This is the summer of cat life lessons. Cats are amazing creatures, and quite skilled at teaching us humans how to behave. This summer, my family and I are being schooled, big time, by cats!
We agreed to foster two adult cats for a year while their family travels internationally. We already had two elderly cats in our home, which added to the challenge of introducing cats to a new home, never easy at the best of times. The new cats are young (two years old) and frisky. Our old cats are sweet and cuddly, and have ruled the roost for way too long to allow young upstarts to take over the house. The challenge of integrating two families of cats has consumed our summer. Here’s what we’ve learned:
1. Stress – when one cat is stressed, the rest become that way real fast!
Our cats are teaching us that when we can retain our equanimity and stay calm, we don’t feel compelled to run away and hide under the sofa! They’ve shown us a multitude of times that panic creates more panic, growling causes panic or more growling and hissing, and running away only challenges your problem to follow you.
That holds true for humans, as well. When I don’t face stress head-on, when I lose my equanimity, things fall apart pretty quickly, both at home and at work. I’m practicing meditation this summer, using Yoga Nidra techniques. You can find a 16-minute guided meditation here that helps you relax and destress, and a night-time meditation here, to help you sleep.
2. Patience – when you move slowly and stay quiet, cats trust you.
Our new cats were traumatized by the ride to our house, then further traumatized by the limit setting imposed by our original cats. It took them a few days to crawl out from behind the sofa and the crawl space under the stairs. Eventually, with patience, they started to trust us, and now they greet us every morning as soon as we rise from our beds.
Humans also take some time to adjust to change. Patience and slow movement help us to relax into change just as well as cats! This will be a good reminder for me as my middle daughter moves back home for grad school. It will be the first time in seven years that we’ve all lived together for more than a summer break! Patience and slow movement.
3. Fun – cats are happy to be silly and chase after toys and laser pointers!
We’ve enjoyed having young frisky cats around again. My daughters giggle through their showers, watching the cats play on the side of the tub. The new cats remind us to have fun and not worry about looking silly, which in turn reminded me to have more fun during my vacation, once we trusted the two sets of cats to not injure each other while we were away!
4. Love – we all need it, even cats!
As our new cats relax into the family routine and learn how to relate to both the humans and other cats in the house, they have begun to find our laps and settle in for a cuddle. There’s nothing better than a purring cat in your lap! And we are observing that the more the cats are able to cuddle with us, the better they are at functioning in our house.
Humans need that affection, too. Skin hunger, satisfied, has been shown to lower blood pressure, increase oxytocin, and improve physical functioning. Find someone to hug, every day, for your mental and physical health!