This week my family and I will celebrate my twelfth birthday. That doesn’t make me terribly old, but it gives me “senior” status (I’d probably be in my early to mid-sixties in human years). Humans have some peculiar idea about age bringing wisdom, and while I don’t think this is necessarily true, I do agree that I’ve learned a lot during these twelve years. Our editor asked me to share, so here are some of the highlights.
1. If you don’t like where you are, look for a place you like better.
It wasn’t that I disliked my first apartment, but the human disappeared for long stretches. I know a lot of cats have it much worse, but you do need more than just a handful of kibble once in awhile to be happy. When I discovered I could push open the bathroom window, I made it my business to slip out whenever the human wasn’t around so I could scout out better digs. Even if you decide to stay where you are, it’s good to have other options.
2. Big dogs make good friends, but they need big spaces.
I once had a big dog for a roommate. Brownie was a nice fellow with a deep booming voice. Unfortunately, it was a very small apartment. Even the most interesting conversationalist can get on your nerves when there’s no volume control. After a few hours, Brownie’s talking points were usually reduced to “When are we getting fed again?” “When are we going outside to run and pee and smell things?” and “OMG MOM IS NEVER COMING HOME!!!” If you want a big dog, have the decency to live in a place big enough for him, or at least walk him frequently.
3. The person who helps you when they don’t have to is a good person to have in your life.
The human I came to call Mom already had three cats when she brought me home. She had her hands full. She certainly didn’t need another cat. But she fed me, cleaned me up, drove me to the vet to be checked out, and took me in until a new home could be found for me. We see how that went, don’t we? :x)
4. Parasites are not good for you.
Cats sometimes get fleas, ticks, worms, and so on; they suck your blood and make you sick until you get rid of them. It’s OK to feel sorry for the bugs or worms, but you still have to get rid of them. They’re making you sick.
Humans get parasites too – sometimes ticks and worms and such, but more often it’s other people that suck the life out of them. This is not healthy.
5. A good nap can help pretty much anything.
I learned a lot about computers once I moved in with Mom. Rebooting is an important and necessary process to keeping your machine running smoothly. Sleep does essentially the same thing for humans and animals, and you don’t have to wait until a certain time to do it. Any time you can catch a nap, do so. It’s the best way to get that fresh-start feeling that can give you a new perspective on things.
6. Always be clear in your communications.
Sometimes cats don’t understand one another, but a good smack to the ears sorts it out. Sometimes humans don’t understand cats (or one another) but ear-boxing is frowned upon in today’s culture. Peeing is one way to get your point across. Just be as clear as you can. If you don’t like the new cat litter, pee just outside the box, not on the bed. If you don’t like the new boyfriend, pee on him. If you don’t like what’s on TV, don’t pee on the TV; change the channel to something you like and then pee on the remote. I know this sounds complicated, but when you’re the smarter one in the conversation, it’s your responsibility to anticipate and avoid misunderstandings.
7. Sometimes friends change, and that’s OK.
I hear from Brownie sometimes on Twitter. He has a cushy gig with a stay-at-home writer-mom now. He’s changed; he talks about eating raw and getting exercise, and I’m still all about gravy and naps. I’ve grown to love reading and watching TV, and he’d rather chase a ball or howl at fire trucks. But we’re still friends. Good friends allow room for adjustments.
8. Be inscrutable sometimes.
Cats have a face that’s naturally hard to read; humans call this a poker face. There are many, many occasions when it’s best (and kinder) if people don’t know exactly what you think of them. I’m sure you can think of plenty without my help.
9. Just because you don’t have something doesn’t mean you need it.
I don’t have thumbs, and I mention it from time to time. I used to think, “Boy, if I had thumbs, there’d be no stopping me!” Instant gratification is especially tempting these days when you can have Amazon send you bacon overnight. But over the past twelve years, I’ve learned that not having something doesn’t mean you’ve been shortchanged, or that you should let it keep you from getting what you want. I can’t open bottles or light a cigarette, but these aren’t things I need to be doing anyway. I can’t drive or open a can of tuna, but Mom makes sure I’m fed and she’ll take me wherever I want to go. I’m doing just fine without thumbs, thank you very much.
10. Clocks are rubbish.
In an ideal world, you would sleep when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty. Trying to make any of that fit into a clock schedule means tinkering with your natural biological rhythms. While this may be convenient for the world as a whole, it’s rarely healthy for the individual.
11. Read as much as you can.
When I’m not sleeping, I like to read, and e-readers (with their paw-responsive screens) have made this really easy. It’s amazing how much information is right there at the end of your paws. I don’t have to go outside and get into trouble nosing around, or pester people with strange questions at three o’clock in the morning – I can just look things up for myself in a book (one-click ordering: big paws-up!) or on the Internet. It’s grand! You should see Mom’s search history. I suppose I ought to clear that occasionally.
12. Always get as much sleep as you can.
Sleep is the one time when your brain takes over and shuts down the unnecessary systems and gives your mind a rest. Cats sleep about sixteen to twenty hours every day. Cats, you’ll notice, aren’t running around shouting or shooting people or trying to run the world by poking into things that are none of their business. It’s a pretty good system. You should try it sometime.
© 2015 by Dr. Nicholas.
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