Depending on who you are, cats are either adorable, furry animals whose antics completely amuse you, or you (are wrong and) think they are haughty creatures constantly plotting humans’ downfall.
The truth is, cats are intelligent creatures, even if they purposely ignore us humans sometimes. Honestly, my cat seems to have gotten the hang of a chill existence.
So with that in mind, here are some lessons my cat, Hyphen, has taught me about life.
1. Enjoy rest.
Cats sleep 12 to 16 hours a day. I think Hyphen may sleep even longer than this, but it’s okay, folks. The vet says he’s fine.
If a human were to sleep half of the day, let alone more, we’d probably assume that person is suffering from extreme exhaustion, depression, or other health issues. Nonetheless, we can learn from the wonderful example my delightful feline has set. Sleep is important, and seeing as one in three adults in the United States doesn’t get enough sleep, I have tried to learn this first and foremost: We should enjoy sleep—though maybe not on our desks at all hours of the day in exactly the cat’s manner.
2. Practice self-care.
In the middle of attacking something, sometimes Hyphen will suddenly realize he needs to lick himself—or, at least, he wants to lick himself—and the grooming always wins out.
Cats groom themselves for about 50 percent of their waking hours. I’m not advocating that, because that would be mind-boggling for a human. No one needs eight hours of grooming—though maybe celebrities who are getting ready for an awards show would disagree. But more than the time spent, the idea is self-care.
Cats aren’t licking themselves to look good—seriously, they’re already pretty cute and don’t really have the brain capacity or vanity to care. They do, however, engage in this grooming for relaxation and to self-medicate. It does some other evolutionary stuff too—helps predators not detect them, cools them down or warms them as needed.
The takeaway is that cats spend half the time they’re awake taking care of themselves. They are nurturing themselves. Just as many Americans do not get enough sleep, most of us don’t take care of ourselves as much as we should. I certainly don’t, and sometimes the cat’s seemingly obsessive grooming reminds me that I haven’t done anything for myself in a while.
3. Stretching is amazing.
It seems like Hyphen stretches every time he gets ready to move, whether that’s waking up and then adjusting sleeping positions or just getting up from sitting to run around like the Energizer Bunny on fast-forward.
In general, stretching is good. It helps keep your muscles flexible and maintains range of motion in your joints. Priorities, people: sleep, self-care, and yoga.
4. Embrace the zoomies.
I don’t know what other cat co-habitators call this, but when Hyphen tears off like he is running from a demon that only he can see, I call it the “zoomies.”
Exercise makes our brains work better, and if you suddenly have the urge to move around, you should do it. That’s your body and brain telling you it’s time to get your circulation going, and you should listen.
If it’s the middle of the day and you feel like napping, it may actually be time to move around some to recharge your focus.
I can’t run well ever since I had hip surgery, so I do planks or grab my exercise ball and do sit-ups or do a few downward dog–to-plank transitions.
Pro-tip: Working in an office obviously changes the legitimate options for what you can do when you get a case of the zoomies, so maybe avoid sprinting by other people’s desks like Satan is on your heels—it’s not as adorable when you’re not an animal.
5. Touch is important.
My cat is somewhat codependent. This is definitely my fault. I work from home, so ever since I brought him home from the humane society, he’s been with me the vast majority of the time.
It’s clear he thinks this is normal, and perhaps due to this situation—or maybe he was always predisposed to this behavior—he is a very affectionate cat. When he sits near me, he stretches out a paw to make sure he’s touching me or, more commonly, he simply climbs on me and goes to sleep. When I’m sad, he’s almost annoyingly in my face.
We humans give each other space to deal with things, often waiting until we’re specifically called in to be by someone’s side when they’re dealing with things. True, humans are vastly complex emotional creatures, so I’m not saying climb into the lap of your friend who’s going through a bad breakup or never leave them alone to process.
However, we can let kitty behavior guide us a little and maybe give someone an unexpected hug or show up for them when they aren’t expecting it—and by that, I also do not mean pawing at their face at 6:00 a.m., another Hyphen favorite.
6. Setting boundaries.
Just as any person who does not like cats will tell you, cats can be dicks. Sometimes, I get right up in his face and frantically rub the sides of his cheeks. There are days when he loves this, but there are also days when he tolerates it for about two seconds and then tries to bite my fingers off.
If we shouldn’t be afraid to be there for people with a little unexpected physical reassurance, we should also not be afraid to tell people when they are too up in our business. When people invite themselves places or insert themselves into our lives when we don’t want it, think of Hyphen—don’t be afraid to set boundaries and draw your own line in the sand.
7. Be comfortable in any situation.
Anyone who is a cat person or doesn’t actively hate cats is likely familiar with “If it fits, I sits.” Cats may ignore us sometimes. They may suddenly set boundaries in somewhat violent ways. To those not enamored with them and their quirks, their obsession with sleep and grooming may make them seem lazy and self-indulgent.
But no one can deny that cats know how to make themselves comfortable no matter the surroundings. Even if the environment doesn’t seem like it’s the right one for our purposes, give it a try. If cats can make themselves at home in egg cartons and vases and a range of other vessels not made for comfort (let alone to fit a cat), then certainly we can find the confidence in ourselves to believe that we just might be able to fit in too, no matter the situation.
You may want to limit any lessons from Hyphen to these though. As adorable and fantastic as he is, he tries to eat anything that remotely smells of food or is string-like in nature. He is terribly ungraceful for a cat and often falls off of things (again, the vet says he’s fine). And truly, he’s kind of a bastard to other people. He slaps at their hands when they reach to pet him.
But on the stuff above, he’s solid. And we can be too.