I wish I could say I had it all together. I struggle to do the things I want to do, struggle to take care of myself, struggle to go out and interact with people, struggle to feed myself properly…then there’s Ava.
Ava Mittens, my rescue cat (and muse), is extremely supportive. She’ll lay next to me on the couch while I do some writing, or if I’m taking a nap. I’ve been watching her behavior more than ever, because, really, she’s my closest companion while my husband is off working long hours.
If cats take anything seriously, it’s themselves. Cats are independent, proud, fierce, playful, and mischievous.
Casual observation has led me to believe that my fur-child is trying to teach me a thing or two about life. From grooming, to eating, to sleeping, Ava Mittens has it all down. Here are her life lessons, as interpreted by me, her hopeless owner.
1. Avoid conflict
When Ava doesn’t want to deal with us, she walks away. She sometimes hides under the bed. And if we keep bugging her, she’ll bring her claws out. For the most part, she knows her limits and sets them firmly.
Also, when strangers come to our apartment, she hides. When the blender turns on, she hides. When anyone knocks at the door, she growls, then hides.
While avoiding conflict doesn’t always work in the human world, we can set our boundaries and save ourselves unnecessary conflict now and again. Our stress levels will probably thank us.
2. If you don’t want it, don’t eat it.
We offer Ava a lot of different foods, knowing she’ll most often turn up her nose. The food she does eat includes tuna, salmon, turkey, some cheese and whole milk products (BTW, don’t let your pets eat/drink much milk products — they’re lactose intolerant. But that doesn’t stop Ava from trying to swipe a bowl of cereal out of our hands).
Personally, I eat some food I don’t want to eat because I know it makes me feel good, and/or contains nutrients I need.
But the stuff I don’t need, like junk food, I don’t feel bad about turning down. And neither does my cat. She won’t mess with meat that has spices on it. She doesn’t want veggies or fruits. Why bother? I happily follow this rule, especially when it comes to junk.
Gummy bears? Gross. Oreos? Not about it. If you don’t enjoy it or gain substantial nutritional benefits from it, turn up your nose and leave it alone.
3. Play makes you youthful
Ava is going on five years now, but you wouldn’t know it by the way she plays chase. She loves to fetch the ball and will obsessively meow at us until we throw it. As annoying as incessant kitty meows can be, we love that she knows how to have fun. We forget she’s almost 5 because she still acts like a playful kitty.
The lesson here? You don’t have to be mature to be all grown up. Even if “play,” for you, means something different. It might be doing a hobby, a physical activity, going to a concert, or going on a trip. Filling your life with things you love keeps you active and happy.
4. Nap often
I didn’t need this lesson from my cat, but she reinforces it often. When I sit on the couch and pull up a blanket, Ava Mittens soon follows. She curls up on the blanket, sometimes my legs, sometimes my belly or chest. Her soft, healing purrs lull me to sleep.
Some days when I’m bustling about, she watches sleepily from the bed. When she needs a break, she’ll find a cozy corner to doze off. Cats aren’t shy about their need for sleep, so why should we?
Naps allow us to recharge and refresh our mind for the rest of the day. And sometimes the most enjoyable day comes from curling up on the couch and watching TV with someone (or a cat) you love.
5. Look after yourself
No one else is going to clean Ava’s mitts for her, so she does so herself. Most cats do, but Ava’s exceptionally good at staying clean and soft, which means more cuddles from her parents.
This may seem obvious, but only you wash and maintain your own hair and skin, so do it well. Remember that self-care is essential to feeling good about ourselves. It’s easy to put off something like taking care of your nails or washing your face because no one else is directly holding us accountable. Make self-care a priority for yourself.
This goes for mental self-care as well. Give yourself a break now and then, get enough sleep — do whatever your mind and body need to rejuvenate. My cat takes her rest seriously as well. Some days she naps nearly all day, and she’s not ashamed (see point #4).
6. Be alert
Bugs are hunted. Cabinets are opened. Papers are chewed. There’s nothing as important as being aware of your surroundings, even if they don’t appear threatening. Ava loves to explore and test objects around her.
The way we react and respond to our environment says a lot about us. We can ignore it, but we get less out of our surroundings and let our guard down. Ava’s exploration may seem cute and playful, but knowing her surroundings helps her when she’s protecting the house from bugs, wriggling paper, rubber bands, and the like.
Sometimes your surroundings present new opportunities. Sometimes being aware can help you better navigate your day. When we don’t exercise caution or awareness of our surroundings, we are susceptible when a real crisis occurs.
7. Raise your voice
Ava Mittens always makes herself heard. She cries when we return home. She cries when she’s hungry. She cries when she’s bored.
There’s nothing wrong with demanding to be heard, even if it’s not the most eloquent. We all have a voice and deserve to be a part of whatever conversation we wish to be in.
I have had a lot of trouble with this one. I am a quiet person and my anxiety often keeps my mouth shut and eyes down. But I am opinionated, thoughtful, and often engaged with conversations around me. Why shouldn’t I be a part of the conversation? If Ava can make herself heard, even if she’s not understood, I can speak up just as well.
8. If you don’t like someone, don’t hang around them.
We don’t have a large variety of visitors, but our kitty has her favorites, and those on her shit list. She typically comes out to greet a person after a few minutes of hiding under the bed, and after she greets that person, she decides whether she wants to go back under the bed or not.
With friends she likes, she stays. With friends who are too loud, too energetic or too pestering, she leaves. Again, set your boundaries and only hang out with people who make you happy.
9. If you’re dealing with some shit, kick some dirt on it and move on.
Classic cat move. Ava used to be embarrassed after she pooped. She’d run away fast and act suddenly enthralled by her nearest toy. But now? She covers it up and walks away slowly like a boss. She exudes confidence after a somewhat private matter and holds her head high. Big or small, handle your problems with confidence and never look back.