What I Learned From My Cat About The Writing Life

Animals are great teachers. This is what I learned from my cat about the writing life:

Keep irregular hours: if you want to prowl around at night or take outrageous naps in the afternoon go ahead and do it. Who said there were rules?

Be totally independent: give when you chose to, ask for what you want, know your own mind, do your own thing: always

Indulge your senses: they were gifted to you for a reason

Go off and have adventures: you’ll have more stories to tell when you get back

Protest at closed doors: they were meant to be kept open, allowing us to roam free

Explore every nook and cranny: who knows what goodies you might find?

Be yourself: I admire my cat the most when he just is. His full self: magnificent, beautiful, funny. The essence of catness. Fulfilling his purpose: being precisely what he was meant to be.

This post is a contribution to

What I Learned From Animals project being run by Middle Zone Musings and High Callings

Photo Credit: Catness Mosaic by Joanna Young on flickr

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Joanna Paterson

Journal and writing coach, teaching ways to notice and capture the wonder of the everyday, through writing, poetry, and photography.

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20 Responses to “What I Learned From My Cat About The Writing Life”

  1. On June 14, 2008 at 9:30 am Nadine Touzet responded with... #

    Hello Joanna,
    I have a cat and a dog and I know exactly what you mean. However, there’s also a lot to be said for the undivided love and affection that a dog gives. Doesn’t a writer need that too? ;)

  2. On June 14, 2008 at 11:28 am Dianne responded with... #

    What fantastic lessons, Joanna, I love this!

    Cats really are such wise creatures … and yours is very gorgeous! :o )

  3. On June 14, 2008 at 12:35 pm Andrew responded with... #

    Ha ha!

    I think your cat has the right idea, Joanna.

    I think we can learn a great deal from our pets. However, I feel that I’ve learned a lot more about what not to do than what to do.

    I had a dog who was kept outside during the day. We provided him with a kennel which had inside a hessian mat as well as several blankets inside to keep him warm on cold days.

    My decided he preferred the mat and blankets to be out in the sun, so every day he would drag the entire provisions from the kennel outside. As a result, when it rained, the mat and blankets got soaked, and the sheltered kennel would be left with just a cold, hard wooden floor.

    Not all of the things our pets do are particularly wise, but they are a whole lot of fun nevertheless.





  4. On June 14, 2008 at 3:16 pm Brad Shorr responded with... #

    What an adorable friend you have, Joanna! And now we know where you learned all your writing skills. What is your cat’s name, I wonder?

  5. On June 14, 2008 at 6:24 pm Sara responded with... #

    I love this! I wrote about lessons in simplicity learned from my dog about a month ago, and it was so much fun to think and write about. I like “Indulge your senses.” Isn’t it funny how pets can be content just sniffing the air?

  6. On June 14, 2008 at 6:55 pm Robert Hruzek responded with... #

    Great lessons from your furry friend, Joanna! Don’t you just love how they can pour themselves into just about any shaped space, or how they have a way of “owning” a room?

  7. On June 14, 2008 at 9:02 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Nadine, you could well be right. Except I’ve never really been a dog person… not yet anyway. My cat stayed with a family with 2 dogs when I was away for 3 months and had a wonderful time with them which made me think some day, maybe…

    Dianne, thanks for appreciating his gorgeousness both here and on flickr. He is purring loudly with the appreciation.

    Andrew, you are so right. I’ve learnt a lot from my cat’s daft antics, but it would have meant writing a longer post and I didn’t have time! Your dog sounds funny. It’s wonderful to watch them work so hard at things which are so patently ridiculous.

    Brad, there were once two of them, best friends and brothers, and it’s been hard adjusting to there being just one (for him and for me). This gorgeous and outrageous one is called Cracker, because he is (cracking), and because his father was called Jacob (Jacob’s Cream Crackers)

    Sara, yes, I think there’s much to be learned from their total enjoyment of and appreciation of the moment. Sounds like this is a philosophy that would fit well with your blog :-)

    Robert, yes indeed. And aren’t those two traits also ones that writers might aspire to? :-)

    Thanks once again for a great challenge. I didn’t have time to pen a story, but I wanted to be sure to take part anyway.


  8. On June 15, 2008 at 5:35 pm SpaceAgeSage responded with... #

    Our two cats have taught me how to relax and trust. For example, the male cat doesn’t just jump in our laps for attention, he plants himself there to luxuriate in a human’s attention, then stretches to full length to enjoy some belly rubs, and finally curls into a ball to sleep with a peace that radiates into the room.

  9. On June 16, 2008 at 4:49 am Robert A. Henru responded with... #

    Interesting post Joanna =)
    Cat is real ignorance, as if the whole world is his. It’s so confident in being itself.


  10. On June 16, 2008 at 7:31 am Ulla responded with... #

    thanks for your post! I especially love the last sentence: “I admire my cat most when he just is”. I love cats but don’t have one - life in a flat in a big city is not much to offer to a cat.


  11. On June 16, 2008 at 8:21 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Space Age Sage, you capture that so beautifully. Your words are making me smile now as I think of him. What a wonderful expression: a peace that radiates into the room

    Robert, I’m glad you managed to post the comment this time. Sorry for the trouble before. You’re right, a cat is totally confident in being himself. But I wonder: is that ignorance, or wisdom?

    Ulla, although I am envious of you living in Berlin it’s a shame if it means you can’t have a cat!


  12. On June 16, 2008 at 9:51 am Alina Popescu
    Twitter: alina_popescu
    responded with... #

    Very inspirational entry, Joanna. I’d add one thing I’ve learned from my cats though: know my worth. Cats are well aware of what they are worth and would never settle for less :)

  13. On June 16, 2008 at 1:59 pm Karen Putz / DeafMom responded with... #

    What a beautiful cat! It’s true that animals do mourn the buddies they miss. My mother-in-law had two dogs, and one of them was hit by a car. The other dog was never the same after that-it broke my heart to see the change.

  14. On June 16, 2008 at 6:12 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Alina, that’s a great addition. Know your worth is a powerful mantra, and not just for writers!

    Karen, I think my cat has now recovered though it was hard (for both of us) at first. I compensate by pretending to be a cat which makes for some good cuddles!


  15. On June 18, 2008 at 11:23 pm Amanda Mae responded with... #

    Wow Thank you so much for writing this! I found this completely by chance, and I have to say this has been an inspiration for me! I was down when I found this and it made me smile and feel better about some of my own unique writing habits! (IE: irregular hours)

  16. On June 19, 2008 at 8:06 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Amanda

    Sometimes I think posts we find by chance are the best. Glad this one gave you a lift.

    I berate myself too about my irregular hours… still much to learn from my cat who just does what the heck he wants.

    Best wishes with your writing


  17. On July 1, 2008 at 5:29 pm emily carmichael responded with... #

    Joanna, he’s gorgeous! reminds me of a much more elegant, and of course lighter, version of my Huckleberry (photo linked to my name).

    we have had a house full of cats my entire life, and i have probably learned more from them than from many of the people i’ve know. thanks for a lovely post. =)

  18. On July 2, 2008 at 8:44 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Emily, thanks for sharing the link to Huckleberry - he is gorgeous. My cat’s brother, now sadly not with us I’m afraid, had ears just like that :-)


  19. On September 5, 2008 at 10:05 am Dianna responded with... #

    I know this is an old post, but I just wanted to say that I love cats, and that it is so true. I personally take the odd hours advice to an extreme. (I run on an Australian Schedule, or at least what I would like to run on in terms of schedule if I lived in Australia…)

    And he’s pretty. I just called a male cat pretty. It’s okay, mine is too.

  20. On September 5, 2008 at 2:10 pm Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Dianna, it’s never too late round here to share a comment or two. Thanks for taking the time to read and offer feedback.

    I’m glad you liked the piece, and my cat. I tend to call him handsome - but he probably does have moments of being pretty too :-)

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