Elizabeth Day: The key to happiness? Be more cat

I have a cat. I try not to go on about him because I know cats aren’t for everyone. I have friends who don’t like cats and we agree never to talk about it, a bit like avoiding a contentious political topic that will end in an argument across the dinner table.

Jenny Brough

But I love my ginger cat, Huxley, and I firmly believe he could win over even the most ardent feline sceptic. He’s been residing with us since late last year, but it’s only in lockdown that I’ve had a chance to examine his daily habits up close.

As I write, it’s been over 70 days that Huxley and I have spent together in close proximity, and what I’ve realised is this: for all those years of therapy and yoga retreats and meditation workshops and motivational Pinterest quotes and three-day juice cleanses and hormonal balance diets and following Gwyneth Paltrow on Instagram, the secret to a contented life is quite simple. It is to Be More Cat.

It is a philosophy I have condensed into these six easy steps from the point of view of my ginger guru:

1. Sleep a lot

Humans have a mistaken belief that they must earn sleep; that only in pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion are they allowed a brief respite at night. This is incorrect. In order to attain enlightened cat-like contentment, one must sleep during the day at regular intervals, preferably sprawled across a sofa upholstered in a colour designed to show moulted fur. Sleep is restorative and gives you energy to do what you need to do, such as watching cars and being constantly surprised when they move.

2. Enjoy the small things

It’s amazing how entertaining it is to chase a fly or become mesmerised by the reflection of sunlight off a watch face. These exercises as a human are a form of meditation, during which you forget your woes and concentrate on the joy of the present.

3. Be free

If you want to roll around in the flowerbed because it feels nice, then do! If you feel the need to jump into the neighbour’s garden, miaow ceaselessly at their window until they feed you half a tin of tuna, why not? Stay up all night playing with a catnip fish because you know how to party! Scratch the furniture – your human will tell you off, but who cares? You can just pretend you’ve got a short memory because you’re an animal. Make your own rules! You’ve got this! You’re a cat!

4. Show your appreciation

When someone shows you affection, give them affection back. Purr noisily and cuddle up on your human’s lap and nudge your head against theirs. They really like that stuff. Showing reciprocal love is the key to receiving more of it. It is an infinite resource: the more you give, the more you get.

5. Have clear boundaries

Be yourself no matter who comes through the front door. Some will try to stroke you. Others will claim they’re allergic. Some will simply be delivering parcels. You must be your independently minded self on all occasions, refusing to kowtow to any human’s desire for you to be a certain way. If you don’t feel like being stroked, that’s fine. Perhaps deploy a moderate hiss. They’ll get the message.

6. If in doubt, eat

Humans have a weird relationship with food. For centuries, they’ve been told they can eat only certain things if they want to optimise their physical selves. As cats, we know this is rubbish. We eat little and often and when we think about food, we want it immediately. Once we’ve eaten, we are sated until the next time. Simple.

And there you have it. Six ways to be more cat, and find yourself feline good (sorry).

This week I’m…

Marking

My friends’ significant birthdays and other occasions with yummy personalised cupcakes from Rachael’s Kitchen.

Watching

Filthy Rich on Netflix: a harrowing but necessary four-part documentary on the criminal acts of the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Lounging

In Desmond & Dempsey pineapple pyjamas. Comfortable PJs are so important and these, with free monogramming, are the best.