Words are powerful, and so is the way we frame our thoughts. Sometimes I catch myself framing my thoughts about my cats in a not-so-positive way. But it doesn’t take a lot of effort — just a little brain retraining — to reframe a snarky thought into a more positive version of that thought. Here are some contrasts and comparisons to show you what I mean. This may seem basic (and overly optimistic?) to some — but try it. It’s fun, and great training for the rest of life.
Here are examples of Just how powerful words are (cat-related in one way or another). What version would you rather have running about in your brain? Sure, some of these may seem silly, but I bet they’re an approximation of something we’ve all thought at one time or another.
Zorro is weaving among my legs, making it difficult to walk. Kieran is wailing for no reason at all. Norton suddenly decides to attack Jamie Bluebell, and growling, grumbling, and hissing ensue. Sure, it is easy to get annoyed, especially when I’m thinking of my agenda (trying to get work done, for example).
But maybe I should break from my rut and try to see it from the cats’ point of view. If I look closer at the situation, Zorro simply wants attention. He weaves through my legs at mealtime. Kieran is wailing because he has decided it’s time for his glucosamine treat. Norton probably needs to be played with, so that he doesn’t turn his pent up energy on another cat. I can’t always make it about the cats’ agenda, but I can try to see the situation from their point of view.
I can’t believe that I do this, but sometimes, I am so entranced with my work that I forget the cat is on my lap. Or, I push the cat off my lap, so that I can work without interference. Sometimes this might be justified. We’re all different. But that cat isn’t going to be with me forever. Maybe I should just stop for a few seconds and enjoy some lap sitting time. Maybe we can work together — cat in my lap, me continuing on.
I’ll admit that I really don’t mind cleaning the boxes — I’m kind of a neat freak. But some of us might have a stronger dislike. The worst thought that probably enters my mind here is, “I’m too busy, and I don’t have time to keep the boxes as nice as I would like.” But if I think of it from the cat’s point of view, I can reframe the thought so that I’m happy to be providing a pleasant place for my cats to do their thing. Even better, I know that if I keep up on the boxes, it’s less work in the long run.
I know from experience that this can get frustrating. I have a cat that who several small meals a day — it’s the only way to get enough food into him. He is also fussy about what he will and won’t eat. But when I see his fur and his health improving as a result of this, and when he snuggles and purrs when I pick him up, then I have an easy time reframing this thought into gratitude for his appetite.
Why is it that playing with my cats sometimes falls to the bottom of the pile? It’s so good for both of us. I remind myself of this, and it proves itself. After a short play session, the cats are happier, and so am I. We’ve had fun, and probably a few laughs. What could be better?
It’s so easy to want to put off a vet visit, that may, for example, be preventative or maintenance care. Sometimes denial creeps in, too. I found myself almost doing this recently, with one cat, who was suddenly getting bumps all over his body. They’d go away and scab, but I was worried. I forced myself to get it checked out. I had to reframe this in my mind. It is not about my fear of the unknown — it is about my cat, and caring for his health. This is the responsibility I’ve accepted as his guardian. Framed this way, the situation feels more compassionate and honest, and better for my cat.
It is easy to get discouraged, but we must remember that we do make a difference. Every act of kindness, no matter big or small, counts. If Kieran hadn’t been rescued and allowed a warm home, he wouldn’t be on my lap right now, purring. (He must know what I am writing about, and is helping me practice positive reframing.) All actions make a difference.
It’s hard to admit that these less than lovely thoughts flit through our heads. But if we learn how to pay attention when they arise, we can easily reframe them into something much more positive, realistic, and effective.
Do you have any thoughts about this? Is there anything that you find yourself reframing? Tell us 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, 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.