Last summer my husband and I made a bold decision to gift a pair of kittens to my son, for his birthday. My son has been demanding a pet since forever, so needless to say, he was overjoyed getting them. He named them Jay, female and Jake, a tomcat. Every single day, since then, has been an experience. I’ve petted them, cared for them (and their offspring), went through a roller coaster of emotions and learnt so many lessons along the way.
Cats are said to be most intellectually superior creatures on Earth, why else would humans bow down to their needs. My kitties certainly act like royalty. They are so elegant and gorgeous (as you can see in the pic) that often I stop to just watch them. And every time I watched them, I’ve learnt a new lesson.
My attempt today, is to share with you some of these exquisite feline traits and draw parallel to important life’s lessons for us.
Lesson 1 - The Curiosity Quotient (CQ)
A cats’ curiosity is famous, but it is their territorial instinct. Jay and Jake just want to know each and everything around them. They would obsessively sniff any new item found within their territory until they familiarised it. There is no stopping them until they sniffed it to their satisfaction.
Harvard Business Review published a compelling article- “Curiosity Is as Important as Intelligence”. People with higher Curiosity Quotient or CQ are more inquisitive, open to new experiences and are more tolerant of ambiguity. Unlike IQ though, CQ can be developed. Curiosity is also linked to innovation and many corporations today look at the CQ aspect before hiring. Developing CQ helps in your social relations as well.
Lesson 2 - Art of Focus
Jake had this unwavering focus on items he has marked as ‘goals’. And when goals are marked, he’d give it his undivided attention. Be it a stuffed toy, a pack of fish or even if he wants to be left alone. It was tough to dissuade him and he would pursue it relentlessly.
Goals are important in our lives. Getting goals and having a feline-like focus is what we need to make progress. Stanford researchers found that attention and memory suffer in those show juggle multiple tasks at a single time. Other studies too suggest employees actually lose time when multitasking. However incredible things happen when we channel our energies into a focused goal.
Lesson 3 - Being Mindful
Everyone knows that animals generally hear ultrasound frequencies which humans cannot. Jay & Jake would too. But what is amazing is that even when they look like they’re in deep sleep, their ears keep twitching and swivelling as if they heard some sound. They're always alert and aware of their surroundings. Try going closer to them, they immediately pop up their head and look at you.
We need to learn this ability from cats. Most of us are on auto-pilot surviving one day after the other. It pays to stop and listen around. It pays to be mindful of our surroundings, what’s happening around the world and have conversations with people around us. In a study called "A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind," Harvard psychologists conclude that people are happiest when doing activities that keep the mind alert. Planning, reminiscing, or thinking about anything other than the current activity usually undermines the happiness.
Lesson 4 - Never take anyone for granted
Cats don't. They know who feed them. In my case, it was I who would feed them regularly. They know they need to come to me for food. So if I’m angry and yell at them, they run away from me momentarily but never react.
We tend to take those who care us most, for granted. Whether at office or home, it is not too difficult to realise who are the people who genuinely care about you. Take care of those and never take anyone for granted. Appreciate people in your life who love you, care for you, nurture you and, yes, feed you.
Lesson 5 - Make Yourself a Priority
What sets cats apart from dogs? Cats are self-centred and obsessed with their routines. That is why they have a steady pattern of eating, sleeping and grooming schedules. Jay & Jake used to eat little but throughout the day, run around whatever space available and get plenty of sleep. Try disturbing this routine and they’ll find some other spot where you cannot reach. The message is ‘keep away, this is my time’
It is said that if you cannot love yourself you will not be able to love others. Contrary to the general thought, making yourself a priority doesn't make you selfish. It makes you happy and satisfied. The least you can do in this area is to stick to a schedule. It is a proven fact that if you follow a consistent schedule for eating, working out and sleeping, it will improve your quality of life. So make it a point to make yourself a priority - physically, mentally and emotionally.
Lesson 6 - Appearance Matters
Cats are so clean that they can put you to shame. Jay & Jake would lick themselves thrice a day and it is a delight to watch them. We call these their ‘Lickathon session’. They can reach to most corners of their body and wherever they cannot, the other one does the favour.
Our appearance determines how we feel about ourselves and makes a statement with the rest of the world. You may be a highly intelligent person but if you are unorganised and messy, you have the risk of losing out.
Lesson 7 - Take a Time Out!
One of the exquisite feline traits is to take a break. No matter how busy they would be, there’s always a time for a cat nap. They would stretch and yawn as soon as they get up. In the morning, they would simply enjoy the sun – sit elegantly, lie down, roll around and just appreciate the warmth.
“Taking time for yourself gives your brain a chance to reboot, improves concentration, increases productivity… and helps you problem solve more effectively,” says Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. and author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout on Psychology Today. “Just start off small,” she encourages, “and see what happens.” Rest and relaxation are the keys to happiness, so relax any chance you get.
So, my takeaway from these is really simple. Watch and observe what you can learn from your pet. Their simplicity in life may surprise you and the lessons they teach may change you forever.