What I Learned from My Master (My Cat)
I have recently adopted the cutest kitten in the world (okay, in my eyes). His name is Shiva, he is 12 weeks young, an adorable ginger moggie.
I have been wanting to adopt a cat for a very long time, perhaps ever since I graduated from University. That was many years ago. But life did get in the way, and I moved overseas, with all my travels over the past years, it was almost impossible for me to adopt any pet. My mother was never a pet person, there is no way she would take care of an animal for me. So I did not act on that thought until many years later, i.e., last week.
How I connected with Shiva was also a wonderful serendipity and I'd like to share it here.
What is Meant to BE Will Be
Initially, I thought I would adopt a white cat because I love the colour white. I love white clothes, white dresses, "so a cute white cat would be ideal" I thought to myself. Then I had a look at some cat photos on the LostDog home website (yes they have cats too). There was this cat (not white) which had caught my eyes. I couldn't remember his name (he was not Shiva) but I thought he seemed interesting.
When I went to the adoption centre, I had a look at him. He appeared much larger than in the photo (they probably took the photo a while ago), and he was a bit naughty. Still I developed a liking for him, thought I might adopt him, although I felt slightly unsure in the back of my mind.
"Are you sure?" The girl at the centre asked as if she saw through my reluctance.
"Hmmm, can I have a look at the adult cat section?" I wasn't quite sure why I said that since I was clearly here for the kittens, but I felt I had to go to the adult section just to have a final look. She said sure.
So I went to the adult cat section, all the huge fat adult cats were lying lazily, nonchalantly in their cages. Then there were these two cute kittens. One kept "Meow Meow" at me. It was Shiva. We locked eyes instantly and I knew in that moment that he was the one. I asked the girl, "Why there are kittens in the adult section?"
"Oh, because we don't have any more space in the kitten section to place them, so sometimes we place them here." She replied.
I told her if she could let these two kittens out so I could have a closer look at them, I meant Shiva specifically. For some reason, there was this strong, instant connection with Shiva (His original name was Steven) and after hugging him for a while, I knew that I just couldn't leave the place without him.
"I will take him." I said to the girl firmly this time, with no hesitation.
When we put him back to the cage and waiting for the vet to arrive. He kept looking at me and meowing at me, also climbing to the gate, I could see that he really wanted to get out and as if he was asking me to help him escape from the cage.
I love both cats and dogs, but secretly (now openly since I'm writing it out) I have a preference for cats. I am more of a cat person. I am happy to adopt a dog too one day if someone could take care of it together with me (because I know myself too well and I would most likely be a lousy dog owner).
Dogs display unconditional love. I find them super adorable too, but I am reluctant to take care of a dog all by myself because I don't think I can give the amount of attention a dog would normally require. I can love a dog unconditionally, but I don't know if I want to give him or her the attention when, say I am busy writing and doing other things. And I may feel guilty if I fail to deliver or I may not feel guilty (as feeling guilty would not solve the issue), but I don't want to be an irresponsible dog owner.
Also for dogs, you have to give them a bath, cats, on the other hand, clean themselves (it is better not to bathe a cat unless it's really dirty. Cats are masters of keeping themselves clean). And you have to walk a dog at least once a day, you will never need to walk a cat. I think to take care a dog would require much more effort and energy than taking care of a cat.
Yes, now you probably know I don't like too much responsibility in my life. Truth be told, sometimes I am a bit terrified of responsibilities (that's why marriage is not my fantasy and I'm unsure about motherhood in this lifetime).
I want to live life as freely and spontaneously as possible. I am good with responsibility when I consciously choose them, for example, writing, running workshops, retreats and doing things I like. Also, I need a lot of uninterrupted me-time, hence, being a dog owner for me at this time of my life would not be ideal.
Responsibility aside, there is also another reason why I am more of a cat person. I love the temperament of cats - they are usually calm, quiet, and independent. Although occasionally they can be quite naughty and even grumpy or aggressive, but most of the time cats display good temperament. And cats can never bark. Thank God! (I don't know if I can still write if there is an animal barking next to me all the time)
After having my cat for over one week, I feel like I'm living with an enlightened Zen master and I'm honestly learning a lot from him, despite he is only less than three months old!
1) He Lives in the Present
Shiva lives spontaneously with no fixed schedule. I think most animals are, only we humans are the slaves to the clock. Afterall, what do animals know about clocks and time? In their world, there are no clocks, the concept of time probably also doesn't exist. They live in the here and now.
When he is hungry, he eats. When he feels sleepy, he sleeps. When he is in the mood to play, he plays. When he feels he wants to be intimate with you, he comes close and licks you. I believe my cat is perhaps much more affectionate than other cats. On his first night home, he jumped on my bed and slept with me. He loves licking me, my fingers, my face and even my ears! He also sometimes like to stand on my laps, put his claws on my shoulders and kisses me on the lips, like a human. I wonder if he has decided that he would be my boyfriend instead, not my baby, haha.
2) He Loves with No-attachment.
Although Shiva loves me, he is also unattached. He doesn't get too upset if I don't return his affection because maybe I was busy writing or occupying with something else, or simply not in the mood. He seems to understand and he is alright with it.
When I'm writing, at the beginning he would try to get some attention by sitting on my laptop. Once he understands that my laptop is a no-go area (I also had to set healthy boundaries with him), he now just lies quietly next to my laptop and allowing me to write in peace (thank you Shiva!).
3) He Follows the Flow
Shiva is a master of riding the flow. When he wants to play, but no one wants to play with him, he would just play by himself or do something else, such as taking a nap. He doesn't waste energy in feeling upset.
When I stop letting him in my bedroom at night (because he would love to sleep on my pillow and I had trouble sleeping like that, also I did not want to change my pillowcase every night), he meowed (protested) a few times but when he saw this was no use (when setting boundaries, one has to be strong), he gave up and simply contented about sleeping on the sofa instead.
He doesn't force things to happen. When the flow is not in his favour, he simply adapts himself to the current situation and finds comfort in whatsoever unfolding.
4) He Loves Himself Unconditionally, Radically.
Shiva is the master of self-care. He cleans himself all the time, rests often (sixteen to eighteen hours a day) and doesn't indulge in overeating. He eats little meals every day, sporadically.
He also sets his boundaries with me. When I feel like petting him and giving him cuddles, but when he was not in the mood, he would just shrug off or bite my fingers slightly, letting me know that he was not really in for cuddling at this moment. I would just have to simply let go (and no I don't get upset either, I'm pretty much like a cat), and when we were both in the mood, we would come together again.
We respect each other and understand that we are both complicated beings with free will.
5) He is curious & courageous
Shiva has infinite curiosity. Whenever he discovers something new, he would like to play with it for a while, only later abandons it when he loses interest.
He is also courageous. The first time he jumps off from my writing desk (it was quite high). He wasn't quite sure and was a bit reluctant. But he still decided to trust (after carefully examining the height) and jumped. He did it beautifully. I clapped my hands and was definitely experiencing a proud mum moment (my maternal instinct was all over the place - a girlfriend recently visited me and teased me about being a good mum and taking good care of my baby - strangely I do feel that way - particularly when the vet told me I had to bring him to the clinic for another vaccination next week - I felt the responsibility of a mother).
I am so grateful to have Shiva in my life. He enriches my life (I even start to create a children's book based on Shiva) and he is truly the embodiment of present moment living and a Zen master. I'm grateful for his everyday wisdom and I look forward to more of his wisdom unfolding.
Present moment now. Meow!