Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

What I Learned From My Cats

A Personal Perspective: Living in the moment.

I live with two cats. One of them is not much older than a kitten, a beautiful fluffy tortoiseshell with gleaming hazel eyes. Her name is Maida—I always name my cats something that starts with M, don’t ask me why.

The other one, Marigold, is old. I’ve had her since my partner, and I found her as a tiny kitten outside the jail in Ottumwa, Iowa, where we were visiting my partner’s friend and roofer, who was in jail for discharging a firearm within city limits. That was 2003.

My then-partner is married to someone else, the roofer is dead (nothing to do with that gun, he died peacefully in his sleep a few years ago), many things have changed in my life. But Marigold is still here, a small tortie-tabby with large, intelligent green eyes, one peach-colored paw, and a short pointy tail. (We learned that her tail was broken after we rescued her; she didn’t even notice when the vet removed the last three inches.) She sits on my lap when I meditate every morning for 20 minutes.

I’ve learned a lot from living with two cats—about life and death, boundaries, self-care, trust, and—particularly these days—living in the moment. Marigold doesn’t know she will die sometime in the next year or two, but I never forget it. Every morning, I anticipate how I’m going to feel when that happens, and then I try to put it aside and appreciate the fact that she’s here now. But it’s not that easy.

Of course, Marigold has a cat brain, and I have a human brain. All she can do is live in the moment; she’s not capable of conceiving death and the future. And I wouldn’t want to have a cat brain. I love my capacity for comprehension, imagination, grappling with ideas. Still, I would like to be more capable of inhabiting the present moment.

I can’t do it just because I want to. I can’t control my thoughts, but I can control my actions, and I have to find some action that will take me to the thought. This is something I’ve learned over time—that actions will take me to the thoughts and feelings I want, not the other way around.

And so, this morning, I look down at my little cat as she sat on my lap, at the black splotch of fur on top of her head, her tiny wedges of eyelashes, her pencil-eraser-colored nose. I closed my eyes and took in her small, neat, self-contained weight on my lap. I listened to the sounds around me—the creak of a floorboard, the exhale of the furnace, a car outside on the road. And the moment comes to me, as alive and present as the little old beloved cat on my lap.

Mary Allen
Meditating with Marigold
Source: Mary Allen
More from Psychology Today

More from Mary Allen

More from Psychology Today