As many of you know, most of the time I write about dogs. It’s not that I don’t like cats, it’s just that I seem to be “more successful” writing about dogs. I have five different stories published in five different Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and each story is about a dog. I have submitted other stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul, including ones for their planned cat books; however, none of those submissions have been accepted for publication. So perhaps I’m not the “purr-fect” ‘caterwauler’ for these anthologies, but I do believe we can learn some valuable lessons from felines, observations and inspirations different from dogs, but important just the same.
Experts believe anywhere from 74 to 96 million cats are owned by people in the U.S. (but, can one truly “own” a cat??!). Two cats currently reside at my house. They are sisters, born of the same mother but most likely with different fathers. These two girls are NOTHING alike! They look different, they act different, and they don’t even seem to like each other (although they used to sit together or lie beside one another when they were kittens). Murphy is a long-haired black and white cat with a loving, outgoing personality (she was the runt of the litter interestingly enough); Bailey is a short-haired tortoiseshell who is quite independent and a bit timid around people, particularly strangers.
I’ve had cats most of my life, starting at age seven, and I’ve learned some great lessons from them. Here are a few:
- Take time to rest. Cats sleep a lot during a 24-hour day. In fact, some experts say healthy cats sleep 50 to 70 percent of the time! Even the big wild cats, such as lions and cougars, take cat naps, conserving their energy for those big kills they need to make to survive. Why do house cats that are well-fed and don’t have to hunt sleep so much? You got me – I guess they just know sleep is vital to one’s health!
- Soak up the sunshine. Kitties often spend much of that nap time lying in the sun, basking in the warm rays like a beach queen. Sunlight lifts a person’s mood, especially during a long winter season as many of us have experienced this year!
- Taking a leap of faith is sometimes necessary. My cat Murphy likes to jump from the top of our deck to the patio below (scares me to death, I do admit!) She isn’t afraid of taking that leap of faith to get her to the destination she desires. Teaches me that although it’s scary, sometimes a leap of faith is just what we need to get to our next goal or place.
- Appreciate the little things in life. Ever notice how a cat can play with the smallest piece of paper or scrap of yarn? No bling needed to satisfy Fiona Feline!
- Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and those you love. Remember seeing the video of the cat chasing off the dog that was attacking a young boy? http://kdvr.com/2014/05/14/watch-family-cat-saves-boy-from-dog-attack/Cats will defend not only the humans in their lives, but also themselves against attackers, (including their own sisters, in the case of my kitties!)
- It’s okay to desire love as well as to be independent. My two kitties epitomize that truth – even Bailey has become more of lap-sitter lately – yet both of my girls like their independence and “me-time.” Many relationships die due to someone being “too clingy” while most thrive when each person has interests separate from the other (case in point: my husband sings barbershop and participates in the Coast Guard Auxiliary while I attend writer’s group meetings/conferences and transport dogs for rescue, yet we also travel together and enjoy our cabin on the mountain as a couple as well as independently, and we attend baseball games together, especially when his favorite team is playing in Denver! He and I share interests separate from each other as well as together, maintaining our love through togetherness and independence.
So, I’m here to dispel the myth that Gayle only likes dogs – NOT SO! Although I did watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show earlier this month, I also watched Kitten Bowl II the day of the Super Bowl. I’m also writing this to remind people that cats are special too, and just like dogs need rescuing and adopting, so do kitties. In fact, studies show that only 2 percent of cats that are brought to shelters as strays are returned to their owners because (1) owners don’t come looking for them and (2) there is no identification on the lost cat by which to contact an owner. Additionally, nearly 41 percent of cats entering shelters are euthanized every year. It seems a large number of people think cats are “disposable.” A sad testament to the mind-set of many people.
In addition to the wonderful lessons we can learn from our feline friends, cats often are easier to care for than dogs (you don’t have to walk your cat or take it to the “cat park” for exercise, for example). So, if you’re thinking about adding a pet to your home, consider the more independent, yet still affectionate cat – there are a variety of breeds, colors, and temperaments, and there are thousands in our nation that need loving homes.
Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.