Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Feline Lessons

I finished the most delightful book a few nights ago. It is entitled ‘Cleo’, written by New Zealand journalist and author Helen Brown, and I noticed it has just been released into America on

A neighbour gave it to me to read. She knows I’m a cat-lover, and maybe you do have to be a cat-lover to enjoy this book, as the main character Cleo is a feline. It’s more than just that though, it’s a perfectly written memoir involving a family tragedy and how this little cat (that they tried unsuccessfully to return to the gifter 'because they were more dog people'), healed their family.

I know the French woman teaches us lots of things (and Lord knows I go on about them enough), but I believe we can also learn a lot from cats. And the passages from the book below are quite Francais (or perhaps more Italian) on the art of living well, just from a silky-whiskered point of view.


Guilt isn’t in cat vocabulary. They never suffer remorse for eating too much, sleeping too long or hogging the warmest cushion in the house. They welcome every pleasurable moment as it unravels and savour it to the full until a butterfly or falling leaf diverts their attention. They don’t waste energy counting the number of calories they’ve consumed or the hours they’ve frittered away sunbathing.

Cats don’t beat themselves up about not working hard enough. They don’t get up and go, they sit down and stay. For them, lethargy is an art form. From their vantage points on top of fences and windows ledges, they see the treadmills of human obligations for what they are – a meaningless waste of nap time.


One of the many ways in which cats are superior to humans is their mastery of time. By making no attempt to dissect years into months, days into hours and minutes into seconds, cats avoid much misery. Free from the slavery of measuring every moment, worrying whether they are late or early, young or old, or if Christmas is six weeks away, felines appreciate the present in all its multi-dimensional glory. They never worry about endings or beginnings. From their paradoxical viewpoint an ending is often a beginning. The joy of basking on a window ledge can seem eternal, though if measured in human time it’s diminished to a paltry eighteen minutes.

If humans could program themselves to forget time, they would savour a string of pleasures and possibilities. Regrets about the past would dissolve, alongside anxieties for the future. We’d notice the colour of the sky and be liberated to seize the wonder of being alive in this moment. If we could be more like cats our lives would seem eternal.

- from Cleo, by Helen Brown

Pictured above is my little cat Zita Rosarita who died in January, age 17. Sweet Rosie-girl. Being black and white she's just the perfect colouring for my blog.


  1. I love to just sit sometimes and watch my cats do their thing. Oh, how they fascinate me! I love my two dogs dearly but, the cats (all 12) always make my day. They have a French attitude! Have a wonderful first day of Autumn - I mean Spring for you!

  2. I miss my cat as well...18 years she was with us...and it's been a few quiet months since she passed.
    I love how she would find the sunny patch on the carpet and stretch out for a nap...and her daily grooming of her sweet face.
    She also ate small portions and often...and never had a weight problem!

  3. Thanks Lisa, Happy Autumn to my northern hemisphere readers. You are right - cats do have a very French attitude.

    Leslie, my girl was slender her whole life too and a fastidious groomer right to the end. A friend gave me a book called French Cats Don't Get Fat. It's actually very good and highlights the many similarities between cats and Parisiennes!

  4. How true! They do enjoy every moment and relish the nap. One of my favorite things to do with my cat was take a rare, luxurious nap on a Sunday afternoon. I would crawl into the bed and she would notice that hmmm, it's daylight and she's in bed....then she would hop up and curl up next to my legs and we would blissfully doze without guilt. Sometimes for hours. Ahhhh, bliss.

  5. For all you cat lovers, this will make you laugh; I have a cat phobia (a really bad one!) So bad in fact I couldn't finish the complete post as I felt my heartbeat getting faster.
    I know you cat lovers will find this extraordinary!
    So apologies Fiona for not being able to leave some constructive comments for this post!

  6. Stephanie, a nap is so much better with a cat pushing into you or even better, lying on top. If you are immobile for longer than five minutes they will be climbing up for a snuggle.

    I love it when they wake up from a nap with you, fur out sideways, eyes all squinty as they come to, a big yawn which you try not to get in the way of. Just like people really.

    Vanessa, you are a sweetheart to even leave a comment at all! Next time I do a cat post (don't worry, there are none planned) I am banning you from comments - for your own good! You poor thing, that must be hell, those dang cats are everywhere. My heart goes out to you.

  7. Hard to believe with four dogs, that I am also a big cat lover. We have one kitty who loves my husband more than anyone else, and likes to hang out all afternoon in our living room and watch the world go by with one of our Yorkies, Daisy.
    He puts our big dogs in their places when needed - they are terrified of him - and will bite us if we pet him when he doesn't want to be pet. He pretty much runs the show.
    He's had FIV (feline HIV) for many years and I know he won't live too much longer. A sad thought.
    I love the differences between cats and dogs. Cats seem so much more confident and strong sometimes. And they are their own boss...good luck to anyone who tries to get a cat to do what they want on command.

  8. I've never thought about the connection between cat's and the French attitude - but it's so true! I love my dear housecat who has been with me almost 12 years. She senses when napping is about to take place and is johnny on the spot, snuggling up against me until the nap is complete. She also insists on sharing the mat with me during yoga sessions and actually meditates on it for hours after I'm done.

    Your Rosie-girl was a beauty; I'm sorry you lost her.

  9. Fiona,
    This is almost painful in its pleasure to read.
    I have written a short story called 'Tickles, the Magic Cat' about my own Tickles. The words you quoted from her book are absolute and yet difficult to put into the words she used. How fantastic. I will definitely get from Amazon. Bella,ciao, meow.

  10. oh.. and a guy friend once said of Tickles, "she's like the best girlfriend you ever had; beautiful, hard to get and loyal."

  11. Adrienne, yes, good luck getting a cat to do what you want. That's the nice thing about dogs. They are genuinely friendly and want to please you. Dogs appreciate their food too. I can't count how many times I put out gourmet food or fresh meat for Rosie and she had a sniff before walking away. My husband says 'all I ask for is a cat that eats'. I don't think they exist.

    I have seen photos of your sweet cat, I hope he lives a long and healthy (as much as possible) life.

    Cherie, I love your cat-yoga story, and especially the hours of meditation at the end.

    I miss Rosie, but it was her time. After our other cat Hannah struggled on for years getting thinner and more frail, I asked the Universe for a clear sign when it came to Rosie. We arrived home from work one night and she had had a stroke. Thank you Universe.

    Debra, you wrote a book? Amazing! I think that's the coolest thing to do ever. I love your friend's quote about Tickles too. She must have been one special cat.

  12. Well, the book has yet to be published! Just wait, though!


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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