I grew up a dog lover and have owned several of dogs over the years. My favorite was an adorable Cocker Spaniel named Agatha. I never really liked cats – a little too aloof and independent for my likes.
Yet now going on three years, I’ve been the owner of two tabbies a brother and sister – one gray and one ginger. Since adopting them, I’ve found them fascinating and exotic animals to watch and engage with. And yes, I love my tabbies.
Here are some of the things my cats have taught me about parenting
Forgiveness. Cats have short memories and don’t hold grudges. I’ve seen my tabbies get in some ugly hissing, growling and pawing brawls yet in a few minutes later they’re cuddled together in their bed. If only we could learn to forgive so quickly.
In humans, chronic anger has been linked to a decline in lung function. A forgiving nature helps to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. People who also forgive tend to have higher self-esteem.
Practicing forgiveness helps us more than the offending person. Forgiveness is a life skill we want to model for our children so they can practice it in their own lives.
Communication. Cats are skilled communicators. They speak to us and other cats in three different ways. Unless you’ve been living in Bikini Bottom we’re all familiar with meowing but did you know it’s almost exclusively reserved for humans? Newborn kittens will meow to communicate needs to their mother.
To make sure they get our attention especially when they need something, cats will meow at the same frequency as a baby’s crying. Now how’s that for getting our attention?
Cats also use their body language and scent glands to communicate with each other. And of course, we can’t forget purring. It’s generally understood purring reflects a cats contentment.
Purring doesn’t just benefit your cat, purring has been shown to uplift your mood while at the same time lowering your blood pressure. Having a cat can actually be good for heart health and overall wellness.
Cats remind me of the importance of good, clear communication. Communication includes both verbal and non-verbal messages.
Rest. Cats listen to their bodies. They don’t push themselves beyond what their physically capable. They get plenty of rest to the face the day’s challenges. Why would it be different for us?
As a nation we are getting less and less sleep. A recent Gallup poll found we average just 6.8 hours a night, less than the doctor-recommended 7 to 9 hours. One of the biggest reasons behind this decline in sleep is the high technology that allows us to work and play 24/7. This decline has had negative effects on our health.
There’s evidence we can benefit from catnaps, too. A study involving about 24,000 people shows regular nappers are 37% less likely to die from heart disease than people who only nap occasionally. You’ll have more patience and energy to deal with a troublesome toddler when you’re well rested.
Thoughtful. If your cat (especially if they’re female) ventures outdoors they’re probably showering you with gifts of dead birds or mice. It’s estimated cats kill billions of small animals every year in just the United States.
This doesn’t make cats’ evil killers they’re just doing what comes naturally, i.e. following their instincts. In the wild, mother cats teach their young how to eat their food by bringing home dead or injured prey.
Domestic cats are no different. But in this modern age of spayed domestic cats, many female felines have no young to whom they need to pass on their hunting wisdom. By leaving us a dead bird or mouse, your cat is acting its natural role as a mother and teacher. As a cat owner, we are her surrogate family. She knows we don’t have the skills to catch that yummy bird or scrumptious mouse on our own.
Giving our children an occasional gift is a good idea. It lets them know you’re thinking of them. Just make sure you’re doing it from thoughtfulness and not buying your child’s affection or your own forgiveness for not being there in your child’s life.
Flexibility. Cats have this way of holding a paw in the air ever so long as if deciding what their next move should be. Cats remind me to be flexible and your most firm plans can change on a moment’s notice especially if you have children.
Affectionate. I thought cats were aloof and unemotional – I was wrong. Cats show us affection using a combination of body language, postures and vocalizations. It’s important to understand not all of these demonstrations of love are in the way we would express them to our family members. Some of these demos include:
- Tummy Flashing. Showing you their belly indicating they trust and are comfortable around you. You have my permission to try this in your living room.
- Head Bunting. While you probably wouldn’t want to bunt heads with your significant other or child, when cats do it they are depositing their facial pheromones. Their way of claiming us as their own.
- Cat Bites. Cats originated the love bite. When your cat playfully nibbles on you it just another way to show they like you. While your teenager may not appreciate or want a love bite your significant other might but that’s a subject for another article.
Just remember, like some of us humans, cats are quirky and finicky creatures. Like people who are different from us it’s important to invest time and energy to increase your understanding of their behavior and bring peace and harmony to your relationship.