On Sunday night I got home from a short vacation and found our very old, very dear cat in a terrible state. After a rush to the animal ER and a diagnosis from our specialty vet, we made the difficult decision the next day to let her go.
It had been a long time coming, but that didn’t make it much easier.
Still, work deadlines and responsibilities awaited, and I’ve slogged my way through them. But right now I just feel like talking about the cat and the things she’s taught me about life.
1. Treat Your Best Customers Right
My first job when I was a kid was a paper route. Sometimes I would get damaged papers and I had to make a decision: do I deliver the defective product to the serial complainer who’s sure to raise a fuss or to the super-nice lady who tips me really well every month? I’d like to say I was always loyal to my best customer, but sometimes I acted out of self preservation, trying to spare myself the grief I’d surely get from the crank.
The cat reminds me to make my best clients a priority.
2. Go After What You Want, Without Apology
Whether it’s the milk from the bottom of your glass or a piece of chicken you left on the counter, the cat takes what she wants. She doesn’t hem or haw or debate whether she truly needs it versus merely wants it. It’s there, she wants it, she takes it.
True, her needs and wants are pretty simple compared to ours, but we humans do spend an excessive amount of time second-guessing ourselves, making excuses and even asking whether we deserve to have the things we want.
We are deserving — more than we think.
3. Push Boundaries
Everybody knows a cat doesn’t belong on the table. Or the countertop. Or the laptop keyboard. But the cat doesn’t care about your silly conventions. If she feels she belongs, she just goes there. She’d rather apologize afterwards than ask permission beforehand. (Though she never does quite get around to apologizing.)
We spend way too much time standing outside, waiting to be invited in. Sometimes we have to crash the party.
4. Don’t Be Needy
One of the reasons I prefer cats to dogs is that they don’t dole out their love indiscriminately to every stranger. They make you earn it. And I know this says more about me and the kind of person I am than about cats, but there’s something to that enigmatic quality that definitely attracts people to you.
When I was doing a lot of theater, I was faced with a decision about accepting a certain role in a play. I was worried that the time commitment would make me unavailable when other opportunities arose. The director told me that being busy and booked is good and rather than turn off other directors and producers, it will actually make them want me more.
It’s a simple law of the marketplace: there is value in scarcity.
Nobody relaxes quite like a cat. When their basic needs are taken care of — they’re warm, they’re fed, they’re safe — they curl up and sleep with true commitment. We could all learn to appreciate the things we have and not be so restless and striving all the time.
Rest easy, Allie.