Animals have a way of focusing your attention. They are needy and yet they also provide so much love and joy. Pure joy—that is what I have been feeling much of the time while spending time with our new kittens Rose and Calla. Although it is sometimes difficult for me to focus on my writing when they are bouncing all over my office and me, I appreciate all that they offer. Kittens have very essential needs to attend to—not that much different from the needs we all have. Yet we often leave our own needs unattended. Kittens know a thing or two about living life to the fullest. So I thought I’d riff on the parallels between kittens (probably puppies too) and humans and what we can learn from them. Whether you are lucky to have kittens in your life or not, there is so much they can teach us.
Playtime—Kittens are pretty amazing in their ability to find play on their own. You can buy lots of fancy toys, but a simple string will do just as well. Or they can always play with their own tail. Kittens love to play with each other if you are lucky to have siblings like we do. In their high energy state, they love to tussle with one another, wrestling and running and jumping into each other. Yet they know to keep their claws retracted when they are play-wrestling and they like to lick and kiss afterwards. We could do a better job of playing hard then loving.
Kittens are just as adept at playing alone as they are with others. They’ll even grab a ball and throw it in the air themselves to play some more. So too can we find ways to be playful with others or by ourselves. Obviously I find it fun hanging out with the kittens and playing with them. But there are so many ways to find fun and play with people. Andy and I are learning to play golf and we regularly hit balls at the range for a quick burst of play time. Throwing balls is a simple yet underrated play activity. Recently I threw balls with Andy in the pool for added fun. Of course there are plenty of other sports and outdoor activities that are fun to do with partners like tennis, hiking and volleyball. Finding playful activities to do on your own is also important. Although many solitary activities seem low energy and serious like journaling or meditation, there is no reason why you can’t find play in those activities and other solitary endeavors. Dancing is a playful activity that I love to do alone to my favorite tunes. And swimming is awesome.
Cuddle time—Our kittens love to cuddle up with each other. The comfort and joy of cuddling is another activity that we humans can enjoy just as much. Cuddling in my mind usually includes comfortable clothes and really soft blankies and pillows. Kittens have built in soft fur blankies—perfect for cuddling. Fortunately cuddling is wonderful on your own or with others. For solitary cuddle time I love to snuggle under a soft cover and read a good book. Snuggled on a comfy couch in front of TV is lovely alone or with a loved one. If you are lucky your cats or dogs might join you too. My kittens are snuggled on my lap right now making me have to type with one hand while keeping my other hand around them to keep them from sliding off my lap. And they are purring loudly. Which brings me to purring.
Purring time—Kittens show their appreciation through the vocalization of purring. We could learn a lot about expressing our love so overtly. You don’t have to purr, but it is wonderful to speak aloud to your loved ones to let them know how much you appreciate them.
Exploring time—Kittens are curious by nature and they tend to look to higher ground as their points of interest. Whether they are climbing up our high bookshelves or jumping up to windowsills, kittens love adventures. And they are amazing jumpers. They naturally get to know things thoroughly using all of their senses. They see, smell, touch, taste and listen to everything around them. You don’t need to jump like kittens jump (though if sky-diving is your thing, go at it) but testing your limits can be a good thing. Whether you are innately adventurous or not, you can stretch your capabilities and explore your world around you one step at a time through your senses.
Sleep time—Of course sleeping is a skill that kittens seem to have perfected from day one. Whether taking a quick cat nap or settling into a long deep sleep, kittens are sleep experts. I am not nearly as advanced as they are but I certainly do try to get ample sleep. Part of their method for getting a good sleep I believe is that they play so hard. After running around and leaping high into the air or bouncing off of every piece of furniture in the room, they are plum tuckered out. We could all benefit from some hard exercise for more sound sleep. A key difference is that kittens can play hard and immediately zonk out while we humans are better off getting exercise well before we go to bed. It helps if you are running around playing with your kittens who tire you out like mine do. May we all learn some helpful skills from the wonderful animals who cohabit our world.