What My Cats Have Taught Me About Living
If you’ve read my bio paragraph (look to your right, my left), you know that I have two Tonkinese cats.
Their names are Demi and Denté. Sister and brother. Thirteen and ½ years old each (same litter). Though somewhat falling apart physically at this stage in their lives, they’re still pretty “with it” mentally.
Living solo, it’s been a great comfort to me to have these little furry companions over the years. They come running to greet me at the door when I come home (Denté even rolls over so I’ll rub his belly … just like a dog!). They head-butt my face or lick my nose to say “hey, notice me.” And they love to snuggle close by me, under the covers at night.
I couldn’t ask for greater roomies at this stage of my life, as they are a precious source of joy. And in their own little ways, they have even taught me a thing or two about simple living. Or simply living …
Sometimes life bites you on the hind quarters. You can either turn around, stand up to adversity and “fight back.” Or you can walk (or scamper!) away from it. It’s your choice. I see this all the time in my household. It’s the mode du jour. Someone’s always chasing someone and trying to get his or her choppers into a leg, a thigh or a gluteus maximus. Hissing and guttural meowing ensue, and then there’s either confrontation or retreat. Guess it just depends on the circumstances. In the human existence, we can respond to adversity in either way as well. Stand up to it with dignity and courage (if the situation warrants) or walk away (if the alternative shows that nothing will be gained). You must make the choice regarding each situation you encounter in your life journey.
Make sure you’re communicating in a way that others will understand. Demi and Denté are very vocal when they want to communicate with me. This is partly due to the breed (Tonks are talkers!), but it also due to the fact that this is all they know. They don’t give up either. And when they see that I am not responding or did not understand them, then they continue making a communication effort until it is clear that I have understood what they are “saying” to me. Likewise, if you don’t communicate what you want or what you’re feeling, how will others know what’s going on with you? You can’t assume that others will just “know” what you want, need, feel, think, etc. Make sure that you not only send as clear a message as possible, but take the extra step and ensure that your message is understood upon the receiving end. This is imperative for the health and welfare of any relationship.
Love BIG. And if possible, unconditionally. Unless you have personal space issues, who doesn’t love a big hug or welcome from someone who thinks you have hung the moon? Who doesn’t want to be received with open arms and warm fuzzies? Now, unlike Demi and Denté, you may not want to sit in someone’s lap or lick his or her face to express your affection. But why not tell someone how you feel every day? “I love you, Mom. Have I told you that lately?” Or “Holli, you’re such a good friend. Thank you for always being there for me!” Life is short. So make sure your good friends and loved ones know that you care. Tell them—and show them—as often as possible.
Forgive, perhaps forget and move on. I’m not sure if Demi and Denté ever really forget their squabbles with one another. But they sure act like it. One minute, someone is terrorizing someone else. And the next, they’re curled up like yin and yang on a pillow and purring away. It never ceases to amaze me how they can turn on a dime like that. Wouldn’t it be great if we humans could do the same? We might not ever forget our grievances with one another, but perhaps we can learn to put them aside, turn the other cheek and treat one another with kindness no matter what. This is not easy to do, but with time (and spiritual maturity) I believe it is possible. True, there are some people who you may not want to “curl up with,” but perhaps you can get to the point where you’re at least sitting side by side. With no hissing. And no growling.
Be grateful for what you’ve been given. There’s no complaining when I fill up the food dish every other day and dump in the same Iams cat food that Demi and Denté have been eating all of their lives. They race to their food station and patiently wait their turns to partake in the hairball-care-indoor-cat-weight-control-tuna-flavored goodness. Afterward, they lick their chops and get some liquid nourishment to wash it down. It’s their manna, if you will. It’s just what they need for each day in order to give them sustenance. Nothing more. Nothing less. They’ve received what will allow them to survive for that day. What manna are you thankful for your in your life today or any day? Have you turned your nose up at it or have you gratefully accepted it? How can you thankfully receive what God is serving on your plate today?
Rest is good. Sleep is even better. Whatever happened to making a good night’s rest a priority? Nowadays, it’s almost like a badge of courage to say that you get by on only five or six hours a night. Puh-leese! Those of us who are sticklers about getting more than that (yes, that would be me) are the ones who have the last laugh. We know what it feels like to have adequate hours of sleep each night, and what it feels like not to. And we are honest. I have to live with me, and I know how I feel and function when I don’t get at least eight hours of sleep. I’m dragging, I’m not creative and I’m surely not chipper. Not a good thing. A cat’s average amount of sleep per day is about 13 to 18 hours. Hello! I think Demi and Denté probably sleep around this much, and it’s seemed to keep their eyes bright, their spirits up and their coats silky smooth. Sleep definitely does them—inside and out—a load of good.
Change your position to get a better perspective. I often see Demi and Denté perched on their cat condo (a narrow, carpeted tower w/multiple levels). They spend time sitting on it, while looking out the window or turned around and facing the master bedroom. From this vantage point, they are able to get a good look around them and see their little world from a more informed point of view. In my life, I’ve learned that my perceptions (from my limited vantage point) are very often inaccurate. What I think is truth or what someone else’s intentions are … well, let’s just say I’m wrong more than I’m right. If I take the time to see a situation from someone else’s point of view or talk with them about where they’re coming from—or even just take some time to ponder and pray before jumping to conclusions—then I realize how off I am. It’s good to look at an issue from different perspectives, and that usually takes some time and a step up to a more mature level.
Be gracious and give others some space. Sometimes, if one of my cats gets “all up in the business” of the other, well then it’s not so good. Inevitably, someone’s paw will pop someone else on the head. And then brows will furrow. And then ears will turn backward. And then … well, you get the picture. This reminds me that we all need to allow one another our own space in life. Sometimes we don’t know what is best for others, even if we think we do and are dying to tell them and plan out their entire lives for them. Also, we don’t have to always be right, be “helpful” or have the last word. Something I’ve learned from my mother is that silence is truly golden. Don’t offer advice to someone unless they ask you. No one likes to feel like they are being patronized or talked to in a condescending manner. Treat others respectfully (even if you disagree!) and be considerate. Know that God is handling things and that his plan for someone else's life is perfect.