I recently realized that my cats have shaped who I am and how I move through the world. Is this crazy? Someone who doesn’t love cats might think I am absolutely nuts. Yet I think about what I once heard a man say a long time ago: He said his children were his greatest teachers. I remember wondering just what this man’s children had taught him. I imagined the children taught him about fun, and perhaps shaped him into a more fun-loving human. What did I know, not having children? Maybe the children had harder lessons. Maybe there were things that children taught that I couldn’t imagine. Who knew?
It’s now years later, and I have had the privilege of sharing my life with several cats, and I believe that they have helped shaped my personality. Here are six ways they’ve done that.
I’m not the most naturally patient person, especially in certain situations. And as I get older, it seems like I’m less willing to suffer fools gladly. I’m not alone here — my brother reports the same change! However, I do know that my cats have helped me work on the issue of patience.
As a very simple example, a cat may sit down on my lap. Maybe I have a zillion other things to do — that’s usually the case. Maybe I want to be up and moving. But I will sit still for that cat. Particularly if it’s a cat who doesn’t come as quickly into my lap as another cat, or a cat who really needs attention in that moment. I will slow down. The ability of my cats to help me change in these ways always surprises me.
It’s hard for it to be all about me if a loved cat needs attention or care. And that’s a good thing. I don’t think I’ve ever been a really self-centered person, but I am aware that the cats take my focus off myself. Like many writers or creative people, I can spend too much time in my head. That usually doesn’t lead to good things! The concrete (and occasionally demanding!) presence of a cat can really get me out of my head. Catster commenters have said that their cats have helped them focus beyond themselves — even giving, for some of us, a reason to get out of bed in the morning. That’s a big deal, and a great gift.
I love having fun, and probably had plenty of fun before there were cats in my life. But cats make fun apparent almost constantly. They are always reminding me to play and laugh. I have to say that I appreciate fun more, and I think I’m better at it, thanks to the company of my cats.
On the subject of fun, some of the silliest and best times I’ve had have been with my cats. What better chance to dance and sing, for example? I’ll pick up a cat, and go. Instant mood lifter! Watching a cat play with a simple toy (a feather on a string, or a moth in the air) makes me laugh and slow down. I watch my cats and am grateful for their grace and intelligence. Would I have this kind of awareness without cats? I don’t know — but I certainly wouldn’t have it in the same way.
Caring for someone we love, even when we have to say goodbye, makes us stronger. I believe that. The unique thing about our relationship with our cats is that we will likely outlive them. How many parents have to say goodbye to children at the rate at which we need to say goodbye to our cats? Certainly, there are other experiences in life that make us strong that don’t involve the human/cat bond. But I know that I personally have become stronger, and I think more mature, because of this aspect of my bond with my cats.
I firmly believe I’ve learned about love from my cats. My cats have been my teachers and models for how to “do love.” If love wasn’t modeled so well for us in life, we need to learn it in other ways. Teachers come in the most surprising places. My cats have taught me about love in so many ways, and I believe they have heightened my capacity to be a more loving human.
How have your cats shaped your personality? Are you a better person thanks to your cat? How so? Let us know in the comments!
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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 (cat fantasy novel out June 1), 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.