For most of us these days, life is pretty demanding. An always-on society, with 24-7 emails, pressure to look great on social media, be on top of the latest trends, news and politics, plus work, family, relationships and money concerns, and then the dreaded Covid, mean that for most of us, the last couple of years have been tough.
But imagine if we could tap into a more serene, calm lifestyle – achieve what we wanted and have love and fun at the same time. Cat people know their furry housemates have life figured out. They know how to live life on their own terms: naps, dinnertime and zoomies; everything they need and more. They’ve even got us humans as their faithful servants, to enrich their lives to the fullest.
So the team at Republic of Cats wanted to find out if they could ‘bottle’ this lifestyle and learn a thing or two in the mindfulness stakes from our feline friends. It turns out we can.
They examined a plethora of fascinating, sometimes surprising research findings from top academics and eminent experts around the world. These reveal just how we can emulate cat behaviour to refresh and enhance our frazzled human lives.
So, grab a cuppa, curl up with your catmate and read on for some fun feline food for thought.
Cats: the many personalities of our feline friends;
the little things they do – and how to steal their style
Picture the scene: a cat lying, languorously, innocently on a shelf. Lazily batting a single paw backwards and forwards until, whoops, there goes the Ming vase; aaagh, there go tulips with oh, a litre of water. And nooo… there goes that glass framed photo of Granny.
This behaviour may seem reckless, but decluttering comes in all shapes and sizes – and clears the mind. And when things feel untidy or disorganised it can make us feel discombobulated and anxious – creating order relieves that anxiety.
Decluttering utilizes your decision-making and problem-solving skills: You’ve got Y amount of space and X amount of stuff. To make everything fit, you need to make reasonably quick decisions about whether to keep or discard items, and where to put them.
Decluttering also creates a sense of confidence and self-efficacy (seeing yourself as competent).*
So get to it with the Marie Kondo tuning fork, spread a little joy – and conjure up harmony from catastrophe.
*Source: Dr. Alice Boyes, author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit, in Psychology Today
The Pilates Puss
When cats sleep, the brain paralyses most of the body’s muscles to prevent them from plopping off that sunny windowsill and hitting the deck. But after a post-breakfast kip, a good old stretch increases blood pressure, getting muscles moving again, ready to pounce*. Stretching also helps cats wake up and become more alert. The increased blood and lymph circulation help to flush out toxins that build up during periods of inactivity, and exercise triggers the release of endorphins, the “feel-good hormones’.
Given cats stretch endlessly through the day, it’s not a bad life.
Take a leaf out of your puss’s book – without stretching, muscles shorten and become tight, meaning when they’re called into action, they’re weak and unable to extend properly. This puts you at risk of joint pain, strains, and making you far less likely to win a game of tug-of-war with your furry housemate.
So, if you’re stuck in front of a screen all day, or just a professional couch potato, get thee to a yoga mat, power up the pilates and unleash those happy hormones. Bonus points if you say “Ohhh, BIG stretch!” as you do it.
*Source: Andrew Cuff, postdoctoral researcher of anatomy at the Royal Veterinary College in London
Most domestic felines sleep between 10 and 13 hours a day (for 50 to 110 minutes at a time) – and it’s not unusual for a cat to kip for a marathon 17 hours (what bliss!)
Before being domesticated, they would have to expend huge amounts of energy for twilight hunting forays; finding, chasing and killing their prey. But while house cats no longer hunt for their dinner, their natural instincts still encourage them to conserve energy to catch that nutritious nighttime nosh.
Life may be too busy for us to conk out like our fluffy counterparts, but getting enough shuteye is vital for our wellbeing. Sleep is up there in importance with eating, drinking and breathing. It recharges our energy and ensures we can thrive physically, mentally and emotionally. Experts recommend between 7-9 hours depending on your lifestyle.
Oh and who’s to say we’re not allowed a midday snooze? In true feline style, why not grab a catnap after lunch to power you through the rest of the day.
*Source: Dr. David Sands, expert in animal psychology from the University of Liverpool
The Imperious One
Ever heard the phrase ‘dogs come when they’re called; cats take a message and get back to you’? Well, research suggests they’re every bit as smart as dogs; they just have a different type of intelligence*
Cats have more nerve cells in the visual areas of their brain, a part of cerebral cortex (the seat of complex problem solving and decision making), than humans and most other mammals.
They don’t easily tolerate frustrating situations for long periods of time. If an activity isn’t obviously rewarding to them, they would rather do something else**.
While dogs are desperately trying to please their owners, jumping up and down and learning new tricks, cats are taking it eeeeasy, languishing on the sofa.The cat community have always known they’re greater than chasing their own tails, but studies even indicate dogs have become overly domesticated and dependent on humans and, therefore, can’t think for themselves.
So, it’s not that cats don’t care what others think; they’re actually hard wired to do their own thing.
If it’s cool for cats – it can be for us too. The golden rules: ‘Don’t look for external validation, be aware of your own self-worth and ask: ‘what would a cat do?’ for a change. Respect your own needs and don’t settle for anything less!
A mantra to bear in mind: “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no!”.
*Source: medical sociologist, Dr. Joan Liebmann-Smith
**‘Source: ‘How Smart is Your Cat?’ study: from Professor Berit Brogaard, University of Miami
The Constant Cuddler
‘Cat cuddles’ are strange and wonderful things. What else bops you with the top of its head, weaves itself around your calves or affectionately kneads you on the leg (ouch!)? They all have a meaning. For instance, rubbing, or ‘butting’ is him or her transferring scent to mark territory, thereby creating a ‘safe space’ and producing calming pheromones associated with happiness and reassurance*. Kneading shows they are happy and content; it releases tension from their body, thus reducing stress.
Cats can also start producing oxytocin, AKA the ‘love hormone’, when they’re near their humans.** It apparently makes them want to cuddle and act lovingly towards their own two-legged housemates (or other [friendly] cats).
During, lockdown so many people desperately missed a human touch. Cuddling, whether with your cat or your human makes us feel good, as oxytocin levels increase when we hug. It decreases blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to a depressed immune system.
Be more cat – cuddle more.
*Source: Cat expert Ibrahim Raidhan in Psychology Today
**Source: Professor Paul J. Zak, Claremont Graduate University
***Source: Dr Brenda Davies, Clinical psychiatrist and author