Above: Gabriel moving warily in the garden.
It’s true, the older you get the wiser you get and the more you don’t get wound up or bothered about things. You learn to live in the present and you learn to maximise your short life. I agree with Jeremy Clarkson on this when he says that his philosophy for living is: “get born, live your life, die…. And don’t worry about anything in between because it’s a waste of time.”
This, as I see it is the way a cat lives. Cats don’t worry about things. We should try and avoid worrying about things. It’s a waste of time. Try and avoid moods. Moods sometimes arrive out of worry and anxiety. Anxiety is often associated with depression. These are human traits by which I mean depression following anxiety. Of course cats, become depressed but whenever you read about a cat being depressed it is associated with discomfort and pain caused by an illness. Cats become anxious under certain circumstances but I don’t believe it leads to depression. It just leads to alternative behaviour to alleviate the anxiety.
That in a nutshell is my philosophy about life, which in part I have learned from my cat.
I’m hypnotising you….You will build a cat flap….
So what have I learned over the years about cat caretaking? A lot. It all hinges on respecting the cat. The more one knows about cat behaviour, health et cetera, the more concerned and aware one is. Awareness is an important quality. The more ignorant a person is of the domestic cat, the more likely he or she is to be a poor cat caretaker/guardian. A lot of the problems today with respect to cat ownership are due to ignorance. The list is too long to set out if you want an example perhaps a classic one is that some people think the female cat needs to have a litter of kittens before she becomes a complete character. This little bit of ignorance results in a lot of unwanted cats, many of which are euthanised at cat shelters.
Nowadays, I am more anxious about my cat’s welfare. They say ignorance is bliss. If you’re ignorant of the dangers and the hazards you won’t become anxious. But this is an instance where anxiety, provided it is controlled and managed, is a good thing because it generates commitment and concern for cat welfare.
I have learned a lot about how to interact with a cat over the years. I feel that I’m much better at communicating with my cat and understanding him. Learning about communicating with your cat is quite a subtle and intricate process. I think it does take years of cat guardianship to learn it. It brings many rewards. You get to the stage where you really are able to communicate with your cat and importantly your cat is able to communicate with you. This must be a major factor in creating a healthy and comforting environment for a cat. I am not, as you would expect, referring to communication through vocalisations, necessarily. I’m talking about the whole package of ways that one relates to someone else.
I’m also far more aware of the need to create an environment which is conducive to domestic cat health and welfare. This makes me far more sensitive to my cat’s needs and requirements. There has to be an element of sacrifice from the human in order to make the cat’s environment as good as possible. For example, you have to accept some scratches on furniture and furnishings and we have to accept some mud and dirt being walked in from the outside if your cat goes outside.
These are very minor things but to some people they are not. I have learned that a good cat caretaker/guardian has to be prepared to compromise in how his/her home is set up and furnished in order to satisfactorily accommodate the needs of a domestic cat companion. I can proudly state that I bought the apartment where I live now mainly on the basis of my cat’s requirements. I bought it for him. As it happens it also suits me.
I have learned how to take proactive steps to avoid problems. There is a lot we can do to help our cat avoid injury. There are many hidden hazards in the home particularly of the chemical kind in household products. There are many hazards outside the home and I don’t think it is enough to simply allow a cat to go outside without any thought to the possible consequences.
The quality of cat food is a permanent thorn in my side. I am aware of the need to provide the best I can as health problems creep up under the radar when poor quality food is provided.
I have learned about how to make a decision on the best time to ask your veterinarian to euthanise your cat. I have a feeling that a cat guardian can only learn about this through experience. Caring for a cat with a chronic illness which will inevitably lead eventually to his death and therefore the question of euthanasia is a true test of a good cat caretaker.
That is when the human has to demonstrate unconditional love. Unconditional love is perhaps the best thing that I’ve learned from my cat.