Lessons From Cats, How to Deal With Crisis
Updated: Feb 15
In these trying times, I find myself turning to anyone for help or answers about how best to deal with social distancing. I have read scholarly articles, attended webinars, and spoken with my most trusted colleagues on this topic.
I have and will try anything to keep from getting the dreaded “Quarantine Crazies.”
In my long hours of research on social distancing, I have found one thing to be unequivocally true: Cats hold the answers we seek. By cats, I don’t mean Cohesive, Aggressive, and Targeted teams…I literally mean felines.
Cats are the true Masters of Social Distancing and they can teach us much, much more about how we should handle ourselves during a crisis than any scholar could.
As such, this article covers four lessons from cats that can benefit us all in these challenging times.
Lesson 1: Focus on the Bright and Shiny
The news is a constant loop of dismal and depressing information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. In past crises, exposure to repeated media coverage was linked to significant psychological distressand even physiological issues years later.
Take a lesson from cats and focus on the things around you that are bright and shiny. Read articles about the heroic medical professionals who risk their health for ours. Get a good cry in and watch a video of people clapping and honking outside of hospitals to show appreciation for these essential workers.
Going outside can also help you focus on the bright and shiny. Sunlight is an important source of Vitamin D, which promotes healthy bones, improves resistance to certain diseases, bacteria, and viral infections, and regulates the immune system.
Exposure to the sun also influences serotonin levels, which are responsible for positive mood and mental outlook. Sunlight and serotonin influence melatonin rhythms, which affect our energy, mood, and sleep quality. All of this helps us stay positive.
Our thoughts and attitudes can have significant influence on our physical and mental health. In times like these, it’s easy to focus on the negatives. But this cat is outside smelling flowers, and you should be doing the same (six feet away from anyone else, of course).
Lesson 2: Practice Self-Care
Cats practice excellent self-care by breathing deeply, exhaling completely, practicing calisthenics and stretching, and grooming more than adequately. These strategies can be used by humans to relax when stressed.
Cats are creatures of relaxation. One of the reasons that cats love cardboard boxes is because the enclosed space allows them to retain more of their body heat, keeping them nice and toasty and relaxed.
Cats also practice phenomenal sleep hygiene by sleeping around 13-16 hours a day. While this may not be acceptable for most humans, making sure you stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even during tumultuous times, has proven benefits for your health.
In a study conducted by the author over the past two weeks, three house cats did not alter their schedules one bit despite receiving “shelter in place” orders from their Governor. Be like these cats and keep a schedule similar to your normal. Psychologists suggest that, even when working from home, we wake up at our normal times, keep regular working hours, and set designated times for handling anticipated distractions. If you are struggling to do this, maybe it’s time to go get a couple of cats who can serve as role models?
Lesson 3: Always Land on Your Feet
A highly tuned sense of balance and flexible backbones allows cats to twist their bodies to right themselves during a fall. This is called the righting reflex. It is the reason that cats always land on their feet and it allows them to fall without fear. In times of crisis, we need to develop our own righting reflex so we can be fearless and land on our feet.
The righting reflex is assisted by a cat’s flexibility and thick fur. To develop our own righting reflex, humans, therefore, must be mentally flexible and thick-skinned.
We must practice mental flexibility by being patient with ourselves and others while adapting to the “new normal” and navigating ambiguity with positivity. Having thick skin means being resilient and not letting things keep you down for long.
In times like the present, it may feel to many like we are falling from great heights. Remember, though, that this will come to an end eventually. Relying on self-care and our support systems can help enhance our resilience now to allow us to all land on our feet when things return to normal.
Lesson 4: Practice Introspection
Cats are often found staring out windows or directly at walls. That’s because they are thinking. Cats experience vast primordial and existential crises on a daily basis. Have you seen them when the food bowl nears empty? They take to themselves in these times of crisis to look inward and more fully discover themselves….probably.
Without daily commutes and social gatherings, humans now have much more time on their hands. Take advantage of this time and introspect: Reflect on what makes you happy and matters most in your life.
Things will eventually return to normal. But do you want to be the same person you were before this crisis? This unprecedented break in normal work life could present a great opportunity to many individuals. Perhaps you were going through the motions, unhappy in your career, or not feeling fulfilled in some aspect of your life. Now you have some time to sort through these topics. Make the most of it!
So, there you have it. From cats we can learn some critical lessons for how to handle ourselves during times of crisis like staying positive, practicing self-care, being resilient, and practicing introspection. These are just some of the answers that cats hold.
To update and improve our shared knowledge of all worldly things, it is imperative that we continue to try to crack the code and better understand what our cats are unwilling to tell us. The current author will be doing his part; the case studies will continue. More updates to come.