. We don’t have time in our busy lives for a nap after breakfast and one after lunch, but we would all be healthier if we took a clue from our feline friends and turned the lights out earlier at night.

6. Be playful.
Many of us take our lives too seriously. We are always busy with work and chores and obligations. I bet we would be happier if we took time every day to do something fun. I don’t think we would enjoy chasing string or batting around a fuzzy mouse toy, but I suggest looking for ways to loosen up a bit.

Play with your kids or pets if you have them. If you don’t, read the comics or watch a comedy on TV, or do something just because it’s a little off the wall.

A funny hat or pin, a skip in your step or even a little soft shoe, will add life to your day. It will probably also make someone else smile and lift their day too.

7. Be curious. Explore your world.
Kasha needs to check out the attic and the closets every week or so, just to see if something has changed. Scooter does the same with the backyard.

If you have a garden, walk through it often in season to see what may have bloomed or unfurled or changed color. In this winter season, take a walk through your neighborhood to look at Christmas lights that are still up or the stark outlines of dormant plants. Perhaps your neighbor’s evergreen tree or shrub shows its beauty better with only bare branches in front of it.

8. Be patient.
Kasha will sometimes sit on the bathroom counter for a half hour and even an hour, waiting for one of us to come by and turn on the water so she can get a cool, fresh drink. Scooter will come to my office in our basement while I’m working and curl up on the floor until I take a break. When I get up, then he asks for a snack (he always wants a snack) or to go outside.

I tend to rush things, to want something to happen right now. But life doesn’t always have those speedy rhythms. There’s an old adage: Good things come to those who wait.

9. Be flexible and stretch.
A friend once told me, “Everything I know about stretching, I learned from my cat.” When cats get up from a nap, they often take a moment to STRETCH their backs and legs. On the other hand, WE tend to get short and stiff muscles.

Stretching is not only good for our bodies, it helps brings oxygen to our brains. I bet we would be happier, healthier and more alert if we stretched as much as my cats do.

There you have it. Nine lessons I’ve learned from the cats in my life. I hope you’ll take away something that will help your life be better tomorrow and for days to come. Meow . . .

Ed. note: In honor of my 10th anniversary in business, I am updating and reposting some of the posts from my (now-defunct) Sage Enviro blog to make it easier for people to find them.

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