My New Feline Life Philosophy


This month is two years since a bratty young boy asked my then 10-year-old if he could leave a bedraggled, shivering kitten he had rescued from the rain in her care for one night. “I’ll ask my mother today and take the cat tomorrow,” he said with utmost conviction. “I promise.” You can guess how that turned out. His mother said a firm no, and we were left holding the baby.

After my attempts to leave the ginger kitten downstairs in the building and send him to an animal shelter elicited horrified how-can-yous from my only child and my pulpy-hearted husband, I was forced to embrace the wretched animal. Two years on, I’m mortified to report that he has life skills that I aspire to acquire.

As Bruce Kornreich, director of the Cornell Feline Health Centre, says in the Netflix documentary Inside the Mind of a Cat: “A cat always knows which way is up.”

I’ve listed some skills I covet and that I plan to pursue seriously.

Embrace alone time, learn to entertain yourself. For someone who saw her first solo film only at 34—Almodovar’s Bad Education, in an almost empty Melbourne theatre—and who has never gone on a solo trip that is not work-related, I’m envious at the amount of time my cat can spend alone—whether it’s intently tracking the pigeon on the neighbour’s balcony, just sitting quietly somewhere all fluffed up and front paws tucked under his body, tearing through the house or chasing after a foil ball, batting it gracefully with his paws, tumbling like he’s the star of the hottest football game in town.

As author Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts, once told Scientific American: “I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward.”

Be affectionate, loving, but not a people-pleaser. Like most people who have never lived with cats, we believed that cats were not affectionate animals. In fact, cats are extremely affectionate, but only when they feel like it (all girls should be taught this skill early in life). If a cat doesn’t want your affection, he’ll ensure you know it; you can identify a cat parent from the scratches on their limbs. Yet, when cats are loving, it’s hard to look away.

Ours slides into our bed, always positioning himself between our pillows. He battles with my daughter to capture space on her bed, shaping himself to fit snugly over her head or against her chest.

The first time we heard him purr, a low vibration that thrummed through his body, it was almost like watching a child take its first steps. We discovered a world where love is expressed through slow eye blinks; attention demanded by rolling over; and jealousy at our unwavering devotion to Netflix communicated by loud protesting mews. That’s another skill everyone can learn from cats.

Speak up, protest loudly. Cats never quietly accept anything that’s disagreeable to them. They leap fearlessly, using all their muscles. Even the most domesticated of cats, embrace their wild side.


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