Five Life Lessons My Cat Taught Me

1. It’s Okay to Change Your Mind All the Time

Cat parents have seen this a million times: you open the door, they just stand there. You let them in the bathroom, they meow to get back out again. You give them a bite of your tuna they were begging for, they walk away. Even when we think we know what they want, we are often wrong. Applying this lesson to yourself is very freeing. There are so many times we are told to be grateful for what we have, which is an important state of being. But it doesn’t mean we have to stick to something because we thought we wanted it. Humans are agile, emotional creatures and we don’t have to commit to sleeping on the sofa just because we finally made it up there.

2. Demand Attention

Right now, my cat is curled up on lap, which forces me to move my computer to a weird position and cross my legs indefinitely to support her fuzzy butt. She asserted herself when she realized she wanted my attention– a bold move, especially for women. It’s okay to show off how great you are at your job, it’s good to ask for more money, it’s important to vocalize your needs. My cat’s insistent reminders about what she wants let me know that she trusts me, I’ve made her feel like it’s safe to communicate. Cultivate relationships in your life where you can do the same. It doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, but it does mean you will learn to rely on your own voice and be your own advocate. Maybe don’t resort to biting people when they haven’t acknowledged you, but do be intentional about making your presence known.

3. Listen to Your Body

When my cat is dirty, she’ll plop down wherever she pleases and give herself a bath. When she’s hungry, she’ll trot to the kitchen and have a snack from her kibble bowl. When she’s thirsty, she’ll knock over my water glass to help herself, even though there’s a perfectly nice bowl of water next to her food. When she doesn’t want to be pet, she attacks my innocent hand and likewise, when she needs affection she has no qualms about curling up next to me. This is because she listens to her body. If you aren’t feeling well, if you need a break, or if you simply need to get some air, trust the signals your body is sending you. It doesn’t mean you’re weak; it means you are practicing self-care. While I don’t advise licking your own butt in the middle of the office, modify the approach. Go splash some water on your face, leave early, go the gym on your lunch break. Make time to do things for your body and it will reward you.

4. Do Things Just Because They Feel Good

My kitty has many very odd habits, such as meowing under the couch for no reason, playing with my shoes, bumping her head into my nightstand over and over, and purring whenever I pull laundry out of the drier. I have no idea what any of this means, other than I live with a complete weirdo, but you know what? She seems happy. Seeing her roll in an afternoon sunbeam reminds me to take time for the little things I love–like reading an entire book in the bathtub, or having french toast for dinner, or taking a nap in my car midday. If we only do things that make sense, our lives will be incredibly boring. Sometimes it’s important to give into the quirky, harmless urges we have. Let’s just say that I’ve never regretted joining my cat on the floor for a sun nap.

5. Protect Your Alone Time

Have you ever noticed how your fur babies like to hide in boxes or paper bags? Or how they enjoy napping on top of the fridge? Cats require safe, solitary space to maintain happiness. While it might look adorable, it’s sending a clear message: I need some alone time. Humans are not much different. No matter how extroverted we are, everyone needs time to unwind and recharge their batteries. It doesn’t make you selfish, it makes you smart. When we have time to disconnect, we can be more present, more engaged, and more alert when we are social. Take a night to yourself every few weeks to just read a book, or catch up on a favorite show, or hide under the front porch. Maybe your cat will even join you!

6. Pick Your Family

When I adopted my cat, I was initially reaching for one of her litter mates, a cute little orange boy. But my cat, a fluffy white longhair, reached up with her tiny paw and touched my hand. I took one look into her huge blue eyes and could tell that she was the cat for me. Practice the same discernment with your social circle. Seek people out who feel like family and don’t be afraid to choose them.

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