I try to be a pretty good person. I don’t necessarily align with a religion, but my moral compass is something like “try to be nice” or “do good in the world.” Pretty simple. Naturally, I’m human, and I don’t always live up to my aspirations. In this way, my cats have been some of my greatest teachers through their behavior and through my caring for them. Not only do they help me “be good” or “do good in the world” — but they take it even further. They raise the bar for me, and I end up being an even better person.
I can safely say that going through illness or end of life with a beloved cat is one of the scariest experiences I’ve had in my life. If there’s ever going to be a time in your life when your bar gets raised, this is it. Thing is, can I jump over the bar?
These experiences have taught me that I have untapped depths of courage I had no idea resided in me. When I’m handling a drawn-out illness or possible end of life, every decision seems like stepping on a tightrope. How much food should the cat be getting? Is the cat withdrawing? Do I leave her alone? Take her in? Do I have to learn to do an unfamiliar procedure? Can I handle it?
I’m not one of those people who’d do naturally well in the medical field, and I’d make a horrible first responder or EMT. The first time I had to give a cat subcutaneous fluids, I almost fainted. But I got over it and it became very easy. My cats have placed me in situations where I’ve had to draw on courage I didn’t know I had. Every time I face illness or decline with a cat, I’m reminded of this, again and again.
I’m pretty intuitive, but I’m pretty good at ignoring my intuition! I guess this is because it often seems that the world ignores intuition, so I do, too. Intuition is a different kind of knowing — something that requires me to get out of my own way. (And that is a huge challenge for me most of the time!) But because cats can’t talk our language (and even that’s debatable — just listen to some cats and it seems that they are certainly trying to talk our language!), sometimes we have to read between the lines or see beneath the surface. Bingo — that’s intuition. It’s nothing mystical, and I bet a lot of us do it daily without even knowing it.
Have you ever had the sudden feeling that your cat wants something very specific? Such as a meal, or assistance of some sort? I have had this experience, for example, with a declining cat who needed help going to the bathroom. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I just knew that he needed help. So I helped him and got him to the litter box. Simple things like these enhance my understanding of that quiet intuition that may reside in us all. It can get drowned out by the noise of the world, but it’s there and your cat can help you access it.
Sometimes, it’s easy to get frustrated with other humans. Here’s where our cats can help us! Doesn’t it seem like it’s much harder to get frustrated with a cat? They’re so pure, loving, fun, and so cat. I think they can help train me to get along better with the rest of the world. They bolster that sense of compassion and caring in me. Not only am I a better person when I am with my cats, but I can try to take the compassion out into the world. Cats are my greatest teachers!
When the world turns too serious, I turn to my cat. Nothing can make me laugh more naturally, or make me feel better instantly, than the antics of my cat. It’s impossible to remain grumpy for long when your kitten is rolling around on his back, waving his paws, demanding to play. It’s impossible to be crabby when I’m working on a deadline at my laptop and my big Turkish Van plops down onto my lap. It just makes me concentrate on the work harder, since one slip of my wrist might send him sliding on to the keyboard and wreck my work. Who can NOT laugh when the cats are at it, playing and racing around, being cute, sucking up for attention, and all the mannerisms I’ve come to know and love? I certainly think they make my days better, and make ME better as a result.
Do you think your cats make you a better person? What have they taught you about being a good human? Share your thoughts in comments!
More from Catherine Holm about what cats teach us:
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 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 a short story collection about people and place. 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.