Cat Wisdom

8 Lessons a Cat Will Teach You If You’re Willing to Listen Closely

This article is dedicated to a true zen master, my late cat Romeo.

Sam Jones
Curious

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Romeo in one of his favorite spots

On November 7th, 2019, my cat Romeo closed his eyes forever. He was almost 19 years old and I couldn’t stop crying all afternoon. My boyfriend and I were heartbroken. He had been sick for a couple of years (weak kidneys) but we had a wonderful vet and so we managed to give him good care. He’s been gone now for almost a year but our pain remains and we still miss him dearly.

Romeo wasn’t just any cat. He was special. His colors, white and grey, and his green eyes gave him an unbelievably gracious aura. He moved with smooth elegance and was always ready to chat a little. What I loved about him the most were his incredibly intelligent eyes. I swear that there were moments when it seemed he would anwer me by starting to talk — that’s just how intelligent he was. Instead, he’d give me a short but edgy purr to let me know that he was listening. I just loved our conversations. He was such a personality!

With this article I want to honor his life and legacy. I’ve put together a list of 8 lessons that I have learnt from Romeo by listening carefully to him. He was a great teacher and a true zen master to me and so I hope that he will teach you too.

Romeo — zen master at work

#1 Lesson — Have enough sleep

There was a time in my life when I was rather unhappy and unsatiesfied with life in general. I remember being overworked and exhausted and yet I would stay up until late at night instead of simply going to bed. My restless mind wouldn’t let me calm down and, on top, I didn’t have a routine in place to help me relax before bedtime.

Luckily, I had Romeo. He’s always been there for me, showing me how to do things right. Despite being a very active cat, he would sleep long hours during day- and nighttime. Before falling asleep, he would yawn contentedly, stretch a little bit and then look for a nice spot to relax in. Watching him made me understand that sleep is everything. It recovers and replenishes us, it helps us to process our experiences and calm down after a long day. I can’t say that I’m doing it right all the time but more nights than not, I will go early to bed and get enough sleep.

#2 Lesson — Have a favorite spot to relax in

My boyfriend Mike and I share a rather small apartment in the center of Vienna. We have a nice little kitchen, a bedroom that also features my workspace and a living room that serves as a dining/TV room and also as Mike’s workspace. In order to make our apartment appear a little more spacious, we try our best to keep it minimalistic and clutter free.

Working more often from home and becoming freelancers meant that we had to rethink our living space and also find spots where each of us could relax. For many years, we would hang out on our sofa — yes, both of us. That worked well while we had our regular 9/5 jobs but being freelancers, we quickly recognized that each needed their own corner.

I’ve watched Romeo for years and I loved his little ritual of looking for the perfect spot to relax in. So I figured that I, too, needed to look for a perfect and quiet place to relax in. I found it and it’s now in my bedroom. With my dad’s help I was able to remodel my bedroom and also fit in an entire workspace. I was so happy with the way it turned out that I started spending more time in my bedroom. Now, when I’m in need of a quiet place to sit down and read, I usually always retreat to my beautiful bedroom.

Romeo — relaxing in bed

#3 Lesson — Play whenever possible

Romeo remained an active cat up until old age. He loved to play each and every day for about half an hour before asking for a little snack. He enjoyed cat toys with feathers and anything that made rattling sounds. I firmly believe that it was his playfulness that kept him in great shape all this years — and like I sad, he almost turned 19 despite his serious kidney disease.

I, on the other side, was very lazy. I went through some very tough years in which I gained about 40 pounds and lost interest in any type of physical activity. I lost much of my confidence and refused to go out and meet people. I withdrew more and more and felt very frustrated.

I remember watching Romeo play and have fun each night, all despite his illness. And Boom, it struck a cord. I don’t know how and why it happened in that particular moment but about a year and a half ago I started not only working out again but going out more often. And what do they say — if you open up, the world is going to open up to you too. That was exactly what happened. I overcame my laziness by sticking to my workout routine and trying to have fun with it, exactly like Romeo did. And for the first time in years it actually worked. I’m now about 25 pounds down and I still enjoy workouts and going out every now and then.

#4 Lesson —Be there for others

Romeo was a special cat — he could literally smell when one of us (Mike and I) were not ok or about to be sick. He would then not leave our side. He’d sleep with us, give us extra cuddles and purrs and do his best to care for us. I simply loved his wet little nose against my cheek and he, indeed, made me feel better every time.

Like I mentioned in lesson #3, I’ve had a couple of really tough years. Things were just not going my way and I felt defeated and lost. My boyfriend did his best to cheer me up and motivate me but very often I found myself feeling frustrated and down. In such moments of crisis we tend to focus on ourselves and our problems which can sometimes result in social isolation. Of course, it was never my intention to leave people outside but I guess I did exactly that at some point. When I realized that people that I honestly loved were slipping further and further away from me, I finally woke up.

Following Romeo’s example, I decided to reach out to my friends again and even make some new ones. After so much time of self-imposed loneliness and isolation it felt good to be around people again — and also be there for them.

Relaxing under the sheets

#5 Lesson — Say No when enough is enough

Romeo was the most gentle cat ever. He would never ever scratch or bite you and he would even tolerate little kids playing with him. Yet, there was one thing Romeo hated — he hated to be held or petted when we came back from the vet. So, if we tried to pet him or calm him down by touching him, he would hiss at us and let us know to give him space. I once tried to hold him in such a situation against my better knowledge — and he bit me. The poor thing! He had warned me but I continued to ignore his feelings and so he couldn’t do anything but give me a more explicit warning. The bite was very soft though and I never tried to intrude so insensitively again.

At the beginning of 2019 I worked for a large law firm where I was bullied heavily. When the bullying began I did not even recognize it as such. My boss had a problem with everything I did. Nothing seemed to satisfy her. I always spoke confidently against her objections, but after almost 3 months of working for her, I felt defeated — she had worn me down. Being on duty for 12 hours every day and only being yelled at — that was enough. In the end, I hissed and bit like Romeo — No, enough was enough. I went to the HR department and quit, but not before telling them exactly what had been happening behind closed doors. Well, HR couldn’t do much for me but I learned that there had been others who had experienced the same with that lady and that because of me she had to attend a special workshop for “managers that were out of control”, i.e. some sort of anger management. However, my experience with bullying was a lesson well learnt — I will never again let somebody talk to me like that!

Romeo

#6 Lesson — Don’t pity yourself

Romeo’s kidney disease requited him to be treated with lots of medication. He patiently endured the appointments at the vet’s clinic and the medication and never complained about it. Towards the end he must have been in a lot of pain and yet he never showed any signs of self-pity.

I, on the other hand, went through a very stressful period in my life, as I said, and had some excessive phases of self-pity. Although I did not always show it to the outside world, it was always there. I began to admire Romeo for his dignified attitude, which he kept until the end. Why couldn’t I accept my situation and handle it with dignity? Why did I have to complain about it and feel like I was the only person with problems in their life? Watching my little zen master, it slowly dawned on me that self-pity would not solve anything. As Tony Robbins likes to say: “The only people who don’t have problems are those in the cemetery.”

And so, once more I took Romeo’s silent advice to heart and I put the self-pity aside. If he could stare death in the eye and not feel sorry for himself, then I, who was simply depressed, lazy and unfulfilled, could certainly do so much better than pity myself all day long. That thought has kept me going ever since!

#7 Lesson — Don’t hold grudges

Unfortunately I tend to hold grudges. This is certainly my worst quality as a human being. Nevertheless, I have been doing my best to adopt Romeo’s stance. Despite some episodes of distress after an appointment at the vet’s, he never held a grudge against Mike and me. The vet, of course, stressed him out and sometimes he would take an hour or two to fully calm down afterwards. But in the end, he’d be our sweet, cuddly, chit-chatty Romeo again. (I’ve heard of other cats being mad at their owners for days!)

I’m still struggeling with the grudges and I’ve been working on it with my therapist a lot. Alas, I’m not there yet, but I really do try. I aim to see the other person’s point of view and often remind myself that being resentful brings more harm than joy into my life. And whatching Romeo go from absolute fear and distress at the vet’s to his actual self when we finally arrived home, has inspired me beyond comparison to keep pushing myself to do better.

#8 Lesson — Let the sun shine in

What has truly always fascinated me about Romeo is that he could not only sit on a blazing hot heater in winter, but in summer he always rested in a place with the most sunlight. Our apartment has huge windows and in summer we enjoy a lot of sunshine. Romeo simply loved the sunlight and the warmth. But above all he liked it when I left the windows open in summer. The fresh air and the warm sunshine seemed to boost his energy levels.

Romeo taught me to appreciate the sunshine and the outdoors again. Living in self-chosen isolation for some time, I couldn’t even enjoy the outdoors properly. I would take short walks with my boyfriend every now and then but not really enjoy it. When my depression faded, I decided to again imitate Romeo. I would sit close to the window and let the sun shine on my face. What a feeling! And when I walked home from work, I’d change the side of the street so I could walk in the sunshine. Slowly but steadily I managed my way back into an active and healthy life. I don’t know if I could have done it without him.

Romeo, thank you for all your love and wisdom! ❤

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Sam Jones
Curious
Writer for

Travelling, teaching, freelancing, reading, creating. I do life with passion. Without passion we are nothing.