6 Things My Cat Taught Me About Being an Introvert
Cats hate to be forced to do anything, like socialize. But if you leave them alone, they’ll eventually come out to play — just like introverts.
I’ve always considered myself a dog person. My family got a golden retriever puppy when I was five, and from that very first night on we were inseparable. He was my best friend — even when he chewed a hole in my doll’s arm. (Don’t worry, my mom made her a “cast” and she was just fine!) From their boundless joy to their slobbery, genuine kisses, there’s clearly a reason dogs are known as man’s — and woman’s — best friend.
But when I thought of cats, I, like many other dog people, believed that they were aloof, rude, and antisocial. That is, until I moved in with two roommates — only to find out that our apartment would soon be home to not just a cat, but a Sphynx cat. For anyone who’s not familiar, Sphynx cats are hairless, which doesn’t matter at all except for the fact that it can be jarring to meet a cat with no fur.
Thanks to this hairless, occasionally sweater-donned, always sweet, sometimes sassy little being, today I have my own kitten, Kricket. And as an introvert and highly sensitive person who can struggle with accepting who I am, I’ve come to realize I have learned a lot from her (and still do) — after all, we’re both just a little misunderstood. I trust I will continue to learn from her, but for now, here are some things she’s taught me about being an introvert.
6 Things My Cat Taught Me About Being an Introvert
1. Boundaries are necessary: if you need alone time, have alone time.
If you’ve ever watched a cat hiss or swat at someone who is invading their space, you’ve seen boundaries in action. Cats are not afraid to say, “Hey, you’re doing something that I don’t like and it is not OK.” In fact, it’s absolutely necessary for them. They’re adorable, tiny, soft, and cuddly. If they didn’t say “no,” they’d be at the mercy of those around them.
If, and only if, you respect their boundaries, cats begin to trust you. I’ve watched this process with our dogs, foster kittens, friends, family, and strangers. Not to mention the vet, who greets me with what Kricket peacefully allowed them to do during checkups and what she made very clear went against her wishes. (She’s really not a fan of blood work. Can you blame her?)
Introverts can have a difficult time with boundaries since we tend to be empathetic and compassionate — we want to help others, even at our own expense. For me, lately that’s been showing up in checking emails outside of working hours — I want to help, but time logged off is pivotal to my mental health.
Like cats, introverts need to learn to say “no,” too … otherwise we are also at the mercy of those around us. It’s important to remember that not only are boundaries healthy for us personally, they can also help foster healthier relationships with those we love.
2. “Hangry” (hunger + angry) is a real thing, so have snacks readily available.
As many cat owners can attest, a hungry cat is a vocal cat. Whether they wake you up, meow incessantly, or bat a half-empty bowl to the floor in protest, cats take their food very seriously. There’s even a “life hack” I saw on Pinterest once that recommends if you need to remember to do something daily, just feed your cat or give them treats at that time. They’ll never let you forget.
While cats’ dedication to food is amusing, it’s also something we can learn from. Introverts and highly sensitive people tend to be more in tune with our bodies and more sensitive to physical cues such as, you guessed it, hunger. If we ignore the signals, we can become irritable, dizzy, sick, and struggle to focus or function normally. Yes, we get hangry (hunger + angry).
So while knocking dishes off the counter might not work for us, it is important to speak up or take a break when you notice your body asking for food. And if you find yourself getting hungry at inopportune times, try keeping a nutritious and filling snack on hand that won’t cause a sugar crash later. (Sorry, vending machine chocolate.) Nuts, fruits, and veggies are great options to temporarily stave off hunger — think homemade trail mix, apples and peanut butter, or carrots and hummus for some quick, easy, and delicious protein-rich ideas!
3. Sometimes, you just need a nap to recharge.
Ah, the cat nap. Nothing says relaxation like the sight of a kitten curled up in a ray of sun, their fur warm, their little belly rising and falling in slow, rhythmic breaths, their toe beans tucked under their chin. It’s often tempting to call this spoiled or lazy behavior, but I think it’s actually self-care. True, our cats don’t have 9-to-5 jobs or bills to stress them out, but they do experience more than we think. From ridding homes of pests to keeping themselves clean, cats are busy in their own way. The difference is that when they need a break, they take it. Unapologetically.
The ability to stop and recognize your body’s need for sleep — or even just appreciate the warmth of the sun — is a vastly underrated skill for us “quiet ones” living in such a loud world. So the next time you see a cat lounging in the sun, take a moment to check in with yourself. Maybe it’s a good time to retreat and take a break. After all, introverts need time to recharge, and there’s no better way to do that than with a quick cat nap.
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4. Embrace alone time — whenever it may be: afternoon, evening, or even in the middle of the night.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of waking up in the middle of the night to a cat ricocheting through the house like they’re possessed, get ready: I hope you enjoy your uninterrupted sleep! For those of us who have witnessed this, it’s quite an experience. Whether they’re getting out excess energy or chasing ghosts through the halls, cats have certainly learned how to do one thing: embrace their alone time.
I’ve often wondered if Kricket gets upset that the dogs also have free reign of the house during the day, but she just seems to have embraced having the time to herself at night! As introverts, alone time is something we desperately need to stay grounded, energized, and healthy, but it can be difficult to find.
The key here is to search for — and embrace — whatever time you do have: morning, afternoon, evening, even the middle of the night! Either go into your introvert sanctuary — a dedicated, calm area of the house just for you — or even take a quick walk around the block.
There are also ways to build moments into your day to calm your mind and recharge without drastically affecting your schedule — focus on mindfulness and breathing while making a cup of tea or coffee, eat lunch outside or by a window, or take breaks to stretch in between answering emails.
5. Enjoy the simple pleasures (the same way my cat enjoys cardboard boxes).
We know cats love their naps and sunlight, but they’re also known for their love of boxes, string, and pushing things off surfaces. Kricket still prefers my husband’s box full of hard, uncomfortable knick-knacks to her soft, cushy bed. She also has a box full of toys that she overlooks in favor of … well, the box. While this doesn’t always make sense to us, it’s undeniable that the simple things truly bring our cats the most joy.
As “quiet ones” who prefer calm environments, the simple pleasures can be even more powerful. A beautiful song can bring us to tears. Studying the night sky can bring us peace. Reading a good book can transport us to new worlds. Hearing Kricket purr has the power to make me cry about 98 percent of the time.
It can be hard to remember or make time for these little things when the world gets overwhelming, but that’s exactly when they’re the most important. Think about your go-to simple pleasures and have them at the ready for when you need them at a moment’s notice.
6. It’s OK to socialize on your own terms!
Cats hate to be forced to do anything. If you try to make a cat play or socialize, they’ll likely run and hide somewhere. But if you leave them alone, you may notice that they’ll come out to cuddle and play eagerly. A playful cat is a far cry from the stuck-up, egotistical creatures they are accused of being!
A common misperception about introverts is that we, like cats, are reclusive and don’t like people. This is quite simply not true! However, we do prefer deeper, meaningful conversations and smaller groups. This is where we can learn from our feline companions. Trying to force ourselves to be more extroverted or “social” will exhaust us and make us want to run and hide from the world (more than we do already). But embracing our personality and socializing on our terms — bookmarked by plenty of alone time — can be truly enjoyable and freeing.
As I was writing this, a quote from John Steinbeck came to mind:
“Are cats strange animals or do they so resemble us that we find them curious as we do monkeys?”
I’ve never met a monkey, but after living with cats for years now, this quote holds a special place in my heart. Although dogs may still hold the title of man’s — and woman’s — best friend, cats truly have the unique ability to teach us introverts about ourselves through their own quirky attitudes and strong personalities. If we choose to listen, that is. (And listening is one of our top introvert skills!)