Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lessons I learn from my cats...

After doing social work for awhile, you find yourself starting to observe life through a unique pair of glasses. I'm sure it's no different for an engineer, a medical professional, or anyone who works in a fairly specific, or narrow, type of field. For me, I tend to see things from a sociological point of view.

We live with five kitties. As any cat person will agree, every cat has a unique personality. Amber is nervous and neurotic; Hannah is stylish and refined; Precious is solitary and opinionated; Camille is a practical joker and a ringleader; and Tigger is the elder-statesman and the peacemaker in the pack.

I see so many things in them, and in the way they interact with each other, that I try to apply to my own life, because the concepts are so simple, yet so brilliant at the same time.

  • Simple acts of kindness: So often I see one of the cats asleep, or simply relaxing somewhere, and another one will walk by and give them a few quick licks on the head or the face. My lessons: When was the last time I did something nice for someone? When was the last time I smiled at a stranger? When was the last time I was kind? When was the last time I gave someone dear to me a hug for no reason?

  • Sharing and taking turns: All of the cats have their own favorite spots in the house. Some of these spots overlap. The cats all seem to share these spots on some kind of a schedule they've worked out amongst themselves. Of course they already share all the food and water bowls, and all the litter boxes in the house, and this is done without any spats whatsoever. My lessons: When was the last time I shared something that I consider to belong to me? When was the last time I got out of the comfy chair so someone else could sit in it? When was the last time I let someone else use the computer before I was done with it? When was the last time I let someone else go first?

  • Having fun: All of the cats, from the eldest to the youngest, play with one or more of the others at least a little bit every day. Whether it's racing the Kitty 500 throughout the house; playing hide and seek in a box, under a chair, or behind the couch; playing find the paw stuck under the bathroom door; or just wrestling around on the bed: the cats seem to instinctively realize how important simple play is for stress release and socialization. My lessons: When was the last time I stopped taking everything in life so seriously and had some fun? When was the last time I laughed at myself? When was the last time I looked at my DH or son as a playmate?

  • Being satisfied: Our youngest cat, Camille, is a bundle of energy whether she's playing by herself or with others. Her absolute favorite toys are the plastic rings off of milk jugs. She could care less about expensive toys that came from the pet store. An old tennis ball, or a sock, is just as much fun as anything. My lessons: When was the last time I was satisfied with the tons of things I already own? When was the last time I refused to spend money on yet another bag or a pair of shoes I don't need and will barely use? When was the last time I was just happy with my own good life, and not envious of others?

  • Forgiveness: Our cats get into little squabbles sometimes. Sometimes it actually about something. Sometimes it's just somebody in a bad mood who doesn't want to be bothered. I can't tell you how many times I've seen an argument occur, and then just a few minutes later, the same cats are grooming each other - argument happily forgotten. My lessons: When was the last time I forgave someone immediately and completely whether they asked me to or not? When was the last time I asked for forgiveness after I hurt someone? When was the last time I truly forgave and forgot?

  • The need for attention and affection: Not one of our cats is at all shy about coming to one of us when they want some love or attention. They'll insist on you moving your lap full of paperwork so they can sit there. Sit smack down on your keyboard until you pet them. Follow along behind you and meow until you come and pet them while they eat. Sometimes they only want a few minutes, sometimes a lot more. But they sure know what they want and aren't shy about asking. My lessons: When was the last time I actually asked my husband to spend some time with me, instead of expecting him to read my mind, and then pout because he didn't figure it out? When was the last time I was more aggressive in our bedroom instead of always waiting for DH to make the first move? When was the last time I told DH out loud that I need some attention from him? When was the last time I stopped doing something "important" and accepted some love and attention, or gave it to someone else?

I'm sure there are many others, but those are the ones that come to mind right now. Animals are so often thought to be simple or stupid - a lower form of life. I disagree. Yes, many of the things they do are based on instinct, but how much smarter do they live their lives?

And oh how much do I have to learn.....


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