Cat People Versus Dog People

Monday through Friday each week, I share a lesson I have learned in life. Here is today’s lesson…


Cat People are fearful of change. They are comforted by routines, tradition, and schedules (it is their way or their way). They know when to wake you up (whenever they want you to wake up), when you are supposed to feed them (whenever they want you to feed them), and when it is time to play (whenever they want to watch you look stupid for 10 or 15 minutes while they sit there).

Dog People embrace the uncertain. They want to go outdoors, explore, and claim the world as their home (usually with pee). They are comforted by people they love, having new adventures, and tasting everything life has to offer (even if it was dropped on the floor first). They know when it is time to wake you up (anytime is a good time to wake up and explore!), when you are supposed to feed them (anytime you are eating or there is food around is the perfect time to eat!), and when it is time to play (it’s always time to play! How about now? Can we play now? Do you have that ball-thing? Do you have anything? I don’t care–I’ll chase a stick!).

Cat People pride themselves on being sly and clever.

Dog People pride themselves on being trusting and eager.

Cat People want you to work for them so they can spend more time napping.

Dog People don’t care who does the work as long as it is exciting and everyone is having fun.

No one is completely one or the other and both have their advantages (after all, they are the top two competing pets in the world). Oddly, even though I own a cat, I think I might be more of a Dog Person.

How about you?



How To Find Out If You Are A Bully

Before you get mad about bullies, you might want to take a look in the mirror.


Rainee (my cat) has a habit–no, a ritual–of annoying me every night between 3:00 and 4:30am. She paws my face, walks across my body, and licks my ear lobes and eyelids until I give her attention. When she uses the litter box at night, she likes to announce it to the apartment by yowling and jumping on the bed. To top it off, she consistently wakes me up a half hour before my alarm so I can feed her.

Sometimes, I just ask her to leave me alone because I am trying to sleep (and, surprisingly, sometimes she does). Sometimes, though, I react instinctively. Something furry suddenly falls on my face–I swat at it! Often, she gets pushed or kicked off the bed for pestering.

Last night was no exception. I swatted her away out of half-sleep frustration but I heard a bad landing and instantly jolted awake, worried I had hurt her. She was fine, but I was not. I realized I could have hurt her (she is an older cat) for nothing more than annoying me and wanting to play.

I grabbed her and apologized (as if she could understand me) and invited her to lay back down next to me, which she did. After thinking about it today, though, it occurred to me that animals can give us particular insight into our selves. I bullied my cat. That is a fairly petty jerk-move, even if I was half-asleep.

The way we treat others–especially those with less power in a situation–is a clear reflection of our own self-actualization or folly. In other words, the best person you are is not who you are when you are at your best. The best person you are is the best person you can be when you are at your worst.

This might be a work in progress and take some patience but I will be sure to work on how I express or (suppress) power when I have more of it than someone who can do nothing about it, human or otherwise.

I hope you will, too.


Before You Get a Pet…

Today’s Lesson: Pets are great companions but they come with the same challenges as taking care of a toddler or elder.


I love my one-eyed cat. She can turn a bad day good in about two heartbeats. She is my assistant, making sure I never wake up late and reminding me when to take a break. She is cute, attentive, and fuzzy.

She is also a terror. She barfs randomly and often, usually in the middle of the night. She insists on barfing anywhere there is carpet and avoiding the 85% of the apartment with easy-to-clean linoleum or hardwood floors. She sometimes misses the litter box and what I sometimes think is a hairball… isn’t.

She whines. A lot. She can wreak havoc on my ears and patience with a piercing “Mee-rrOWW!” when she demands attention.

She is fickle about her toys and food, and I have spent a frightening amount of money guessing what she might like. Not to mention, the cost of removing the tumor in one of her eyes, as well as follow-up vet visits, bills, and the obvious onset and cost of arthritis and other problems as she grows older. In fact, when the cost of removing her eye started edging over two grand, I began debating if I was doing the right thing. With two thousand dollars, obviously I could save my dear cat and extend her life… but I could also have simply given the money to a local shelter and saved many cats and dogs–which would perhaps be equally loved and valued by other families. It was tough but obviously I ponied up the money and kept Rainee around, despite her more annoying eccentricities.

When I see people trying desperately to give away their pets, I feel bad for both the pets and the people. I can relate. I have had so many late nights broken by poor sleep (thanks to Rainee’s puking or wanting to play or just generally announcing her presence to the quiet room) that it is more remarkable for me to count the nights I have slept more than three hours in a row.

The point is this: pets are wonderful but it is surprising how many families are unprepared to accept the responsibilities of ownership. Of course, some pets are easy just like some people–they do not seem to want to be fussed or have few needs. Most pets are also quirky, eccentric, and unpredictable…just like most people, and their needs change over time. It is surprising we do not have to pass a ownership test before buying a cat or dog. Most people, I would guess, are simply not prepared to be good pet parents.

If you are considering buying a pet–a commitment of nearly two decades of care and responsibility–I recommend considering these three questions ahead of time:


1. Am I ready to have a toddler in the house (again)? Are you prepared to never expect a solid 7-8 hours of sleep per night for the next 20 years or so? Are you prepared to have things broken, clean up messes, and be at the beck and call of a poor communicator that never matures for two decades, no matter where you move? Are you prepared to never have an uninterrupted romantic moment and clean hair and other things from your clothes all the time?

2.  Am I willing to break the bank for medical expenses, if needed? Cats and dogs have accidents and grow old just like people, and they come with the same problems you may face in taking care of a toddler or elder. Pets may experience dementia, eventual blindness, brittle bones, cancer, or random accidents like falling and breaking a leg or having urinary tract issues or even just food poisoning. You are the parent, caretaker, friend, and prison ward all-in-one.

3. Am I able to take proper care of my pet? Pets need to have their teeth brushed. They expect clean and sanitary rest room areas just like you. It is not good for them to “hold it” for 8-10 hours a day any more than it would be good for you to do the same. They need attention and social time every day or they become a little crazy, just like a person would. They are part of the family when you bring them into the family. We buy toys for pets because pets are not toys, and they are not glorified footrests or outlets for frustration.


If you are not ready, willing, and able to be a pet parent (or have not given it thorough consideration), then you might not be ready to own a pet for now. Sure, they are cute and cuddly and charming but they are also needy and demanding and dumb by comparison to humans. If the idea of taking care of an older parent or grandparent until they die is not appealing to you, then consider you have the same responsibility to an aging pet. Rainee is basically a child trapped in the “Terrible Two’s” stage of development for her entire life. Two-year olds are adorable (to some people) but they are tough, especially when you did not give birth to them.

If I still have not dissuaded you from buying a pet, then enjoy spoiling your pet and be prepared to learn patience and kindness on a whole new level (meditation will help). Otherwise, maybe instead of a pet, use the money you would have spent on pet care each year to go on vacation, and be grateful for every good night’s rest! You can always volunteer at a shelter or dog-sit for your friends and have quality pet time without having to worry about being a bad pet parent.



Look For What You Want to See

Today’s Lesson: When you call out to the universe, it listens to what you say (but you do not always listen to what you say).


Nicole is frustrated by incompetence and she rattled off a list of examples where it has been flourishing lately–the maintenance guy at work, the people running our apartment’s bill pay system, the unresponsive tax person she contacted, our car insurance agent… you get the idea.

She said, “You know that thing you say about calling out to the universe and it gives back to you? Is that this?”

I said, “This is more like ‘evidence-gathering’, where you decide something (people are incompetent) and then you quietly catalog every instance that proves you are right (see? The insurance agent didn’t call me back–incompetent!), creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

I explained the calling-out-to-the-universe-thing. What you call for, the universe brings forth. Things that seem like a coincidence or lucky break, I say, is more like Manifest Destiny. If you are a young person whose only desire in life is to be a musician, for example, then the universe hears that through the rest of the clutter of your life. One day, at a party, you are introduced to a music producer who is a friend of a friend, etc. by seemingly random coincidence. Someone who is in tune to what they are calling out for will see and seize the opportunity.

“So,” I said, “Why don’t you try looking for the opposite? Instead of focusing on and reinforcing incompetence, celebrate competence where you see it.”

“Like where?” she asked (a bit incredulously, I might add).

“We just came from a restaurant. They nailed our order–100% right. Totally competent.”

The rest of the night, Nicole was pointing out competence everywhere she saw it! She even noticed competency in our cat, Rainee, who it turns out, is extraordinarily competent at two things: annoying me and waking me up just before my alarm clock every morning, even when the alarm clock is not set.

It is funny how fast we can turn our perception of the world and our lives around, by remembering the universe listens to what you tell it, and responds.



Was It Good For You?

Today’s Lesson: The way I see the world does not have to align with the way you see the world.


I was so excited. The futon with the premium cushion and frame we ordered a month ago finally came in and was delivered. While the delivery guys set it up, I locked my cat, Rainee, in the bedroom.

When the futon was completed and placed right where we wanted it, I burst into the bedroom to excitedly show Rainee what I was sure would be the equivalent of the first moonwalk for her–a giant, padded landscape she could crawl up, on top of, and under!

Rainee could not have been less interested. I finally nudged her out of her cat tree cubby hole and carried her to the futon to show her how cool it was. I gingerly placed her on the big sofa cushion and she promptly jumped off and strolled into the other room to lounge on the floor.

Clearly, my idea of exciting news and Rainee’s are different. I say this with no irony: she would have been more excited over a loose thread on the futon cover than over the entire futon sofa bed plush mattress cushion itself.

Of course, an hour later, I walked by and found her napping on the futon. What may seem exciting to me could put someone else to sleep. How many times have I seen a tell-tale look of disinterest on someone but insisted they should be excited because I was excited, as if I needed validation we see the world the same way?

The way I see the world does not have to align with the way anyone else sees the world, including my futon-ambivalent cat.


A Safe Place

Snuggling away, hiding under a heated blanket in 70 degree weather… crazy like a cat.


I peeked in on my cat. She is buried in our electric blanket. I placed it on the floor and turned it on earlier today because I thought she might appreciate it. I checked on her because I realized three hours had passed without Rainee nagging me for something (attention, food, patio, unsure, wants to talk, etc.). She is presently a brown ball of cuteness, purring, and nearly indistinguishable from the warm, brown blanket on the floor.


Today’s Lesson: Sometimes all you need in life is to feel safe and warm in your home. 


Sleep On It

Patience is often the part to moving forward.


After many failed attempts at assembling the base to a new cat tree tower last night (the directions were literally just a drawing of the finished product), I was ready to send it back to the shipper with a very long complaint letter.

I was certain, though, that all the parts were there. I knew I had to be missing something but for the life of me I could not figure out what. Rather than act out of anger and frustration, I decided instead to give up the project until morning.

When I woke up today, I took one look at the tower and saw what was wrong. Two of the posts were on backwards.
Easy fix, and suddenly I was on my way to happy times for my cat.

Today’s Lesson: Sometimes just making time to rest and then taking a second look can solve the world’s problems.


10 Food Lessons I Learned From My Cat

I learn a lot of lessons from my one-eyed cat, Rainee, about life, patience, and being a good person. This is not really one of them.


I am a little overweight but my cat is looking rather svelte. I have been carefully observing her eating habits to see if there is something I can learn and adapt to my diet. Here are the 10 most powerful food lessons I have learned from my (quite spoiled) domesticated, house cat:


  1. Never prepare your own food. Someone will eventually do it for you. 
  2. If the person preparing your food is not moving fast enough, yell at them. Dancing will sometimes help as well. 
  3. Never trust whoever prepared your food. When they set a bowl in front of you, sniff whatever is in it, and just walk away. See if they seem alarmingly interested in you eating it. It could be poison this time. You never know.
  4. Every three days, barf up everything you have eaten. Barf on random furniture or on the floor at least 3 times, in 3 different places, as loudly and productive-sounding as possible. Also, three o’clock in the morning is the best time for barfing.
  5. If you see a glass of water no one is drinking from at the moment, go ahead and test it for cooties by dipping your hand into it and then lick your palm. If it seems legit, proceed to try and fit your whole head into the glass. It is best to drink it that way.
  6. To make meal time fun, push about half your food out of the bowl and just leave it wherever. This is not wasteful. The people that put it there can give it to starving cats in Africa if they want. They just don’t want to. 
  7. If there is no tuna in it, then it is not food of any kind and not meant for consumption. Make someone put tuna in it or wait until they bring you tuna.
  8. But randomly hate tuna. Tuna doesn’t own you.
  9. Eat lint and tinsel whenever you can find it. Especially if someone looks like they might want to take it from you. They probably want that sweet lint for themselves. They can get their own lint. You eat that lint as fast as you can.
  10. Never eat lint. It’s gross. Tinsel is still awesome, though. Lint is pretty good, too.


Today’s lesson: Consider the source. (Also, dancing will sometimes help.)



Today’s Lesson: 9 Lives Left [141003]

She barfed again, this time on the bed.

I was furious, already in a bad mood, and I wanted to act out; I wanted to kick her.


It was not easy to maintain my composure and remember she did not do it intentionally. It seemed like she did. It seemed like it was just minutes after I cleaned the puke in the hallway. The worst part was, there was not even a hairball. This time, I think my cat barfed because she liked the way it made her tummy feel afterward.


The barfing is definitely the worst part of owning a cat and on a bad day, it can be a true test of compassion and patience.


Of course, this is true of lots of things that make us angry, especially things we have little control over. Traffic. Emergencies. The weather during a vacation. Stubbing your toe. And yes, a cat barfing or dog peeing on the rug.


When things like this happen, I remind myself who I am (and who I strive to be) and either turn off the emotions or choose different ones. I know the world is not out to get me. It is just the world and sometimes it is great and sometimes it is difficult.


It is certainly inconvenient to clean cat hairballs and vomit after the accompanying “hurk… herf… halurrrkkhrf…” signal the arrival of an empty stomach, but that is part of the price for having a cat. It is enticing to complain about it (I love to complain!) but I know there is no point in doing so. The barf will still be there when the complaining is done. My cat will still be cute an hour later and the carpet (or sheets in this case) will be clean.


When you know the outcome, sometimes it is easier to take the shortcut there in your mind, while the physical world catches up.


An hour later, Rainee was on my lap, purring while I petted her. What attempted hairball?




Today The Lesson I Learned Is: Is That a Banana In Your Pocket or Are You Just Excited To See Me? (140725)

Every day when I come home, my cat, Rainee, runs to the door to greet me. I don’t have treats or toys for her. I’m not always in the best mood (sometimes coming in after a long work day). There is no particular reason for her to be excited and talkative when I arrive but she is right there chatting and rubbing around my legs every time I arrive.

She knows the sound of my car and the cadence of my footsteps. Sometimes she is at the door before I have turned the corner in the parking lot. Often, she is in the window meowing at me as I cross the lot to our apartment.

It is one of my favorite parts of the day. Seeing her on the window sill, pacing, waiting for me to hurry up the stairs, makes me smile and bound up three flights to receive my “Welcome Home” greeting!

Obviously, I don’t know what is going through my cat’s mind or what she really feels, but it must be the other emotion cats feel besides ambivalence…

Sometimes I am granted a double dose, too. If Nicole is home, then both Rainee and she are there to embrace me when I walk in. It is absolutely one of the best feelings in the world (people with young kids probably understand this). It is comforting to know someone is excited to see you every day.

I try to remember to return the favor. If I see Nicole pulling into the lot, I will wrap up what I am doing and go to the door, often with Rainee in tow.

I think this is a secret tip to keep romance strong in a relationship or to kindle family bonds with children or siblings.

So today’s lesson is: Just show up. Be at the door with a smile and a hug for the people who make your life easier or better. It is a great way to let someone know… they are Home.