By Jen Spengler, a health and wellness writer for Sharp Health News and a content editor with Sharp HealthCare.
My cat Mumford can be a real jerk.
He rarely comes when I call him. He loves to knock pens and reading glasses off my desk —knowing my dog will grab them and run — and he has offered his rear end up to my colleagues while standing directly on my computer keyboard during more than a few video conferences. (Though that’s often good for a laugh or two.)
He can also be the tiniest bit terrifying. I often catch him eyeing me like someone plotting my demise. (Wait — do you think that’s what he’s doing?) And he’s been known to take up residence on the stair landing like a troll guarding a bridge. No one dares try to pass for fear of falling victim to a swift strike of his paw.
However, there are many advantages to having a pet — even one like Mumford. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pets offer a variety of health benefits, including:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Lowered cholesterol levels
- Decreased levels of triglycerides (a type of body fat)
- Reduced feelings of loneliness
- Increased opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities
- Improved opportunities for social connection
So, while Mumford can be persnickety — which is basically the same as saying he’s, well, a cat — he also helps keep me healthy. What’s more, I think Mumford has valuable lessons to share and I’d like to be a little more like him.
- Mumford is thrifty with his time, attention and affection. While he has no trouble showing you exactly how he feels about you ¬— and couldn’t care less if you like him or not — I, on the other hand, can easily wear myself out trying to get someone to like me; or worrying about what people, even strangers, think of me. Mumford either likes you or he doesn’t. Spend a few minutes with him — if he deigns to grant you an audience — and you’ll know exactly which it is.
- Mumford goes after what he wants. Our dog’s wagging tail appears tempting, he bites it. Our other dog’s face looks goofy, he swats it. When his shared food bowl gets filled, he heaves his cat sister out of the way without hesitation to get first dibs. However, I try a little too hard not to look overly aggressive, hungry or self-serving and can miss out on opportunities as a result. Some may call his behavior vicious, but I prefer to think of it as forcefully ambitious.
- Mumford recognizes the importance of self-care. Mumford naps when and where he wants. If I’m brushing my teeth, he might decide the sink looks like a good place to snooze. We’re making dinner, and the floor in front of the refrigerator becomes prime resting space. Whereas, if I’m feeling a little worn down and find myself with a few moments to spare, I tend to fill them with a task rather than cutting myself some slack. Mumford is all about the slack.
- Mumford “takes up space.” He’s been known to sit in an offensive manner, cleaning himself in offensive ways, all while seeming to dare you to tell him to show some decorum. He doesn’t care what he looks like, is shamelessly loud — both when yowling while awake and snoring when asleep — and loves to be the center of attention. Meanwhile, I might do my hair and put on makeup to take the dogs for a walk, then apologize to neighbors for taking up too much of the sidewalk while doing so. Mumford is 100% Mumford and makes no apologies about it.
- Mumford seizes the day. If the door is open, he runs outside. If a person he likes is seated, he goes in for some head scratches. If a tree is too close to the fence, he makes a quick getaway up and over into the neighbor’s yard. He’s never one to turn his back on adventure. In contrast, I make sure to first care for the kids, complete my work, tend to the pets, finish the laundry, clean the house, water the plants and then — when all is said and done — I’m too beat to do anything more. Mumford lives to “carpe diem” and I should too.
So, in honor of International Cat Day, I am going to try to be like Mumford — more confident, driven, self-caring and adventurous. Though I think I’ll leave being offensive — and occasionally villainous — to him. It’s kind of his thing.
Pet adoption fees will be waived for all animals at the County of San Diego animal shelters in Bonita and Carlsbad for the entire month of August to celebrate “Clear the Shelters.” Learn more about pet adoptions, fostering or volunteering.