I’ve been a cat owner for just under a year now, and in that time I’ve learned a lot. Not just about cats, but about life in general. It has been fascinating to observe them! I’ve learned way more than five things if I’m being honest, but I’m not here to write a book. So let’s just start small.
I Learned That Things Can Change
I spent the first 49 years of my life not liking cats. I was a dog person, through and through. I didn’t think cats were interactive enough, or playful enough, and I didn’t like the way they seemed to think they were better than me. Hmph! I wasn’t about to bow down to some four legged creature who had a royalty complex. Not me. No thanks. But, then my husband found a stray and fell in love with her. And because I loved my husband I agreed to cohabit with the furry little princess. We named her Daisy and she became part of the family. And you know what? I fell in love with her too. And now I can’t imagine having a dog. So much energy. So high maintenance. Nope. I’ll take my quiet little kitty over a yelping dog any day of the week. Imagine that. After so many years, I have become a cat lover. Yes. Things can certainly change.
I Learned That Sometimes You Just Need to Go on Walkabout
The first time Daisy took off was very unfortunate timing. We were on our way to Atlanta to spend the weekend with our son and daughter-in-law. We didn’t have time to go looking for her or wait for her return. We put some food and water out and left, hoping she would return. It was only a month after we got her so we thought maybe she just wanted to go back to her friends and live in the bushes. It made us sad but we understood. When we got home three days later, there she was, sitting on the porch waiting for us. She had her little adventure and she came home. Her adventure included getting pregnant, by the way, which is why we now have cats instead of cat.
The next time Daisy took off was just last week. She snuck out the door when my husband went outside and ran off. We looked, but couldn’t find her. I was worried. We lived in a new neighborhood now. Would she be able to find her way back home? Would somebody take her? After all, she is awfully cute and pretty darned irresistible. Or worse – would she find her way around the wall to our gated community and get out onto the busy street and get hurt? So many bad things could happen to her, and I couldn’t stop them. The next several hours seemed like days, but by that evening Daisy was back– again sitting on the porch. She was tired and dirty (but thankfully not pregnant, we saw to that after the last litter was born!) but otherwise fine.
She laid down on our living room floor and all three of her kittens lined up and laid down in front of her, just looking at her to make sure she was alright. They had been worried about her too, I think. She had been a little cranky before she left. I wonder if they thought it was their fault. I don’t know. I wish I could get inside an animal’s head for just a day or so and see what they are capable of thinking and feeling. That would be interesting. But, what I do know is this. I learned that sometimes you’re just feeling cranky and overwhelmed with life and you need to step away. To recharge. To go on walkabout, although I don’t recommend getting pregnant while you do it. But do it.Be like a cat and just run free, even if it’s for an hour.
I Learned That Eventually You Have to Push Your Kids Off Your Teat
Yes. I said it. I’m going there. I watched Daisy be an amazing cat-mother. She birthed her babies all by herself. She cleaned them and fed them and picked them up by the backs of their necks and carried them back to their box if they got loose. She let them climb all over her and didn’t bat an eye. When they got a little older and started to walk she would let them have freedom but she always kept a watchful eye. And when it was time to sleep or eat she would round them all up. She knew if one was missing and she would search high and low till she found it. It’s just amazing to me how strong the motherly instinct is and it leads me to believe that if human mothers would just let their instincts guide them they would have nothing to fear because if God gave cats such strong instincts, you know he gave the creatures he created in his own image even stronger ones.
But now, Daisy’s kittens aren’t exactly kittens. They are almost nine months old and that’s almost full grown for a cat. All but one of them are bigger than her. Sometimes they still try to nurse — at least two of them do. They don’t still need her for nutrition and I don’t think there’s any milk there anymore anyway. I think it’s just an old habit that they do for comfort. Occasionally she will let them do it for a few minutes, but usually she doesn’t. They are too big and she’s not having it anymore. She’ll either get up and just walk off, or she’ll hiss and scratch at them until they leave her alone.
Now, if you are a parent of teenagers or adults, you will probably see the parallels here. Sometimes our kids cling on for comfort a little longer than they should. Before I get letters from the La Leche League (is that still even a thing?) please know that I am not talking about actually pushing our kids off our nipples. Breastfeeding is good and you should do it as long as you want. I’m talking about the other nurturing we do that turns into enabling at some point. It’s hard to push our kids to be independent because a little part of us doesn’t want them to be (admit it). But it must be done at some point, for our sake as well as theirs.
I Learned That You Can Love Someone and Still Take Care of Your Own Needs
Ah, that aloofness. That holier-than-thou-ness that I never liked about cats. That I’m-just-going-t0-sit-here-on-my-perch-and- be-above-you-ness. The one character trait that I disliked the most was the one I needed to learn the most. You know what I learned? Cats aren’t aloof. They are not indifferent. They know when we come in a room. They know when we go to bed. They follow us when they want to. They have their routine. But they will not be swayed by our neediness. They take care of their own needs. They sit on their perches and watch out for prey or whatever their little cat instincts tell them to do. And when they feel like it, they will come for a cuddle but they won’t stick around for one second longer than they want to.
You know what that is, folks? It’s boundaries. Healthy boundaries. We don’t need to please everyone. We don’t need to sacrifice our own needs or go against what our instincts are telling us to do just because someone else wants us to. We can love someone but still take care of our own needs. It’s not an all or nothing situation. I so wish I would have had a cat to teach me about this earlier in life!
I Learned That Brotherly Love is Stronger than Fighting
With all these cats living under one roof, sometimes they fight. They’ll chase each other and fly through the air and roll around wrestling and nipping at each other. Some of it is playing, some of it is not. The thing is though, it never lasts. I’ve never yet seen the cats hold a grudge. Even after their most down and dirty fight, they go right back to cuddling up and licking each other’s fur to help groom them. They forgive. They forget. They move on. And they come together again to help each other out. To live in harmony.
Boy, is this a lesson we all need right now. So much fighting going on after the election. So much anger it’s hard to get past it. I hope we can take a lesson from my cats and just start licking each other’s fur again. We need each other.
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding. – Proverbs 3:13