Six lessons cats can teach you about divorce. (Yes, cats.)
If you read my articles here, you may know that I have a calendar for posting. This way I know what to write on the blog each week. I don’t struggle with writer’s block as much when I have the topic planned. I like to tie in to the calendar when I can, and Monday 10/29 is National Cat Day.
I have to admit when I looked at this week’s idea, my immediate reaction was that I had lost my mind. What can cats possibly teach anyone about divorce?
But the more I thought about it, the more I found lessons we can pick up from cats. Plus it gives me an excuse to talk about my felines. So, win/win.
“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” — Sigmund Freud
Cats won’t try to hurt you if it will hurt them
Cats let you know when they’re displeased! However, they’re not actively seeking to hurt you if it means they’ll be injured in the process.
I adopted two adult cats from the San Diego Humane Society. They’re both pretty good about not biting and scratching. My tabby boy, Tyler, will simply run away when he’s done with getting attention.
My queen is a Maine Coon mix, very soft and fluffy, named Veronica. I call her Ronnie. If I pet her for too long, she’ll bat at me. She won’t pop her claws out, but she’ll take a swipe to let me know to leave her alone. Ronnie doesn’t really want to hurt me. She just wants me to leave her alone.
If taking an action will be bad for you in the long or short-run, don’t do it just to get back at your spouse. Maybe you’re thinking about keeping the house, because your spouse didn’t earn the right to keep it, or was lazy, or you’re just angry. If it will bankrupt you, choose differently.
One thing you should know: dragging your kids into it is going to hurt you in the long run, as well as them. Don’t do it.
Pick positive actions as much as you can. Sometimes you may feel like you need to take a swipe. But after that, leave it. Don’t get tempted into bad decisions because your emotions are running hot, as they often do during divorce.
Cats don’t hold grudges after a fight
My two are not littermates. I’d originally wanted littermates. There weren’t any at the shelter and I was kitty-ready! I got Ronnie first. Then, via a long tortuous process, I introduced Tyler.
They do kitty fight. They swat at each other, grab each other, flip each other over. No blood is shed during this process. But after a few minutes, they’re done. They’ll just go their separate ways for a while, or sit and groom themselves.
This is not to suggest that a couple shouldn’t get divorced. Spouses can’t always just fight and get over it.
But, each should leave it alone after an argument. No revenge plotting or taking, no police if it’s not necessary, no grudge holding. You had your fight. Now move on. Not only is this better for both of you, it’s better for the kids if you have any.
The goal for you in divorce does not involve the other person. It’s not about hoping they’ll reconcile, or that they’ll die in a fire, or that they go bankrupt because you run up bills on the joint credit card (which hurts your credit score too!)
It’s about you and your children moving on to the next chapter in your life.
It’s about taking charge of your finances and your future.
Compared to Tyler, Ronnie must have had a better life before she got to me. She adjusted to living with me fairly quickly. She likes to snuggle (on her terms, of course) and get petted.
Tyler took longer to warm up to me. They had told me at the shelter that he was a cat’s cat. After sharing some slow blinks, we started getting along better. He greets me when I get home so he can get petted. He also visits me when I’m in the bathroom to be petted. Hey, I never said cats were logical.
So, they like having me around. We all tolerate each other pretty well. They love me best when I’m dishing out the wet food, of course.
But they’re also perfectly fine when I’m out of town for a few days. They have timed feeders and water fountains and big litter boxes. My cats take care of themselves while I’m gone.
Being married doesn’t mean you have to give up all your independence. Even if you’re not the “financial one” in the household, you need to have a grasp on the basics.
When you’re getting divorced, you’ll need to handle these responsibilities anyway. If you don’t know how to, you can learn. Then if you get married again, you can maintain some independence.
Ronnie likes to be petted, especially on her butt. So she’ll parade in front of me with her butt arched into the air. When she feels like being petted with the mitt, she’ll let me know. And if she just needs some attention because she has a toy or I’m typing…maybe a blog… and not giving her enough attention she’ll chirp at me. (Maine Coons don’t meow, they chirp.)
Tyler, by contrast, likes a good head and neck rub. If he needs attention and I’m not giving it to him, he’ll just very lightly boop my leg with his nose.
In other words, both of them ask for what they need, in their little feline ways.
Hopefully this one’s pretty obvious! Divorce is a difficult process. When you’re at the end of your rope, you don’t have anything left for your kids. Instead, make sure you’re taking time for yourself to unwind. Maybe see a movie with a friend while the kids are at school or with the other spouse. Call your friends, read a good book, or whatever relaxes you.
And if you need help, don’t be ashamed to ask for it.
Cats don’t put up with your shit
People can treat their dogs badly, and their dogs remain devoted. (Note: I love dogs too! I am not recommending anyone be mean to their dogs.)
Cats do not put up with that kind of behavior. If you’re acting crazy they don’t want to be near you. Their tolerance for annoyance is pretty low. They will let you know when you cross that threshold.
A cat will never let you pet them for too long so that you’ll keep them.
You can’t change your spouse’s behavior. If you’re the one acting badly — asking the kids to choose sides, for example — you can change your own actions.
But if your spouse is behaving badly, you don’t have to put up with it. Allowing them to treat you that way is not going to get you the divorce settlement you want. It’s going to get you low self-esteem and the feeling of being used.
Don’t accept it. Call it out. Document it for the judge. But don’t put up with it.
Cats don’t need expensive things
Ronnie love, love, loves a cardboard box. Whenever I get a delivery, she’s right there waiting for me to empty it so she can get in. It’s often more fun than toys!
They’re happy with what they get. They eat what I give them. They play with whatever they feel like, whether it’s a plastic bottle cap or an actual kitty toy. My old cat used to chase twist ties when I flicked them across the floor. They don’t need me to spend money on toys.
Again, hopefully this one is pretty clear! You do not need to spend to keep up some imagined state of living.In fact, since finances are often tight after divorce, you’re better off living more frugally anyway.
Your kids don’t need the latest everything. They don’t need to have a remote-controlled toy Range Rover (yes, I’ve actually seen one, no joke). What your kids need is for you to be there for them. You don’t need a lot of money to do that. You can go to the park together. There are lots of things that are free or cheap that you can all do together.
And if you don’t have kids, you can save even more by living frugally! Either way, set yourself up for a solid financial future after divorce.
So take some feline living lessons for your divorce. If you have pets, watch them as they exist in the present moment, or take a sun bath, or stretch out and nap. They can help you get through the divorce process more peacefully.
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