A View From the Watchroom
Barry K. Wyrick, MS, MBA
Chief Operating Officer
What My Cats Have Taught Me About Living (6/15/15)
If you have read my previous posts, and if you look at my picture above, you know of my love for my dogs, and how special that relationship is to me. One of my previous posts was “What My Dogs Have Taught Me About Living.” Today I would like to turn my attention to my other kids—my cats. While I have been the proud parent of a number of dogs, I have also shared my home with several cats. Cats teach us lessons that are far different than those we learn from our dogs.
The first lesson that I have learned from my cats is that independence does not lessen the importance of relationships. My cats have never needed me. As long as I put food and water down, and regularly clean their litter boxes, they get along perfectly well without me. They have all of the skills that they need to live happily without any help from me. However, what is humbling for me is that they choose to share themselves with me. Whether it is their curling up in my lap or sitting on the top of my recliner and licking me on the head, they let me know that they choose to have a relationship with me. Many of us believe that to be independent is to be isolated from others. Instead, I believe that to be independent is to be perfectly capable of functioning alone but choosing to share ourselves with others. Each of us grows in relationship with others, and our lives become more meaningful because of those relationships.
The second lesson that I have learned from my cats is to never hesitate to let others know what you need and want. While my cats have dry cat food down all of the time, I give them a can of canned cat food when I get home from work. If I get busy with something like putting groceries away before I feed them, they will let me know what they want. One of my cats will quietly stare at me and follow every step that I take. My other one will plaintively meow at me until I feed her. Too often we fail to let those who are important to us know what we need and want from them. There is a widely held myth in relationships that if the other truly cares about us, then they will know what we need and want. The question that I have to ask is, “How?” As much as others may care about me, they cannot read my mind. The only way that others can know what I need and want is if I tell them—even if it is with a plaintive meow.
The third lesson that I have learned from my cats (specifically one of my cats) is that home is where you go when you need help. I had known Grady for at least five years. He was a completely feral neighborhood cat who would occasionally come by my home when he wanted something to eat or a dry place to sleep. Then he went missing for over a year. I don’t know if he found another mark to feed him or if he just moved his ranging territory. Then one day he showed back up again, and there was something obviously wrong. He apparently had lost a fight with someone (maybe a raccoon), and he was cut from his ear to his chin with a raging infection. Maybe he came home because he knew he needed help, or maybe he just came home because he wanted a safe place to die. Regardless, he came home. It took trapping him to get him to the veterinarian and two weeks at the office recovering from the surgery and the infection, but he recovered. However, the fight had damaged a tendon in one of his back legs, and he could only walk on the toes of that foot, so he could no longer roam free. So a completely feral cat came to share my home. All of us will face misfortune and even tragedy in our lives. In these times, we need to go home. One of my favorite lines of poetry is from Robert Frost’s “The Death of the Hired Man.” Frost wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” We all need a home—not necessarily a physical place—but people who will care about us and for us when we are in need. Silas, in Frost’s poem, came home to die, where he felt that he belonged. Maybe Grady did as well.
The final lesson that I have learned from my cats is that a warm place is a wonderful place to take a nap. I have come to suspect that my cats may actually be awake for a total of about an hour a day. When they are content, they nap. In our hurried, over-stimulated lives, we have lost the value of a good nap. Just two days ago as I was leaving work on a rainy afternoon, I walked into our administrative office to say goodnight, and I told the staff members that were there that I was going home and it was a perfect day to take a nap. One of our clients who was sitting in the waiting room said longingly, “That sounds so good.” There is no day that a nap does not make better—so find a warm place.
I have shared my home with a number of cats. I never say that I have owned cats, because no one ever owns a cat. I appreciate what I have shared with them and what I have learned from them. So my thanks go to Tiger, Elmer, Bilbo, Frodo (yes, I had a “Lord of the Rings” period in my life!), Sua and Grady. I am a better person for having shared time with you.