Week 14 - Humanification
I've discovered Animal Planet's "My Cat From Hell" and it's now my favorite way to unwind. Not only am I reminded I'm grateful that my cat doesn't have major behavorial issues, but I'm learning new things about my cat in the process. I'm also learning a few new things about humans too.
I was initially slightly annoyed that the cat whisperer Jackson Galaxy HAD to have a stage name and an outrageous beard style that reinforces the stereotype that cats and their owners are high maintenance and "fabulous" while dogs and their owners are more practical and down-to-earth, but once getting past it I was able to watch it and relate, as another cat lover.
What's struck me after a few episodes is how many of the things Jackson says about the cats he deals with can easily be applied to humans as well. Here are a few of them that I found especially profound:
1. "That's not a crazy/mean cat, that's a cat reaching out for help."
Every time an owner feels like they've got a psycho cat on their hands, Jackson kindly - and sometimes bluntly - points out life as seen through their cat's eyes. He helps them understand that their crazy kitty is actually feeling extremely threatened or territorial, or hormonal because they weren't fixed, or bored out of their minds from being cooped up in a tiny area 24/7.
How many times are humans who lash out actually masking desperate cries for help as well?
2. “This cat is like a balloon. It's all about energy. Everything you do is either putting air into that balloon or taking it out."
Jackson is talking about energy channeling here. Pent-up energy from stress or boredom will explode into destructive behavior. Indeed, the same can be said about humans as well. Jackson's solution for cats? Channel that energy into something that is less erratic and explosive, into something focused and steady, like a cat obstacle course, or guided play where the cat gets to practice its stalking and hunting instinct. The cat goes from ticking time bomb to a mellow, Zen feline.
Likewise, if we are constantly keeping ourselves on edge, always hustling, always chasing a new high... We are going to feel like our emotions are all over the place. Steady focus is what grounds us and brings us back to center.
This is a very marketable term, sure, but it also is a useful term for summing up what it means to see the world from the cat's eyes and redesign the space in the home to accommodate that.
Owners start installing high shelves around the walls of their houses, so that cats have a "cat highway" that is undisturbed by human traffic, removing "dead ends" and corners so the cat can't feel trapped, and giving it it's own space (in one instance, making a mini Pilates machine for the cat to call its own so it would stay away from clawing the expensive human Pilates machine). Works like a charm. The cat is transformed.
We see this in humans too. Give a healthy human being a good environment, education, a place to call their own, adequate variety, and outlets to expend their energy, and they thrive. Force humans into routine, an environment that requires them to suppress who they are, and limit their physical movement, and they get sick and depressed.
The biggest difference between humans and cats is that for most of us who are healthy, middle-class, and live in a free society - we have the power of choice to change our environments. House cats don't. And yet if they can benefit from a few small changes, how much more can we benefit with making an effort to live life more naturally, as humans were meant to live?