I’ve never done a cat story on the No B.S. Fridays. Considering how popular cats are on YouTube and Facebook, I should be ashamed of myself. Here’s my first (and last) cat story.
I lost a battle of wills with a cat, but it taught me something about human laziness.
We used to own a cat… Or should I say, my WIFE owned a cat?
I didn’t have a lot of love for this cat. It was this kind of fussy, primadona type thing.
And it lorded over us like a tyrant.
Man, the things we had to do for this cat. Especially around food. It would only eat one flavour, of one brand of cat food. Nothing else.
And so if you ran out and they had none at the shops, you were stuffed. You couldn’t just get her another brand of catfood – even a different freakin flavour. It was that one tin or nothing. I can still see that tin in my mind.
Anyway, so we tried to break her addiction one time. It just got ridiculous. And it was also one of the more expensive options.
And so I put a different tin out for her. I put it down, she looks at it, and then comes back over and starts meowing at me.
“Yeah, yeah. You’ve got food. It’s there.” And I go back over and tap her bowl. “See?
She comes over, takes a sniff, and then looks up and starts meowing again, and rubbing itself all over my legs.
I figured that she would give in at some point. Sooner or later it would get that this is her food for the day. She’d come around to my way of seeing things eventually.
But she didn’t.
The meowing goes on and on.
And so I think, I’ve got to take a stand here. If we cave now, the cat knows it’s got us. We’ll labour under its yoke for the rest of our days.
I need to show it who’s boss. And it just needs to accept that this is its food, and we, the humans, get to decide what that food is.
And it’s not like we’re not asking it to eat glass or anything. Just some perfectly good, middle of the range cat food. She doesn’t even have to catch it.
I thought my negotiating position was strong. The cat would come around.
But the cat kept at it. Constant meowing. Running beneath my feet as I was walking places. Trying and get up on the keyboard. It knew how to drive me crazy.
We go back to the bowl. Same story.
And now I start to doubt myself. Maybe she doesn’t actually realise it’s food. Or maybe she has a genuine reaction to something in it. Maybe the cat’s gluten intolerant? Wouldn’t surprise me with that cat. Probably doesn’t agree with her chakras.
Maybe this isn’t an ambit negotiating position after all. Maybe she not trying to psyche me out.
I take my doubts to bed. Leave the cat locked outside the bedroom.
When I get up in the morning, the food hasn’t been touched, and it’s the same game all over again.
I let it go on until well in the afternoon, and then I crack. I don’t want to be neglectful. I don’t want to end up on A Current Affair as the kitty-torturer guy. The cat needs to eat.
We go back to the old tin.
I’m thinking about this, because we go out for dinner with an old friend the other night, who for years has been a committed vegetarian. She orders lamb.
Turns out, she had started eating meat again, because she just need the iron and B12. (I didn’t even realise there were 12 Bananas in Pyjamas.)
She said that no matter what she did, no matter how many iron supplements, or kale and spinach super smoothies she had, she just couldn’t absorb the iron.
She said it was like her body was passing on the broccoli, and holding out for the steak.
Just like my cat.
She’d eaten a lot of meat as a kid, and I guess her body had become conditioned.
Or it’s like my friend’s two year old who went through a phase of eating nothing but blueberries. Talk about an expensive habit.
It got me wondering. I hadn’t seen this side of human / animal nature before. There’s a part of ourselves that’s actively holding out for the easiest option – the most energy rich food, or the lowest energy path.
It’s not just that we have a preference for these things, but there’s part of us actively resisting other options.
Maybe this made sense for pre-civilised biology. Don’t go filling up too much on all those vegetables and bugs. Hold out for the mammoth steak. Go get yourself a mammoth steak.
And so if you’re trying to correct a bad habit, it’s not just that you end up somewhere bad through successive failures to exercise will power.
It’s that part of you actually seeks out the bad habit, and actively resists better habits.
Think sugar. It’s not just that you’ve developed a sweet tooth, because over time you’ve generally gone with the sweeter option. It’s that you’ve got a taste for the energy, and now not only do you crave it, you actively resist other options.
Sugar habits are hard to break.
To me, this changes how we should think about shaping our conditioning for success. Not only do you need to tame that part of you that prefers, but you also need to tame that part of you that resists.
So in the case of sugar, not only do you need to train yourself to be able to say no, or take the less-sweet option when it’s available, but you also need to train yourself out of actively resisting healthier diet choices – vegetables, mammoths etc.
To me, this is a bit of a revelation.
Maybe it’s all two sides of the same coin, but I feel like there’s something interesting here.
And that is, if we want to grow, we need to recognise that inertia is not our only obstacle. Part of us will always be resistant to growth…
… like a fussy cat, content in its power.
What do you think? Do we ‘actively resist’ the things that are good for us?
How do we train that side of our selves?
How do you tame a fussy cat?