Lessons From Our Pets: Self-Care and Relaxation
As I type, a cat named Knuckles is doing a figure 8 around my ankles. Earlier, he took a nap by the sliding glass doors at my future in-laws’ house. Then, he ran into the kitchen and furiously rolled around on a small green rug in front of the sink.
He’s also famous for curling up on paper — newspaper, computer paper, wrapping paper — and napping there. I don’t know what’s so comfortable about it. The last time I took a nap on a bed of paper was in grad school, in the library, on a wide splay of photocopied research studies from various communication periodicals. The text starts always starts to blur around my second hour of reading, but a quick nap can reset my brain and my tired eyeballs.
In the time it took to write the above paragraphs, Knuckles has resigned from ankle-circling and settled into sleep mode (or, as I like to call it, “kitteh deactivated” mode) on a soft couch cushion behind me.
This cat has got a pretty good life. He was born outdoors and my future mother-in-law and father-in-law (MIL and FIL for short!) coaxed him indoors once per day for a bowl of cat food. Soon, Knuckles began to wait by their back door and meow incessantly when he wanted to escape the wild jungle of their suburban street. He’s been alive for about three winters now and could have easily died in the cold weather if he hadn’t warmed up to MIL and FIL.
Now, after all the proper shots from the vet, he’s settling into his role as an dual indoor/outdoor kitty. He’s perennially calm unless he’s excited about getting fed or on the prowl for his favorite toy — a purple ribbon.
Yup, a purple ribbon. It’s a simple thing, hardly a toy in and of itself, but it’s an afternoon of entertainment for Knuckles. (I won’t even get started on the laser pointer.)
I think we can learn a thing or two about self-care and relaxation from our pets. When cats get tired, they stop, drop, and nap. They devote time and attention to themselves — Knuckles licks his fur, and my parrot Zerby preens his feathers — in a way that us human-folk often neglect when it comes to our bodies and minds.
Okay, so we can’t exactly stop, drop, and nap whenever we’d like — especially if we’re at work or if we’re driving, of course — but the general sentiment is still true. When we’re tired, we shouldn’t load ourselves up with caffeine — we should take a nap. And instead of squeezing in activities and errands into every available fraction of downtime, we should stop and preen ourselves — loosely speaking — by taking a warm bath, massaging a few pressure points, or even just sitting down for twenty minutes without doing much of anything.
And we should get ourselves excited about the simple things in life. There are plenty of simple “purple ribbons” out there for us to bat, chew, and pounce on. When was the last time you sat outside in the summer sun? Or how about the last time you took a walk around the block after a rain storm?
And think back to the last meal you ate today. Did you taste it? Or did you wolf it down before you could experience the flavor? And if you showered this morning, did you take a minute to feel the warm water? Or did autopilot drive your shower from soap to shampoo to conditioner in one fell swoop without any real awareness?
This weekend, I hope you find a purple ribbon. Something simple, playful, and engaging.
Photo credit: Jason Bukeavich
Beretsky, S. (2011). Lessons From Our Pets: Self-Care and Relaxation. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 1, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/panic/2011/09/lessons-from-our-pets-self-care-and-relaxation/