There is something polarizing about a cat’s attitude, and the fact they know they’re one of the most magnificent creatures to walk the earth. It’s why often, you’re a cat person or you’re not—there’s rarely an in-between. While some of us admire that nonchalant feline confidence, others are completely turned off by cats’ typically hot and cold personalities. And that’s fine.
What I want to address today is the lessons we can learn from cats when it comes to self-care. Because although every kitty is different, the feline species does seem to share a basic set of values that promote self-respect and kindness toward oneself.
If you have a cat (or a few) at home, you may have noticed these behaviors before, without necessarily realizing there were self-care lessons to be drawn from them. If you’re not a cat person, this is your chance to learn the art of feeling content, kitty-style, without having to deal with a live feline. Win-win.
Because although every kitty is different, the feline species does seem to share a basic set of values that promote self-respect and kindness toward oneself.
Lesson #1: Get a Lot of Sleep
The amount of sleep each of us requires to feel rested and ready to take on the day can vary greatly from person to person. And while many adults aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis, you may have noticed cats snoozing away most of the day. Yes, they are also active at night, but they tend to be off to dreamland anywhere from 16 to 20 hours a day—as they should, seeing the amount of energy required for their daily schedule of eating, playing, and grooming themselves.
When a cat is tired, it finds a box or a blanket (or a sheet of paper—my theory is that they themselves are so soft it doesn’t matter where they settle down, they’re always comfortable) and dozes off. While a more structured sleep schedule may be better suited to humans, there is something to be said about following our feline friends’ example and loading up on some ZZZs to ensure we feel our best, both from a physical and mental perspective.
Lesson #2: Have a Regular Grooming Routine
My cat, Chababa, spends time grooming herself every day: smoothing her fur, fluffing her face, sharpening her claws, and ensuring her eyeliner is perfect (I wish mine were as flawless … not to mention permanent). Not only does this ensure she is presentable at all times, but while she’s grooming herself, it also means she’s not available to be pet, kissed, or hugged. She also ignores any attempts at getting her to play, remaining completely focused on herself and her needs. Sounds a lot like self-care, doesn’t it?
Taking a relaxing bath, enjoying an elaborate skin care routine, doing your nails while you work at the computer, or applying a spritz of facial mist to lift your spirits and refresh your face are all acts of self-care and ways of enjoying a bit of me-time through a regular beauty routine.
Lesson #3: Set Clear Boundaries
While kittens can’t resist a springy toy or a ball—or anything that moves, really—adult cats aren’t always as playful. And if you’ve ever tried to get a cat to play when it wasn’t in the mood, you know what it feels like to be completely ignored. Or maybe you’ve been given a verbal or physical warning when your pat, rub, or embrace was not welcome: a meow, a swat of the paw, or maybe a light imprint of the teeth. This is one of the things non-cat people often cite for not being crazy about kitties: Cats give you attention and affection when it pleases them, with absolutely no regard for your needs.
Sure, if you were to directly transpose this behavior to people, it would seem harsh. The issue is that a lot of us are way at the other end of the spectrum and tend to quash our own limits to please others. So, while I personally don’t strive to be as cold and direct as a cat when it comes to setting my own boundaries or simply saying “no” to things, asking myself, “What would Chab do?” does help me add my feelings and needs into the equation a little more often.
Simply saying “no” to things, asking myself, “What would Chab do?” does help me add my feelings and needs into the equation a little more often.
Lesson #4: Have Fun … or Just Do Nothing
Do you think your cat feels guilty for not doing anything productive while he amuses himself by unrolling your toilet paper, or randomly racing through the house in the middle of the night? Although cats may not be able to compute more complex emotions like guilt, you get the point: Sometimes, we need to just let go and have fun! Not every waking moment needs to be spent doing something meaningful and productive. In fact, sometimes, what’s needed is to just sit still and do nothing. Or gaze out a window in silence—goodness knows cats do a whole lot of that, too.
Lesson #5: Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
Sometimes I think cats must have a sense of humor. Even though they can’t laugh, there is something self-deprecating about how they go from being majestic and even a little condescending, to playful and completely carefree. A cat can stare you down so coldly that you feel inadequate as their owner (uh, slave), and then turn around and throw itself at shadows on the floor with full abandon. I used to be embarrassed that Chababa sometimes chases her tail in front of company, but now, I admire her for doing it regardless of how she might look.
Too often, we refrain from doing things for fear of how others will judge us. And although I should really heed my own advice, I think cats show us that doing what makes us happy—even if it seems childish, sounds absurd, or makes little sense to anyone else—is essential when it comes to our own well-being.
Did I miss any feline self-care lessons? Have you learned any self-care lessons from your cat or other pets? I’d love to read about your experience in the comments!