What Cats Can Teach Us About Mindfulness

Last spring my daughter fell ill with a chronic pain in her upper GI track. Her doctor prescribed hypnotherapy to calm her anxiety when the pain felt too intense. She even sent us a recording via text on a Friday night at 10 pm to help my daughter. Over the next few months we alternated between the tape and a calming app that played ocean waves. But nothing worked in acute moments of pain like the purring of our cat. 

Prince Waffles is a handsome Siamese male. Originally a foster kitty, I knew he would stay forever before he even came into our home. As an orphaned kitten he never quite weaned; so, now two years old and weighing 16 pounds, he still suckles a blanket as if it were his mama. He pads and purrs and settles into surround comfort that affects anyone who is near him. Within seconds of him settling next to my daughter’s pillow on his favorite blanket, I noticed she would relax and fall asleep, often within less than 60 seconds.

It was in these moments as a mom, that I began to reflect about why Prince Waffles worked better than any CD or phone app at taking away my child’s pain. Did his purr have magical healing powers? Or was my daughter able to tap into the furry moment in a deep, mindful way. When Prince Waffles settled next to her pillow, the only thing that mattered was the sound of his purr and her hand on his soft fur.

I then began to do some research about cats as therapy pets and mindfulness teachers. 

Mindfulness is defined as the art of bringing one’s attention to the present experience on a moment-by-moment basis. By heightening the awareness of our thoughts, feelings and surrounding environment, we engage all of our senses, which in turns helps us to sense, feel and, hopefully, enjoy all that the present moment has to offer.

Eat. Play. Purr. Repeat. 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a cat? The long body stretches, the leisurely lounging, the sense of curiosity and the rumblings of pure satisfaction. Our feline friends seem to have mastered mindfulness and make the purrfect mindfulness teachers. We can learn a lot from our feline friends when it comes to enjoying peace of mind and expressing our purrsonalities in a positive way. 

Cats are creatures of habit and their aloofness, or cattitude, is often misconstrued as being distant or too independent. Cats are incredibly sensitive, attentive and LOVE to communicate with each other and with us. Theyuse a range of communication modalities that encompass all the senses: vocal, visual, tactile and olfactory. And their internet sensationalism proves they have distinct personalities. They are often fun, loving and playful. They can be great nurturers, providing fabulous comfort and support to their people. They are also quite loyal.

Because cats are so great at mastering self-care, it’s no wonder our furry feline companions are sought after as therapy animals. When compared with dogs, cats don’t always make the grade as therapy animals due to our old-school perceptions of them as home bodies. But organizations like Pet Partners and Love on a Leash recognize a therapy cat when they see one.

Cats have a proven track record of providing immense comfort to adults and children suffering from emotional, physical and psychological ailments. Whether your cat has the temperament and certification to become an emotional support animal (ESA), you can learn so much about mindfulness by simply observing your feline pets. Cats never need a reminder to enjoy the present, to forgive and forget or to rest when they feel tired. They embody a natural balance between eating, playing, purring and resting without needing prompts or permission.

How can cats provide phenomenal comfort and support to those struggling with anxiety, depression or other psychological and emotional issues? In spite of their mysterious aloofness, your cat is tuned in to your emotions. It’s not to say they are full empaths, however. Many animals can modify their behavior to reflect the mental and emotional state of the people and animals around them without assuming that specific behavior or emotion. So, while cats do not become sad when you are sad, their energy will slow down to reflect your sadness. They have also been found to stay by your side in times of need, providing  quiet affection in hopes of raising your spirits. 

In fact, some studies show a cat’s purr may have healing powers. The frequency of a cat’s purr has been found to be therapeutic to them, other animals and humans, too. Other studies have shown a cat’s purr is similar to a transcendental sound vibration used in some forms of meditation.

And for those of us who know and love cats, scientific proof isn’t necessary. From my daughter’s experience, I know first-hand that a contented, purring kitty will boost moods, lower blood pressure and relax our minds.

So, if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a cat, try acting like a cat for a day and see for yourself just how much felines can teach you about being present in the moment. If you’re not sure how to do this, here are some ameowzing ways to go inward and celebrate the special mindfulness connections you have with your furry feline.

  • Breathe in rhythm with your kitty’s purring
  • Center yourself and your thoughts in unconditional love 
  • Take a paws from the busyness of your life and do nothing
  • Practice self-care 
  • Live in the moment, being fully present as you pet your cat
  • Hug your cat as you would hug your child
  • Meditate to the sound of your cat’s purring (there’s an app for that)
  • Take a nap when you feel tired
  • Make time for play every day
  • Sun bathe on your front porch 
  • Treat yourself when you take positive action
  • Listen to every meow and contemplate the emotion behind it 
  • Stretch (Cat-Cow pose is a good stretch to start with)
  • Pause for a few extra seconds before starting a new activity

Take it from felines and their carefree lifestyles. Try a few of these feline tricks and you’ll soon be feeling calm, cool and relaxed.

Don’t own a cat? No problem. Google cat videos for endless giggles, visit a local cat café or stop by your local animal shelter to get your fill of feline fun and unconditional love. Cats lighten our hearts, bring us joy and remind us of the numerous benefits of mindfulness.  Purr on.