I have spent the last 20 years working for cats.
I put so much work into the animals and learned so much about them, but I never actually learned what I should have from them.
Taking a nap in the sun. Grooming themselves for hours. Cats, no matter what size, do what they want—when they want. They are here to be admired and not bothered to do anything that they do not want to do.
While “doing whatever we want, whenever we want” is a bit extreme for a human to embrace fully, there are some valuable lessons here.
Four valuable life lessons for cats.
If tired, take a nap. Yep, it is that simple. Our bodies are saying we need rest so we can keep plugging away at this crazy experience we call life.
I am not saying sleep 18-20 hours a day as cats do. What I am saying is to listen to what your body is asking for. If we are not at our best, we cannot do our best. Thinking we are lazy because we need a nap only perpetuates the exhaustion.
I have struggled with this concept for years. I wanted to be the first one at work and the last one to leave. I thought somehow that meant I was the best employee. That, of course, would wear me out and exhaust me. No matter how tired I was, I would stay up until my “normal” bedtime. Just to wake up tired and do it all over again. Now I nap when needed and go to bed when I am tired. I wake up the next day much better for it.
Picture a gorgeous tiger in the wild. It is literally life or death if they cannot catch their next meal. Therefore, it is important to only use energy when necessary. Breeding, patrolling their territory, and hunting. That is it.
Cats sleep so much so that they are prepared for the essentials. They are not lazy: they are brilliant. No time to sit around and worry about the new car the neighbors just bought or judge your friend’s post. They are prepared for whatever comes at them—literally.
2. Have fun and enjoy life a little.
Enjoy life with however fun means to you. I am guessing it is not chasing a laser pointer or playing with a string, but you get the point.
We need to mentally check out and give our brains a vacation from the constant worrying and stressing that it is doing. That email will still be there in an hour. The bills will not be past due (or more past due) if we take time to play fetch with your cat. (What? Yes, cats play fetch too.) Somewhere along the way to becoming an adult, we forgot how important fun is.
For lion cubs, playing is actually learning how to become an adult lion. Pouncing on their brother is teaching valuable hunting skills. Sneaking up on their sister is homing in on the art of stalking. They are learning to survive while enjoying their time doing it. I would purposefully avoid the favorite parts of my job because I thought if I was doing something that made me happy then I was not a good employee. I now realize that the fun parts are the things that make me want to come back. We need that reminder and that reset.
Remember when we used to play “house” with our fake kitchens. We had our fake lawn mowers that spit out bubbles. It did not seem like work back then. While we were mimicking the adults in our lives just like the lion cubs, we were having fun doing it.
Somehow, we let the things that we so badly wanted to practice and perfect become the things we dread the most. Instead of being thankful, we have a house that needs vacuuming and we are irritated that the cat puked in the hallway.
“Now, it needs to be cleaned up. Oh great, there is a stain. There is no time to clean up the stain right now because I’m late for the dentist appointment that has already been rescheduled twice.”
What happened to that smiling kid with the vacuum that had the little balls in it that popped when we pushed it? I used to love that thing. Instead of dreading, I remind myself that I have a home and I have a dentist that I go to because I have a job and insurance.
We want everything to be so perfect that we wind up forgetting what we do have.
3. Stop getting hung up in the weeds.
A tiger only has three objectives: patrol its territory, eat, and reproduce. That tiger absolutely has other things to worry about—being bit by annoying flies, having to move because of the sunny spot is now in the shade, and having a clean coat. The tiger has a million little things going on too, but they handle it differently.
Do you think a tiger takes the time and effort to get upset because their favorite scratching tree died and fell over? No, they are not worried about that. Yes, it is annoying, and yes, now they need to find a new tree so they can sharpen their claws, but that does not tailspin into how their mother didn’t hug them enough or that they don’t deserve the job they have.
(For legal reasons, I need to mention that I am actually not a tiger and therefore do not exactly know what a tiger is thinking or feeling, but I can make a relatively educated guess and will continue to do so.)
4. Practice self-care through grooming.
So many times I have gotten out of bed, looked in the mirror, saw how crazy my hair was, and noticed the bags under my eyes, and thought, “Forget it! I am going to the grocery store in my old shirt and my jogging pants. This hot mess is not getting better any time soon.”
It got so bad for me at times that I would not even look in the mirror. I knew I would overanalyze and criticize everything about the way I looked. I would see all of the things I should be doing to take better care of myself so that I did not look like a homeless person.
Instead of self-grooming and spending time being more like the leopard who takes meticulous care of his coat, I just avoided the mirror altogether. All of those years of self-loathing and the answer was right in front of me. If you look good, you feel good. No reasonable cat of any kind goes out with matted-up hair.
Do you think a male lion could keep his status as the head of pride if his mane was a disaster? No way!
It is not about being vain or having to put on a gallon of makeup or getting a boob job. It is about taking some time for yourself. Brush your hair. Put on a regular shirt and some nice-fitting pants. It is incredible how different we can feel when we put a small amount of effort into ourselves. No one likes a trash goblin.
We deserve better than that. We are more than that. That beautiful leopard coat takes some work, but it pays off. Enjoy getting pedicures? Skip a few days of to-go coffees. Feel great after a haircut? Plan to take lunch instead of going out to a restaurant this week.
Put that money aside for the things that make you feel good about yourself. It is incredible how much a little bit of self-confidence and minor adjustments in our thinking can make such a difference in our moods.
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