Take care of yourself first and other love lessons my cats taught me

Yes, I’ll admit it: I’m a crazy cat lady. I didn’t know how much I loved cats until I got my first, Edmond, from a local shelter. I fell in love with him immediately and he kept me company during many lonely nights missing Bosch while we were long distance.

Then, Bosch and I moved in together and soon after, he came home from work with a tiny Siamese kitten that he’d fallen in love with. We soon became the cat couple and we’re proud of it.

After spending as much time with cats as I do, I’ve learned a few things. Non-cat people think cats are heartless or apathetic. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Cats have just as many feelings as dogs, but they’re just a bit more subtle in how they express it. They are loving creatures and we could learn a lot from them.

These are 5 love lessons I’ve learned from my cats:

1. Just because they don’t want to hang out with you all the time doesn’t mean they don’t love you.

If you’ve ever had a cat, you know that they’re selective in their quality time. Sometimes they’re laying on your chest with their whiskers tickling your face and sometimes they’re on the other side of the room glaring at you for no apparent reason. Just like humans, they need personal space and alone time too. They don’t love you any less.

2. Sometimes they scratch but it’s nothing personal.

I want to make something very clear: This is not a justification for abuse. I don’t mean the intentional angry attack, like when an abusive partner strikes out in anger. By “scratch,” I mean the occasional accidental scratch that happens when they’re kneading your stomach or falling off the couch and stick their claws in for support. When comparing to a human relationship, these are the little “scratches” that we give each other when we’re not at our best, when we let our emotions get the best of us and we say something a little mean or when we take out our stress on our partner. In a relationship, we’re always going to make mistakes and it’s up to the other one to give a little slack and forgive.

3. It’s the little things that matter.

Cats are different from dogs — they don’t go out of their way to show you they love you. Dogs wag their tail and rush to see you everytime you get home, but the most attention you’ll get from your cat is when they bring home a dead bird. Just like with your partner, you have to learn to see the little things that show they care. When my cat chooses to sit next to me on the couch instead of on the floor or when they do figure-eights between my legs when I’m walking across the apartment, that’s how I know they love me. These aren’t grand gestures, but they’re small reminders.

4. Every cat shows their love differently.

There are as many different kinds of cats as there are cats. Some are more cuddly while others are more vocal. Some don’t pay much attention to you at all until you feed them and some won’t leave your side. One of the most important things about being in a relationship is losing your expectations for how your partner should show their love. Of course, everyone should have personal rules for how the people in their life should and shouldn’t treat them, but after that, we have to learn to accept the love in whatever way it’s given. Otherwise, we’ll forever be disappointed because our relationship isn’t exactly how we envisioned it.

5. Cats love themselves first.

Cats sleep up to 20 hours a day and spend half of their waking hours grooming themselves. Cats do what’s best for them above it all. In relationships, it’s a beautiful thing to sacrifice yourself for your partner and to help them be their best self, but we can’t do that 24/7. We must take care of ourselves first or we can never be the partner our loved one deserves. Cats realize this, too, and because of it, we get well-groomed and well-rested fur babies to love us — when they’re ready.