Life Lessons from a Cat

You can’t force someone to love you, but you can slowly win ‘em over with treats. I posted on Instagram about this trick that, in my experience, works for cats AND men. It’s one of many life lessons from my alley-cat-turned-indoor-terror, Shirley. Are they revolutionary lessons? No, she’s a cat. But they are nice reminders of stuff that’s easy to forget in the hustle.

What life lessons have you learned from a pet pal in your life? Share in the comments below.


1. Play more.

To put it politely, playtime with Shirley is really inconvenient. First of all, she’s a pain in the butt. Shirley doesn’t play when cats are hard-wired to, at dusk and dawn. She only plays between 9 a.m. and noon, and 9 p.m. and midnight. Yeah. The prime hours for human work and sleep. Second, toys don’t amuse her unless they’re connected to my hand. That means I have to be an active participant (not necessarily willing).

And the icing on the cake? Three weeks after my husband and I welcomed Shirley to her WONDERFUL new home, she became a little aggressive during playtime. She stalked, scratched and actually scared me. So, I took her to the vet for some life-saving tips. He recommended, of all things, MORE play. Specifically, the vet said playing up to 45 minutes every day can reduce cats’ boredom and prevent potentially destructive behavior.

For all the glorious reasons I already mentioned, I was annoyed. But over time, more play actually reduced Shirley’s aggression during playtime. She still gets going at weird times and insists that  play fetch, but she’s calmer and happier. And that makes me feel the same. IS THIS MOTHERHOOD?

2. Say what you need to say.

Yeah, it’s a John Mayer song, but more importantly, it’s one of my cat’s life lessons.

life lessons

I think cat lovers and haters alike can agree that cats are little pushy. Shirley’s not shy about telling us what she wants. When it’s time for breakfast, she sits on us in bed. When it’s time to play, she leaps at our feet. For the first four weeks, she yowled constantly when my husband left for work because she missed him. That little devil even tells us when she’s going to use the litter box.

Some of this is just TMI. But some is a real call for attention. I can’t fix everything Shirlz cries about, but I can at least give her a good ‘ole pet as validation. I think the same is true for humans. Saying what you need to say may not lead to a quick fix, but at least you’ll be heard.

3. If you want to get good at something new, you can.

My husband taught Shirley how to sit on his shoulder like a parrot. It’s exactly how you’re picturing it. She climbs on Colin’s shoulder like a parrot, usually from a high place like the built-ins or over-the-door cat ladder. Then she just sits there while Colin walks around the house.

Shirley is a one-year-old former alley cat who has no previous experience with parrots or people. My point is, if you’re a human, then you can get good at something new. I, for example, picked up urban gardening last year. After lots of reading following a failed first season, I’m killing it this summer. And that means mojitos for days.

Life lessons from my cat: You can learn something new!

4. Set boundaries.

In her early days with us, Shirley only slept on my husband. She cozied up to him all night, which – NO BIG DEAL – was my dream cat-owning scenario. Around sunrise, she woke up hungry and bothered me for breakfast. As any new, attention-seeking cat mom would do, I’d oblige. At 6 a.m., I’d get up and serve her grain-free salmon paté on a Crate & Barrel appetizer plate. Without fail, Shirley ate three bites and then disappeared. After a week of skipping out on breakfast early, I had a thought. “If that dang cat is back in the bedroom on my husband…”

And obviously, she was.

So, to preserve my sleep and cut down on the jealousy boiling in my soul, I said, “You know what, GIRL? You’re eating breakfast at the same time every day, and it’s not 6 a.m.”

It took a few weeks to train Shirley on our new breakfast routine. But these days, I serve breakfast a lot later and I’m even stealing some morning cuds, too.

5. The stories you tell yourself are making you anxious.

Every cat is the same. They love to chase what my family calls “no-see-ems”. No-see-ems are invisible creatures that cats make up in their minds to chase around the house, typically at 2 a.m. Chasing no-see-ems always starts and ends the same way. At first, Shirley is having the time of her nine lives bolting around the house on a hunt. After about 10 minutes, she realizes she can’t catch the no-see-ems because they ain’t there. And sadness ensues.

Humans do the same thing. We tell ourselves stories.

“She didn’t put an emoji in her text, so she must be annoyed with me.”

“My husband didn’t unload the dishwasher, so he must be planning the worst day of my life.”

I jump to conclusions A LOT. It “helps” explain away uncertainty. In reality, I find that 9.99 times out of 10, my story is false and I’ve wasted time and energy being anxious about nothing. Of all the life lessons from a cat, “don’t chase no-see-ems” is the winner.

Life lessons from my cat: Don't chase no-see-ems.

More Life Lessons on the Blog:

What Makes Life Meaningful and “When Breath Becomes Air”
Turning 30 Is Better Than Cake

5 Life Lessons from a Cat

4 thoughts on “Life Lessons from a Cat

  1. This is proof that cats actually might be smarter than dogs. Our pup’s life lessons?

    1. If it’s raining outside, just poop on the deck instead of walking the extra two feet to get to the grass.

    AKA avoid the storm, it’s messy. <— Terrible life advice.

    2. If your butt itches, lick it.

    Also terrible life advice. They make creams for that.

    3. Squirrel? Chase it. Bird? Chase it. Raccoon? Chase it. Leaf? RUN AWAY.

    Face the big stuff like you’re the big stuff. This is the only one I can actually get behind.

    But seriously, great blog post! I need to have a glass of wine with your feline.


  2. You forgot the whole section on marking your territory, but that’s probably for the best… Fabulous blog! 👏😻


    1. Like when Shirley sits on my chest in bed only to groom herself for 20 minutes and then walk away? Where are cuddles, GIRL?


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