I have always prided myself on taking life advice from some of the most sagely sources around: maverick French soccer players, late-’80s hip-hop songs, and the speeches of America’s finest president of all time, Josiah Bartlet from The West Wing. Well, according to a new self-help book, it turns out I’ve been doing it wrong all these years and should have instead been following the advice of cats.
The revelatory tome in question is titled You Need More Sleep, and it’s authored by Francesco Marciuliano, who you may recognize as the foremost feline poet of our times. Throughout its pages, you’ll learn how adopting a cat-like state of mind will ensure you prosper in personal relationships, social interaction situations, and even the field of career advancement.
On a windy weekday morning, I spoke to Francesco about feline life philosophy, the potential consequences of actually living your day-to-day life like a cat, and his old kitty Bettina, who kept repeatedly falling off a fridge.
Catster: What inspired you to write a book of life advice from a cat’s point of view?
Francesco Marciuliano: Basically, I guess the idea was self-help from the self-involved. You look at cats and they seem to have this idyllic life — or, at least, they seem to be perfectly satisfied because they’re napping for 18 hours a day and they seem overly confident even when they miss a jump by a good 19 feet. Yet they still seem to carry themselves with some level of poise and the idea that, “I am me and I’m perfectly fine being me.” So the voice basically came from that.
The cat is telling you that you’re perfect being the most “you” you can be, and don’t worry about it. As long as you follow yourself and you’re almost remarkably overconfident about yourself, you’re gonna turn out just fine.
The book advises things like always staying 30 feet from a loved one and never letting anyone else dress you. Have you attempted to live a day like this yourself?
I think to some degree in any relationship you always need your space, although I’m not saying I hide six rooms away! Those things are kinda written a little more humorous, but to a certain degree you definitely need your own space.
As for making sure I have a 30-foot radius at all times? I live in a New York City apartment — I don’t have a 30-foot radius no matter what the situation would be.
The book also talks enthusiastically about a cat’s ability to sleep for 18 hours a day. What do they dream about?
World domination! I think to a certain degree it’s along the lines of, “You know what? I’m doing everything right, I’m perfectly fine; this is exactly what I need to be doing right now.” Then for the other six hours of the day, “You know what? There’s not a flaw, everything went exactly how I wanted.” Cats go to sleep feeling good about themselves; they wake up feeling good about themselves. So the advice is to go to sleep without doubting what you’ve done all day and wake up thinking this day is going to work out well.
Switching things up a little, if cats could learn one thing from us lowly humans, what would it be?
Not to do things in front of a cat because they’re always watching! Cats remember, so whatever you do when you’re alone that you think might be embarrassing, just stop. If you’re gonna pick your nose, stop at the second knuckle because they’re watching you.
I also think that for the most part cats admire that people look out for other people. I imagine they sometimes think, “You know what? I’m gonna try that one day. Not today of course, because now I’m going to put my paw in your food, but one day I’m gonna look out for people.”
You Need More Sleep is dedicated to Bettina, a cat you grew up with. What was she like?
Bettina was a remarkably sweet and gentle cat. She was a Siamese, which meant she was talking constantly. In fact, scientifically Siamese cats have the widest range of sounds out of all cats, which you can translate to the widest vocabulary.
Bettina was also a very calm and sweet-tempered cat who loved sleeping on top of the fridge and would always fall off the fridge every single time. She’d get so relaxed she’d kinda lean back and then, oops, fall off. But then she’d walk off like nothing happened because, once again, don’t dwell on the past and don’t dwell on your mistakes.
Why does it seem that cats don’t actually learn from their mistakes, like when it comes to falling off a fridge?
Well, I think to a certain degree that if you’re going to live your life with supreme confidence that everything that you’re doing is right, then you’re not going to reflect that what you did was wrong and then you’re not going to learn from your mistakes. So there’s that, but on the other hand the point is to not be consumed by your mistakes. Know that you are fine: You’re gonna fall off the fridge repeatedly if that’s where you decide to set up your bunk bed, but don’t let that be the point where you think, “All I do is make mistakes.”
Cats are like, “I’ve run into your wall 16 times chasing nothing, and you know what? I’m sitting right here as if nothing is wrong.” Let’s learn from that.
The fount of wisdom that is You Need More Sleep is available now via Chronicle Books.
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