Community Talks! Vol. 1, ep. 27
Disclaimer: This is in no way a harangue against having a dog, guinea pig, hamster, llama, fish, bird, ferret, or any other animal that you are the “human” half to, merely an exercise in what I have learned about love from having a cat.
Love is a many splendid, and at times complicated, thing. We are swarmed with a plethora of variations and exclamations about what love is every day; advertising, books, movies, tv shows, dedicated days, cards, candies, even anatomically incorrect representations of hearts being filled with love. Yet, amidst the fog of love—and its many variations—I believe that owning a cat (or rather being owned by one) teaches us the integral parts of what it is to both give love and receive it. Before you go off and declare that this is the writings of a madman holed up in some dank basement, surrounded by a herd of cats, with a sliver of daylight streaking through a soot covered window, just hear me out.
Loving a cat lesson #1: the need for space.
- Cats are notorious for perching on high shelves, sleeking into small crevices in seemingly unknown parts of your home, ploughing through blankets to get to the perfect spot amongst the pillows, and in general being simultaneously present in any room, yet invisible. Cats are masters of taking the space they need, which teaches us that love is also about taking the space we need and respecting it in others. Comfort is not always a shared situation; we have our own nooks and crannies in our lives that validate our own comfort needs, which may not always fit with someone else. This is okay and cats teach us that it is sometimes necessary. So, get comfortable in your own space and enjoy your perch.
Loving a cat lesson #2: conditional love is not all that bad.
- Perhaps the biggest difference between having a cat compared to a dog is the difference between unconditional and conditional love. I know, I know, unconditional love is the standard-bearer of what we suppose love should be; it is after all without limitations or as the name implies, conditions. However—and this is in no way begrudging or disparaging the unconditional love of dogs—learning to accept love with conditions teaches us patience, understanding, and fortifies our own emotional integrity. Cats choose when they want to receive and give love, they essentially dictate to us their conditions for love, and we have no choice but to accept that. And when they do decide to proffer their love to us, we somehow feel we have been chosen for something greater: it makes sense why the ancient Egyptians thought cats to be magical creatures, capable of bringing good luck to those who housed them.
Loving a cat lesson #3: the joy of individualism.
- Cats are independent, stoic, majestic beings. It is safe to say that they do not take anything in terms of guff and often shy away from any brouhaha. Cats showcase the benefits of being purely individual, safe within self, and the joy that comes with it. It is not hard to discern that cats do exactly what they want, when they want, and as their human counterparts, we kind of just need to accept that their individualism (although to our dismay and at times irritation) is a shining example of following your own path. Now I am not saying for you to hop up on the counter and surreptitiously finish off the last bits of a tin of fish, but maybe lean into your own individual nature with the things you enjoy. Because a cornerstone of love is enjoyment and loving a cat opens our eyes to the multitude of joys we have as individuals—but also to accept the individual joys of others. Just lean in and all will be well.
I could go on a tangent and list many lessons of love from loving a cat, but I won’t. I merely hope that you find some interest in this topic and moreover, with whatever companion you may have, find the joy and lessons that they provide us every day. Because we can learn a lot about love from those we love most: our pets – even when they lick stuff out of the sink, mark their ownership of the stove with their grubby paw prints, and only come for snuggles when they want to.
P.s. comment for pictures of my cats.
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