If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you'll know I posted up a picture of my two cats: Oscar and Percy. I was inspired to do so when I spotted them luxuriously sprawled across warm shafts of sunlight whilst I was trying to get a thousand and one things done at once.
It's well-known that animals can forge bonds with people who have autism, and that petting animals can lower blood pressure but, for me, the animal kingdom has always seemed a far wiser society than our over-complicated human one. So what is it they have we haven't? When I watch them stretching out their agile limbs and blinking sleepily, it's what they haven't got that I find myself envying.
I passionaly believe that frequently mixing with animals is a powerful way to counter stress, anxiety and depression in our lives. Why? Because comparing their world to ours can highlight the fact that humans tend to make one hell of an uncomfortable bed for themselves that they then have to lie in! Here are the lessons my moggies have taught me:
Cat Rule #1: Simplicity:
In my book, simplicity and contentment go hand in hand. My cats have very simple routines: they eat, they groom, they play, they hunt, they cuddle, they sleep. This isn't because they are of inferior intelligence and have nothing better to do; in fact, I think the animal kingdom are far, far more intelligent than our own human society in the way they shape their day-to-day lives because they haven't severed themselves from nature to the degree human society has. Humans are encouraged to always be doing, to endeavour, to progress. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have become the altars at which we sacrifice ourselves to the 'hey - look at the the stuff I'm doing and look at the stuff I've got' dogma. The pressure to over-complicate our lives with what are, essentially, rather artificial activites only brings feelings of exhaustion or inadequacy as people try to look like they are living their life in the most productive, efficient and creative fashion they can. Be more cat: simplify your life.
Cat Rule # 2: Needs outweigh wants:
The beauty of the cat world is that there is no consummerism; no consummerism means there is no litter or waste; no litter or waste means there is no pollution and, therefore, no guilt for the demise of the natural world. You can buy a cat a comprehensive scratching post, complete with different climbing levels, furry hammocks, and even a little catnip mouse on a string .... and all they'll do is give it a dismissive sniff and fall asleep in the cardboard box in which it arrived. This is misinterpreted as a lack of gratitude, what it really is is an excellent example of need outweighing want. 'Make Do and Mend' is the motto of the cat world: why would they want to sleep on a huge cushion upholstered in tartan and complete with pom pom edging when the piece of cardboard you discarded on the floor is comfy enough? Human society has been conditioned through advertising and consummerism to confuse wants and needs and to want more than is needed. Be more cat: want only what you need and interrogate your wants.
Cat Rule #3: Autonomy
I'm in danger here of stirring up a Dog versus Cat sh@t storm here, but one of the things that makes me a 'cat person' rather than a 'dog person' is the independence and autonomy cats have. In contrast to dogs, whose daily routines and movements are mostly controlled by their owners, cats, as the old cliche goes, don't have owners - they have 'staff'. The joy of living with cats is that they are more like lodgers or room mates than something you have ownership over. They come and go when they wish, they will choose their sleeping spots (regardless of your own suggestions), and they will come to you for affection when they want to, and not just because you want it from them. They exhibit a self-confidence which many misinterpret as aloofness, but which cat people know is something more awe-inspiring: freedom of choice. Be more cat: know that you are someone who can make your own choices and avoid letting yourself become obliged to others through guilt.
Cat Rule #4: Curiosity
We recently welcomed a new kitten into our family as a young 'step brother' to our existing nine year old cat. We felt our existing cat was getting bored and lonely and that he needed some company. Our mornings and evenings are now filled with the joyful rumble and thump of their play wrestling and chirruping. What has been highlighted whilst watching them play together is how central play is to their lives: it keeps them exercised, it helps them to bond, it keeps them alert and sharpens their survial skills. It's important here to remember that cats aren't daft: they know it's you who's making the feathers on a stick move, and that it's a leaf they've dragged in from the garden. What we can learn from the cat world is the great benefit of suspending your disbelief and being playful. The cliche is that 'curiosity killed the cat' - a saying which is definitely rooted in truth: cats are into eveything, and they approach everything around them with an unwavering sense of wonder, whether they are a tiny kitten or whether they are a grumpy teen. It's sad to think that, in human society, the qualities of playfulness and wonder are often eroded due to our beliefs of what 'growing up' means. Be more cat: nurture your inner child and approach all situations in your life with curiosity.
Now, go out there into this beautiful, crisp February day and be more cat: keep life simple, know the difference between wants and needs, be your own person and stay curious.