To me, “mindfulness” means paying attention. The Oxford Dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” I can certainly say that my cats remind me to stay in the present moment, all the time. Sometimes they force me to also slow down and actually pay attention to my thoughts.
We humans are creatures of habit and we tend to get complacent. We tend to take things for granted and we want things to stay the same. But, change is inevitable. Sometimes the rug gets ripped our from under our feet, so to speak, and we are re-reminded of whatever we need to be reminded of.
I had this happen recently. Several people in my life very suddenly lost their pets. Also, a story went viral about a rescued cat who received an outpouring of unconditional love in the short rest of his life. These things made me stand up and pay attention (a good thing). I made sure to love my cats and really love them, right in the moment.
Sometimes this is as simple as not just absently scratching Kieran’s head, but really getting all the other distractions out of my mind, focusing on Kieran completely, and really telling him that I love him. Rather than scratching his head while I think of a billion other things, I make myself appreciate his silky white fur. I scratch the funny spot on his back. I rub his soft ears, noticing that this makes us both feel good. I admire his long toes. (Kieran, a Turkish Van, has the long slim legs and toes of a swimmer.)
This is mindfulness, and my cats help get me there. They teach it on a daily basis. Here are the methods they use:
Zorro, my Ragdoll (or suspected Ragdoll; we can’t actually prove that he is purebred), is a master at using his body. Ragdolls are called floppy cats and Zorro is no exception. Does Zorro need me to get in the moment with him? He commences flopping, rolling, and waving his paws. I’ve never seen a cat indulge in such sheer love of using his body. If the flopping doesn’t get him my attention, he resorts to happy paw flexing. High fiving is another favorite activity. Anything to get my attention, and my mindfulness, now!
Zorro also loves being brushed. If you have a cat that adores this activity, it’s a great way to find yourself getting a lot more mindful. How can you not pay attention when engaged in this activity? I love brushing my cats (at least, I love brushing the ones who enjoy it). There’s something very relaxing about this activity that forces me to focus on the pleasure of it. My mind empties out, and that is a good thing.
Do you have a cat whose voice forces you to stop and pay attention to the moment? I don’t really have a cat like that now (although they can sure make a lot of noise if they try), but I did, once. My black cat Target was a real talker, and like Zorro and his waving paws, Target had a way of really grabbing you with his voice. He was going to connect, one way or another, and you better pay attention. We thought he had some Siamese in him.
Just days after he passed, we took a cross country road trip because we were grieving hard, and we couldn’t bear to be at home (it reminded us too much of this special cat). We were in a motel room one night and the (loud!) smoke alarm went off for no reason, and wouldn’t quit. Yep — we felt it could be Target, trying once again to get us to connect and pay attention.
Mindfulness is a great gift, and many philosophies or spiritual practices come at mindfulness in varying ways. Even though it can be annoying when you’re trying to do something, for example, and your cat is waving a paw in your face, we all know that these loved kitties might not be around forever. I try to keep remembering that learned mindfulness is a real gift of living life, one moment at a time. And our kitties can help us!
How do your cats help you be mindful? Tell us in the comments!
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About Catherine Holm: 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.