Life lessons from my neighbour’s cat

I’ve never had the pleasure of owning a cat. Fortunately, (or unfortunately) I now have my neighbour’s cat, Sugar in my life. Sugar, seeing the weakness in my heart now knows she can wonder into our house as if she owns the place.

The last few days have been incredibly hot, so we’ve tended to keep the backdoor open, allowing easy entry. It usually doesn’t take long for Sugar to stroll in and start curling up in different places around the house, watching the day go by.

I once walked into my own office to find her sitting there at 8am on my sofa. She stared at me as if to say ‘what the hell are you doing here?’. Another day I turned around at the end of the work day after a couple of Teams calls to find her just sitting there, and probably had been for a few hours. I hadn’t even noticed her presence.

Sugar can be rather demanding when she wants strokes. yesterday she wondered in and started pushing against my hand when she wanted to be petted. It wasn’t particularly ideal as I was holding a Playstation controller on a game without a pause button. But chops to her, she knew what she wanted, and she wasn’t afraid to ask for it. Repeatedly.

There is something around the way that animals live that is far more straightforward to our lives. They are willing to just do the things that they want to. Cats especially. When Sugar is bored, she’ll start brushing up against humans for attention. When she wants space, she will wonder into another room to claim her new spot. She also sometimes just decides to scratch things (to the point where we wondered whether it’s worth getting a scratch pad, though we’re not particularly sure of the ethics of getting toys for someone else’s cat).

There is a directness and shamelessness of her actions that is honestly rather impressive. In a world where we send emails filled with fluff and formalities which take an age to get to the point, a cat will just go do what it wants, damned be what other people think.

The funny thing is that the sheer persistence is what gets them what they want. I used to be cautious in how long we let Sugar in the house, but the amount of meowing when we leave the backdoor closed that we would hear meant that now I’ve given up. I let her in without questioning it anymore. When we didn’t let her stay inside during the evenings she would meow outside the door for over an hour. It was relentless. We realised she wonders out when it gets dark anyway, so no harm done.

The simplistic way that a cat lives can be incredibly insightful in how we can live our lives. Sometimes we overcomplicate how to get something done or do something we want. We learn that we need to be polite, and so spend so much time tip-toeing around a subject that people have lost what we’re even trying to say. How many of us have sat in front of a desk carefully crafting an email, to the point we’ve taken an age to write what was in reality a pretty simple request?

By making our lives simpler by cutting out a lot of the noise and self-consciousness of how to request things, the more time we have for everything else. The amount of time we spend agonising around what to do isn’t helping anyone.

Persistence is also key. We often ask for something once and expect it to magically happen. When we get the answer we don’t want, the polite response is to accept that at face value then go off and pout about it, or complain to our friends at the injustice of it all. Now Sugar doesn’t take no for an answer. If she wants to be pet, she will make it happen. Even if that means getting hair all over your sofa to get your attention.

Most of our achievements have a level of persistence behind them. If we stopped after our first failure, we wouldn’t get very far with anything. But we lose this message when we become very sensitive to people’s opinions or our own self-consciousness. We learn to start doubting ourselves, which ultimately hinders us.

Lots of the things we learn through societal standards and our upbringing takes us away from a simplicity in our lives. If you feel like your life is very complicated, that might just be the amount of noise that surrounds your life and the decisions you make. For me, I found the moment I stripped back a lot of the things like expectation, rationalisations and over-thinking was the moment my life became a lot simpler.

With a simpler life, it is much easier to be happier. I do more of the things I want, and less of the things I don’t want. I spend less time worrying what other people think, or whether a decision is the ‘right’ one. Instead I trust my instinct in the moment.

How could you make your life more simple?

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