I adopted 2 cats in late December 2019. At the time they were 2.5 years old, they are sisters from the same litter. Their names were Ding and Dong. The chances of me calling them that were virtually slim to none. Cat’s don’t respond to their names being called anyway. I decided to name them Pinky and Bandit. Pinky has a pink nose, and Bandit looks like she is wearing a mask. They have been great companions during this pandemic and have taught me 7 valuable life lessons.
I learned to accept them as they are and cater to their distinct personalities. Pinky is high energy and always wants to play, whereas Bandit prefers to rest most of the day, mostly on my bed and on my lap. They seem like naturally apprehensive and shy cats. When they first arrived at my place, they liked to disappear into the bathroom. When the front or balcony door would open, they’d run and hide. With patience, encouragement and positive reinforcement, they eventually became comfortable with their new surroundings, even exploring outside the front door and joining me on my balcony a few times.
When I think of people in my life that I’ve wanted to change, I realize how much I accept Pinky and Bandit as they are while encouraging their growth, building their trust and confidence. If I can easily do that for my fur babies, why not for the people around me. We all need to be accepted as we are and be in a safe, loving environment where we can flourish.
They both like to show affection in their own distinct way; Bandit loves to sit on my lap while I work, but if I put my face close to hers, she finds it threatening and immediately runs away. For the most part, Pinky keeps her distance, but when she wants to cuddle, she’ll perch herself on my shoulder or find her way onto my lap. When Pinky and Bandit want affection, they both let me know what’s okay for them and what’s not.
It’s important to display affection for those we love and to be able to interpret how each of us shows our affection towards each other. If the specific display doesn’t work for us, it’s important to communicate our preferences. It’s beneficial for ourselves and the relationship to take the time to make a concerted effort to understand our own preferences and one another.
I’ve noticed they seem to have their own territory, Bandit’s realm is my bedroom, and Pinky’s place is the living room. They may spend time in each other’s territory but tend to dwell in their designated areas.
Boundaries and limits are important in any relationship; boundaries are personal parameters, and limits are physical and psychological parameters. Knowing where we stand on both is crucial to any relationship. Otherwise, we become prone to giving or taking too much, and we either feel resentful, used, or entitled.
Pinky loves playtime. Bandit can do without as much stimulus. However, playtime for both is essential. It contributes to learning, reducing stress, and a creative way to exercise. It also tires them out, so they don’t keep me up at night or wake me up extremely early in the morning.
It’s easy for us to forget to play and be present. Since my cats need playtime, and Pinky needs a lot of it. It reminds me that I also need playtime too, whether it’s to go for a nature walk, dance, or have a good laugh. Work without play and presence can lead to mood swings, tantrums and burnout.
I bought Pinky and Bandit numerous toys. Amongst them were catnip stuffed toys, an electronic moving fish, an automatic laser pointer, and a fancy decor-friendly cat tree. They tend to ignore these elaborate toys but focus on the stuffing paper and the boxes they came in.
I tend to fixate on something I want, and I barely use it when I get it. When I look back at the product, I likely could have done without it. At least with Pinky and Bandit, the decision to buy these toys wasn’t theirs. As fast fashion discarded products fill our landfills, and single-use plastics pollute our oceans, Pinky and Bandit remind me that we can all do more with a little less.
Pinky and Bandit seem to have a similar daily routine; eat, sleep, play and be present. Their lives are simple, filled with daily habits, regularity and uniformity. Just because they live modest lives doesn’t mean they aren’t impactful.
In a society where we glamourize stress and ‘to be on the go,’ we can forget that it’s okay to relax and be present. Routine is okay, and we have to allow ourselves simplicity and presence every once in a while. Doing more, continuously producing, being busy and going out to meet others constantly can be a distraction from ourselves. Introversion and routine can carry benefits such as learning how to thoroughly enjoy our own company. Staying home and laying low is more precious now, during the COVID-19 pandemic when many of us are called to stop the spread by working from home, only closely associate with those within our household, and to keep our social circles small.
When I’m gone for a day or even a few hours, Pinky and Bandit always seem extra affectionate and warm when I come back – and it’s not because they want food or their litter box cleaned. I take it as they missed my presence. People think of cats as aloof, but they have boundaries and discern who they form secure and loving bonds with. Cats may even judge us, but they are also loyal and can develop strong ties with those they feel safe with.
It reminds me to love all, but to also be discerning with the company I keep close. It’s more than essential to create tight connections with consistent, loyal, and generally trustworthy people. The people we keep close become our family. They have the potential to influence our success or magnify our failures.
To ‘other’ another person or group of people is to highlight and acknowledge differences. We can ‘other’ based on a person or group’s identity or ideology, such as skin colour, sexual orientation, religion, political views, etc.
That exposure of our inner world to others opens the door to fostering connection and building a relationship. When we learn how to hold space for ourselves and others, we strengthen the foundation and build trust.