(Note: In my online bios, I refer to myself as an amateur cat herder. This is a bit of a misnomer as the word amateur implies there’s such a thing as a professional cat herder. One can only be a professional cat herder if they successfully herd cats on a regular basis. We all know that is impossible.)
It’s a long story, but recently Captain Pete and I inherited a cat. Sammy is a ten-year-old black cat who weighs nineteen pounds. We already own two cats. Three pushes us close to ‘crazy cat people’ territory, but we didn’t want Sammy stuck in a cat shelter.
Needless to say, introducing Sammy to the house has been .. interesting. After one week, she and her new siblings are locked in a feline cold war. There’s a lot of saber rattling, but none of them are interested in doing any real fighting. I suspect we’ll reach détente in another week or two.
Over the past few days, I’ve learned that cat herding is a wonderful metaphor for life. Some of the lessons the cats have taught me:
- Success requires patience. When it comes to cats, they control the timetable. They won’t do anything until they are good and ready. Trying to rush the process will only end with scratched limbs (yours).
The same rule applies to any long-term goal. You can’t cut corners or rush the outcome. I’ve taken to hanging a sign in my office that says “Don’t Rush the Process” to remind me of this lesson whenever I find myself getting impatient over how slowly my current writing project is going.
- A good herder is flexible. Robert Burns once wrote, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley,”. He was right. The captain and I read up on the best ways to introduce a new cat. We purchased a gate for our family room with the idea that we would slowly integrate Sammy into the house. The separation lasted 36 hours before she got out and began exploring. So much for the gate.
Here’s the thing: Life will toss you curveballs. What matters is how you react when the unexpected happens. Do you throw up your hands and quit, or do you move to plan B? Hopefully the latter. Otherwise, you’ll never move forward.
- No one likes change. Like ever. Not cats. Not humans. Don’t kid yourself into thinking otherwise.
- No matter how hard you try to make everyone happy, someone will be upset. Three cats, two people and an infinite need for head scratches. No matter how much attention I get each cat, at least one will be give me the angry loaf treatment upon seeing a sibling being petted.
I have spent much of my life trying to please everyone to the point where I’ve turned myself into a human pretzel to make sure people were happy. It never worked. Someone ended up unhappy anyway – usually me. Aiming for 100% satisfaction is a great goal, but not if it’s going to make you sick.
- A month from now, all this stress will be forgotten. By the time Halloween rolls around, I fully expect all three cats to be peacefully coexisting. All the hissing and posturing will be forgotten as they stake out their favorite spots in the sun.
We spend enormous amounts of time arguing over unimportant things. I’m as guilty as the next person. A month from now, most of these controversies will have been forgotten and people will have moved on to the next. What I’m slowly learning is that I can choose to get stressed out over something inconsequential or I can save my breath for the battles that count.
Bonus Lesson: I almost forgot the biggest lesson of cat herding! Accept that the only things you can control in this world are you and your actions. The rest of the world is going to do what they want.
Especially the cats.
Hey, fun news! Step into the Story now has a website. You can visit us at stepintothestorybooks.com, or click on the logo below. We’re working on setting up a book shop where readers can purchase copies of the books we discuss, with the proceeds benefiting local independent bookstores and charity.