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Does Your Cat Teach You Life Lessons?

I can learn a lot from my cat Norton, who's handsome, easy-going, light-hearted, and smart.

Catherine Holm  |  Apr 22nd 2015


Norton is the youngest cat in my household, and one of the smartest. This cat has incredible problem solving abilities. We have begun calling him “the engineer.” I don’t think there’s a problem Norton can’t solve or that he won’t at least try to tackle.

Norton was orphaned at three weeks or so and rescued outside with two other littermates. (The mom cat was likely killed by a predator.) Norton was lovingly fostered by a kind person who did a great job of socializing these kittens. Meanwhile, I had dreamed of an orange and white kitten, and had been given, in the dream, a timeframe to look for this kitten. (Trust me, this doesn’t happen to me often, and when it does, I pay attention.) When I saw a picture of these kittens to be adopted, posted on the wall at my vet’s office, I knew I had to act. I bonded with Norton (who previously had a different name). We named him after the town we were moving to in the upcoming months.

Norton stole a lot of hearts right away.

Norton stole a lot of hearts right away.

Norton turned out to be a charmer — handsome, easygoing, happy-go-lucky, and insanely smart. It occurred to me, this weekend, that this young guy actually has a lot to teach me. Just watching Norton in action can give me all kinds of insight about how to live my life better, or at least live it more interestingly!

And so, here’s what I think I’ve learned from Norton. And I bet he has more in store for me, too.

1. Don’t let anything bother you too much

My Norton is easygoing. Nothing bothers this guy. He breezes through his days without holding a grudge. And he’s got the sunniest (albeit busiest) personality I’ve ever seen. You may think that a cat can’t hold a grudge. But I swear, I’ve had cats that do, or at least go through life in a much grumpier fashion. (Rama would be one of these — he’s passionate, and he also seems eternally peeved about something.)

Young Norton naps.

Young Norton naps.

2. It’s GOOD to have a short attention span

Part of the reason that nothing bothers Norton is that he’s got an attention span that’s about a second long. He’s only bothered about stuff for a really short time — then it goes away. For example, we have recently not been letting any cats into the bedroom. (There’s some exposed electrical stuff, and we don’t want a paw going in the wrong place.) Norton cries at the bedroom door for a few seconds and it’s absolutely pathetic (he has a high, whiny little voice). Then, he gets distracted and runs away, chasing something else. Problem gone! Bedroom forgotten!

3. There’s always a way to solve a problem, if you have the staying power

This guy is the most determined cat I’ve ever seen, and he exceeds a lot of humans I’ve known. If there’s something to figure out, Norton is instantly attracted. If, for example, I bring in one of those thick, non-paper bags of dry cat food, Norton must try to open it. Norton is also fascinated with doors. If there is a closed door, he must open it. If he can’t open it, he tries another. Norton’s life is a metaphor for the saying, “When one door closes, another door opens.” I need to think about Norton and his door opening when I get stuck and I forget to keep trying to open new doors in my life.

Norton, full grown, with a piece of wrapping paper that looks like lettuce.

Norton, full grown, with a piece of wrapping paper that looks like lettuce.

4. Get along with everyone to the best of your ability!

Norton has a sweet personality. None of the other cats mind him, and a few of the cats really like him. Zorro, our Ragdoll, really likes Norton. And I’ve been amazed (and really pleased) to see Rama starting to play with Norton. Rama is normally a very serious cat and doesn’t play with any of the others. But, strangely, there may have been an underlying medical cause for this. (A recent blood test showed Rama’s potassium to be just a bit on the low side.) We have been supplementing Rama’s diet to correct this, and I’ve really seen a difference in his behavior. Still, it took Norton to bring it out. 

Norton naps with his buddy Zorro.

Norton naps with his buddy Zorro.

In many years of having multiple cats, it seems that there has often been a central cat who kind of holds things together. This cat is not necessarily the “top cat” but often seems to bring cohesion to the group. Norton is this kind of a guy — easygoing, always ready to play, observant, and super smart. I can look to Norton for some of his great qualities, and my life just might get even better — by bounds.

Do you have a cat like this? How has this cat helped your life? Tell us in the comments!

More by Catherine Holm: 

About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.