Life is busy, and we all suffer from too much to do. Have you ever had the sudden realization that, “Hey, it’s been awhile, days even, since I petted or loved my cat!” I’m embarrassed to admit that there have been days when I may not have touched my cat once. But our cats thrive when we give them quality time and attention. If we are mindful about prioritizing time, there are strategies that will keep our cats and our home happy and allow us to continue to strengthen our special bond with our cats.
Identify Time Wasters – Replace with Cat Love
If we’re honest with ourselves, we can identify time wasters during our day. What are these for you, and could your cat be benefiting from the time you might be wasting on something else? If I’m honest with myself, my time wasters are checking email. I do not need to check email as often as I do. If I added all the time up that I waste on this pointless action, I’d have a nice little chunk of time to throw some toys across the room for my cats to chase, or to drag a feather toy out on the floor and give my cat some good exercise and fun. It lightens the energy in the household in a way that checking email will never come close to.
Take It In Small Chunks
The world conspires to make our attention spans shorter and shorter. As a result, we think we have no time to relax for five minutes. To get around this and spend more time with your cat, use the same trick that people often use to accomplish goals. Take small chunks. For example, if it seems overwhelming to think about losing 20 pounds, you tell yourself instead that you’ll lose one to two pounds this month. If it seems overwhelming to commit in your mind to playing with your cat for 15 minutes each evening, take a smaller chunk from this goal. Set a goal of five minutes of playtime. What often ends up happening is that you and the cat have so much fun that the five minutes becomes 15 minutes or more, without any effort.
Make Mundane Cat Chores Fun
Sometimes I dread cat feeding time. I have five cats; two of them love to steal food and so they require being put in carriers to eat their meal. One will eat only if constantly reminded. (He may be a little senile.) It can turn into quite an ordeal, managing the feeding of several different cats or even one cat who’s a fussy eater. It sounds so simple, but if I take the time to try and approach this chore in a positive way, it’s more fun. If I find gratitude while I’m preparing their food, with good self-talk (for example: I’m so grateful that Rama got through his cancer scare a few years ago, and that I can feed him this good food), I am again bringing myself into the moment and appreciating my cats.
I’ve caught myself absently stroking my cat while my mind is elsewhere. I suppose that this is better than no stroking at all, but I somehow enjoy the connection with my cat better if my attention is fully focused on the action in the moment. And I have a feeling that my cat might enjoy the bond better (stroking, brushing, whatever) if my mind and heart are truly in the moment – truly present.
How do we get our busy minds to be quiet and stay in the moment? Dial it down to every joyful detail. Slow down. For example, instead of having the experience of I’m stroking my cat – isn’t that nice, try to take it further. Stroke more slowly, if your cat loves this. Stop and notice what you love about your cat. Do you love how he leans into you on the couch? Do you love the feel of his glossy fur? Is the shape of his eyes amazing? When he gives you a certain look, do you want to pick him up and hug him? In this case, you’ve moved from I’m stroking my cat to I’m stroking my cat; I love his glossy fur; he’s come so far in all these years; I’m so happy that he feels secure in our household. Big bonus for you and your cat. You are reminding yourself of what you like and love about this cat. Your cat is reaping the benefit of mindful quality time, not a rushed touch on the head or nothing at all.
By paying attention, and using mindfulness in these ways, you’re taking your time with your cat to a whole new wonderful level.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.