What my cats taught me about love
1. There will never be enough time with those we love. We’ll always be greedy for more time, but losing my cat taught me how much I can feel her presence in my heart even after she was gone. The loss of a pet can feel like a throbbing ache because we lose a relationship so pure and inexplicably connected. And sometimes, the fear of that very loss holds people back from adoption. But to have lived that love, rested in the helplessness and allowed it to touch me deeply has left me with so much grounding in my vulnerability.
The immenseness and longevity of love, does not end with loss. In fact, it gave me the strength to love more wholeheartedly and fearlessly knowing that love, lives on.
2. Have faith in another’s ability to self-heal. Cats are notorious for hating a trip to the vet — even if it’s ‘for their own good’. But they are exceptional at adapting their routines to make room for self-healing. They change their eating habits, restrict their own movements to accommodate for a hurt leg and find ways to communicate to us when they need our help. You will not receive more cuddles from a cat than when they’re hungry or unwell. They are also very vocal when they need help, despite their particularly high capacity to tolerate pain — another lesson to learn.
3. Everyone shows love in different ways — attunement allows us to hear how others communicate love in quiet ways. It has made me appreciate the quietness of love itself and how vast it can feel in its silence.
4. We don’t realise how deeply internalised our idea of love and control is until we have loved cats. If you have tried to control a cat, bless you. They are very clear about their desire for fierce independence and you will most definitely be confronted with your own issues with control. One thing is entirely certain — the issue is ours, not theirs. And is a mirror into the dark side of ourselves.
Our idea of attachment is sometimes very enmeshed, unconsciously, with control. Letting go, being free and liberated in love are alien concepts, leaving us in a puddle of tears. The imagination that we are enough, that the people we love will return feels so far away. And yet, this is exactly what cats teach us. When they hide or wander off on their own adventures, we learn that they have a life outside of us. That our love can be full and heartfelt and others will have room for more. As counterintuitive as it sounds, leaning into my helplessness helped me gain security.
5. It is not ‘less than’ to have a family with animals and not human children. It is equal — love is real, felt and immense. Just because love is different, doesn’t make it less.
6. There is nothing more satisfying than the warmth of a cat curled up on your lap. If your relationships with humans feel half as nourishing as this — you are on the right track.
7. Cats show us how unconditional love can exist with boundaries. People think cats don’t love like dogs because they aren’t as enthusiastic. But they are profoundly self-sufficient, love their own company, yet choose to be with us everyday. Cats comfort us when we are low, offer expressions of love when they feel ready and trust their instincts when they meet new humans.
No matter our intent, cats instinctively know what they are comfortable with. What I learnt from my cat is that love holds many emotions — kindness, trust, anger, hurt etc. But unconditional love is about being free to say no and trusting that others will still love you and be present no matter what.