If you’ve been here a while you’ll know we’re mad cat people. And as any fellow mad cat person will know, cats are masters of the universe who are supremely confident in their own wonderfulness.
Here are five ways we can all Be More Cat.
Cats delight in a good stretch. There’s the ‘quick-fire back arch’, typically deployed after a long snooze, the old ‘walk my front paws up the nearest human leg’ manoeuvre, performed to get food or a head rub, and my personal favourite, the ‘butt in the air, head down, front paws extended’ stretch, when they just want to show you their bumhole. The smug bastards.
As someone with a thriving mini-hunchback from years of bad laptop posture, I watch my cats’ luxurious flexibility with envy. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve done at-home yoga for years, so my flexibility is … fine. (There’s nothing like a good yoga practice for connecting with and thanking your body for all the things it does for you.) But my cats have taught me to also feel the joy of little-and-often stretches, like pointing and flexing my feet in bed, just after the alarm’s gone off, and feeling my calves wake up. Basically, just notice how nice it feels to move your body in kind, little ways.
Jesus, I sound like a woo-woo, get-naked-under-the-full-moon kind of person. I’m not really. Trust me, I hate incense.
Check in to the here and now, baby
Cats are furry hedonists. But their pleasure comes from small things in the present, like finding a warm shaft of sunlight on the sofa or playing with half a dead mouse. (Not a small thing to the mouse in question, I’m sure, but never mind.) My point is, they’re not pining for some future happiness (‘If only I could leave my job/win the lottery/be thin, I’ll be happy’). Neither are they worrying about what might happen next week or next year or in their old age. For a cat, there’s only right now.
Mindfulness is something I struggle with. I’m always having to go back and check that I did something because my mind was elsewhere at the time. But it is getting easier with age, especially now that the house is finished (renovating a house is a constant exercise in ‘I can’t wait until this thing or that thing is finished’). For me, the easiest place to be mindful is in the garden, or out in any green space. The other day I spent a good hour pricking out lettuce seedlings and, literally, all I thought about during that time was lettuce! What a privilege.
Baxter, our white boy cat with the Hitler face (it’s not his fault), loves rolling around in the dirt. He rubs his back into any empty patch of soil he can find. It’s probably something to do with his white fur, with the dirt being his version of sunscreen. But I like to think it’s because he knows the secret to mental and physical wellness – getting dirty. Monty Don talks about this often, how contact with the soil is healing, and I think he’s right. There’s something magical about sticking your fingers in the earth.
I was never the type of kid who played much in the garden. I liked picking flowers and making ‘rose perfume’ (a jam jar filled with water and rose petals), but something about the dirt itself felt icky to me. Decades later, when we started making our garden here in Bulgaria, I wore gloves most of the time. (Probably out of some hypochondriac fear of tetanus.) Now, my gardening gloves sit in a dusty pile on an outdoor windowsill, and are probably full of spiders. Dirt under my fingernails is a sign of a good day. Dirt on my toes, even better.
Chase that thing you want
Listen guys, that paper ball or slow worm isn’t going to come to you. If you want it, you’re going to have to go over there and stick your claws in it, flick it in the air a bit and generally torment it until it succumbs to your will. Like a good kitty.
From my very first foreign holiday – Crete, 1999, horrific sunburn, even worse blue foam sandals – I desperately wanted to move abroad. What steps did I take to achieve this most important life dream? Feck all, for some reason. I just got on with normal life, university, job, etc. doing nothing about the thing I really wanted. On some level, I figured it would just happen for me. Like magic. Years later I was commuting to London, saving up to buy a house in a country I didn’t want to live in, and feeling a distinct lack of control over my life. The penny finally dropped. We decided to buy a house in Bulgaria – at that point, a country we’d never even visited – and started working towards that straight away, first with a monthly savings goal, then by moving into my parents’ house to save more money, then learning some Bulgarian, researching regions, looking at estate agents, and so on. We stuck our claws into the slow worm and wrestled it into submission. Just like our cat overlords would do.
When all else fails, get down on the floor
Feeling a bit flighty, or stressed? Vulnerable? Tired? Hungry, even? Get down on the floor. Have a good roll around. Curl up in a ball. Or better yet, throw a ‘happy baby’ yoga shape. Show the universe your belly and arse and say, ‘That’s right, universe, this is what I feel like doing right now. Who’s going to stop me?’ No one is going to stop you.* Because you are a cat, goddammit. And cats do whatever the hell they want.
*Unless you’re in Asda or something, in which case you might be escorted from the premises.
This post is inspired by the sweet old lady cat who started showing up in and around our garden last week, and has since given birth to three gorgeous kittens in our summer kitchen. She’s healthy and looks fairly well-fed, so hasn’t been homeless for long. (Weirdly, she also looks a lot like our cats Merlin and Mim.) We suspect she was abandoned on the edge of the village when her ‘humans’ realised she was pregnant. Or maybe her human died and relatives didn’t want to take on the cat. Or maybe she just wandered off to find somewhere comfy to give birth. Anyway, they’re here now.
If any Bulgarian-based readers are looking to take on a kitten (or three) in a couple of months’ time, please do get in touch! I am not going from five cats – which is already borderline nutcase territory – to nine cats.
That’s another life lesson from our five cats: DON’T GET ANY MORE CATS!