Tuesday, December 6, 2016

10 Lessons I Learned From My Cat

Meet Reagan. He's a 5 year old ragdoll cat that you'll often hear me call "kitten." In true tradition of enjoying writing, here's some lessons learned from him. Many apply to business and personal -- if a few catchy gif images or memes were added, this probably could be a Buzzfeed article!

For those unfamiliar with ragdoll cats, here's a few fun facts. They are BIG (ragdolls can be 2-3x the size of other cats). Ragdolls are very docile -- they often lay on the floor on their backs totally relaxed. They will greet you at the backdoor when coming home. They are young at heart -- while most cats tend to act like a kitten for about 2 years, ragdolls tend to stay that way for 3-4 years.

Another way to put it, ragdolls are 'puppy like' with the benefit of being litter box trained.

1) Non Verbal Communication: Anyone whose studied communications knows that non-verbal communication is 90% of communication. Cats do this partly with their eyes, specifically by the intensity and pace of blinking their eyes. "Slow blinks" are reassuring are communication that things are good. Try it sometime, you'll get some slow blinks back (also works with dogs).

2) Emphasize Key Words in Verbal Communication: Understand we get exposed to lots of communication, emphasize the key phrases that matter. Kitten can understand certain words, with emphasis and repetitive context how you use the word being important.

He knows about a dozen words, including synonyms that he'll respond to. First the obvious ones: hungry, food, water, and thirsty. Now the fun ones: basement, movie, brushed, paper, scratch, kitten-house, blanket, play, marshmallow, head-butt, na-night, and bedtime.

3) Value Life's Essentials: Learn to be humble and appreciate the basics. That simple act of adding a little food to a dish, or refreshing a water bowl can take you 15 seconds and be acknowledged by an amazing amount of happiness. It's one of those things that causes you to pause, what other little things can you do towards others you interact with that brings happiness?

4) Find a Quirky Vice and Embrace It: A quirky vice adds personality. For me, mine would be between having an iced coffee or eating chicken parm. For kitten, it's getting a hot cocoa sized marshmallow. He knows the word -- he knows they are kept in a container that makes a 'poppin' sound when opened. It's not a daily thing, and it's not a reward for good behavior. He goes wild hearing the word "marshmallow," then the contain top popping open. He'll "alligator role" on the floor when presented with one. Some cats like a piece of chicken, others shrimp, this one likes marshmallows and embraces it with a sense of humor. Again, quirky vices add personality.

5) All Kittens Head-Butt: Ever do a weird multi-step handshake with an old friend? Dorky? Yes. It's fun, and likely ends in nostalgic laughter. Just like the idea of slow blinks, I learned a few years ago that all kittens head-butt each other as a sign of happiness / non verbal communication. Don't be afraid to be a little dorky and embrace nostalgia.

6) Find Enjoyment in Simple Things: While marshmallows are a quirky vice, it easily could have also been the brown shipping paper found in Amazon delivery boxes. Between that, and an old school piece of string or ribbon, it serves as a reminder that simple things can be some of the most enjoyable. Often these simple nothing to experience.

7) Gamification Makes Adulting Easier: Ragdolls need to be brushed periodically. That's the animal equivalent of adulting -- not always fun, but necessary. 15 years ago I read the book Fish!: A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results. A takeaway I've carried since then was the idea of "play," which today many would call "gamification." Long story short, through trial and error I've turned what should be a struggle to brush into something he enjoys.

8) Tolerate Laser Pointers: a red laser dot moving around the room is a fun game -- it's distracting -- but ultimately it's a game. No matter how many times your paw touches the dot, you never really 'capture it.' The game is fun, the game is distracting, but an old school piece of string is more fulfilling -- it's real, you can touch it.

9) Value Relationships: We all know the saying, "you get what you put in." Many of the items above are little things that only require thought and consideration. Often the relationships we value most mirror this.

10) Appreciate Time: Something we all tend to reflect on is how much time we have left with someone or something, relative to the time that's elapsed. I've had 5 great years with kitten, lots of memories. I hope he's part of my life for many years to come, and at the same time I'm reminded to not take that potential for granted. Maybe that's why I'm able to put together what ended up being a long list with much longer descriptions than expected.

What do you think? Anything you'd add?

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