Lessons from the cat about being green

Amazing green kitty

Lynn from Upcycled Love recently posted an entry on what her cat Smokey has taught her about personal connections, and it  made me think: non-human animals teach us a lot we’ve forgotten on the long road to opposable thumbs and so-called higher intelligence. And when it comes to low impact living, even your average spoiled housecat is a model of greenness.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember an earlier, maybe slightly snarky post on why my cat is greener than your baby.  

I’m ready to turn that into something a little calmer now.  In no particular order, here are five lessons that my small blind rescue kitty has taught — is teaching — me about being green.

Lesson #1: Simplicity is sustainable. Cats will not put up with accessorizing. Nor are they acquisitive animals. I have never met a cat that liked to shop. Although Brie likes her fuzzy blue blanket and her scratching post, her quality of life would not be seriously affected by their loss. (The carpet, however, would suffer.) With the exception of her food bags and plastic litter box and scoop, just about everything Brie consumes or produces is either biodegradable or recyclable. Now there’s a good example for us humans.

Lesson #2: The best toys in life are improvised, upcycled, and free. When I first got the cat, I bought her a stream of crinkly, crawly, bouncy, and jingly toys. Her enthusiasm for each had the longevity of your average toddler’s attention span. However, her fascination with biodegradable packing peanuts, fallen leaves or branches from my houseplants, and random things we drop on the floor seems to be endless. I will probably never need to buy her another toy. Do kids really need plastic play kitchens? Do I need electronic gadgets? Probably not. After all, I prefer playing around in the mud. (Clay, that is.)

Lesson #3: Being a biological dead end is OK. Like most rescued cats, Brie is spayed. She will never have a litter of baby Bries running around her. But honestly? Brie seems content to miss out on motherhood. Judging by the way she reacted to the last foster kitten, she has zero maternal instinct. Her life is calm, quiet, and slow to change, and she seems thoroughly happy. It’s well-established that sterilized animals are healthier, less aggressive and longer-lived. If we could get this message that it’s OK not to reproduce out to humans, maybe we could make some progress in stabilizing our growing population.

Lesson #4: It’s necessary to adapt to changes and challenges. Brie has been blind for several years due to toxoplasmosis. I don’t know whether she remembers being able to see or if she misses it, but I do know that she gets around handily, catches her toys by sound and smell, and has all the sunny spots in the house memorized. (Cats remember that sunlight is always better than electricity.) Regardless of what we humans do about the environment at this point, we’re not going to be able to prevent climate change. We might be able to mitigate some of the worst effects, but mostly we’re going to need to adapt to new, perhaps less pleasant, circumstances and try to make smarter choices in the future. No whining allowed.

Lesson #5: Happiness is 90% being loved and being content with what you have. This isn’t directly about environmentalism, but I think it addresses an underlying issue of our rabid overconsumption of resources. Maybe we’ve forgotten that stuff doesn’t really matter, doesn’t really make us happy. I think our pets remind us every day that quality of life has little to do with the acquisition of stuff. Certainly, watching Brie loll around on her back in a big puddle of sunshine, I think she’s on to something.

What have your companion animals taught you?


21 responses to this post.

  1. I thoroughly loved this, all points well taken. I didn’t know that climate change has gone too far to reverse:

    “Regardless of what we humans do about the environment at this point, we’re not going to be able to prevent climate change. We might be able to mitigate some of the worst effects, but mostly we’re going to need to adapt to new, perhaps less pleasant, circumstances and try to make smarter choices in the future. No whining allowed.”

    Thanks for telling it like it is!


    • My geologist friend explained it better than I could, but it has to do with the glaciers melting and releasing their trapped CO2 into the atmosphere, which intensifies the greenhouse effect, which melts more glaciers…and so on. It’s a cycle. Even if we stopped all emissions flat, right now, we couldn’t stop the glaciers from melting. So, yes, the planet is already changing, and we have to change with it.


  2. Posted by Evita on 01/20/2011 at 18:13

    Love it! And I so agree, some of the best lessons in my own life have come from nature, by observing other species.

    Whether it is how to know when to move on from the birds, to trusting ourselves fully from the jumping squirrels, lessons in nature are all around us and I continue to learn more each day…

    Thank you so much for sharing this!


    • Thanks for visiting, Evita! I’m in constant awe of the diversity of life on this planet, even though I rarely see anything more exotic than squirrels and lizards. It still amazes me that life comes in so many different forms.


  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jennifer Mo, Sandra Lee. Sandra Lee said: Delightful —> Lessons from the cat about being green: http://t.co/nniRtyt […]


  4. Posted by northwestshift on 01/20/2011 at 20:48

    I know my cat, Lucy, would say “Amen” to this 🙂 I love the attitude that cats have – “This is the way I do things and if you don’t like it… move along.” I’d like to adopt more of that!
    As for point #3, I’d have to agree. My husband and I are expecting our first any day now… but we’re really considering keeping it at one… for a multitude of reasons. I can’t even tell you how much opposition we’ve run into over it. That’s where I need a bit more of the cat attitude! 🙂 Great post!


    • Hey, congrats! I recently came across a book on choosing to have just one child called Maybe One. I’m afraid I didn’t read much of it (I’m in the Definitely None camp myself), but it might provide some perspective and ways to get other people off your back for making that decision.


      • Posted by northwestshift on 01/21/2011 at 06:45

        I’ve heard of that book, but haven’t read it yet… I’ll check it out! Thanks!


  5. Wow, excellent post. You made some really good points. Also, Brie is gorgeous!

    My cats have taught me to occasionally unplug from my inbox, Twitter feed, blog posts, etc., which not only serves to save electricity, it allows me to spend more quality time with them – choosing family over gadgets is a very green thing! If I sit on the couch and read a book instead of typing away on my laptop, I’m more likely to stop and pet my cats if they come over and sit with me. That makes them happy, which makes me happy!


    • Good point. I should probably be rubbing Brie’s tummy right now. 🙂 My last cat would come over and sit on my keyboard if she felt I was spending too much time on the computer. Brie isn’t quite as forward, but maybe she should be!


  6. Posted by Emily on 01/24/2011 at 14:37

    Brie is beautiful. I think Lesson #5 is the most important lesson we could all not just learn, but truly implement into our lives. Not being content is what is driving us to take too much from the planet.
    We should be happy for others who are content with having less and support their efforts. If only we could all be a bit more like Brie or Pooh Bear- just be more Zen about things.


    • I’ve spent two years of my life without a lot of stuff, and I have to say, the only things I really missed were people and the cat. I think there’s some room in our lives for beauty and comfort and the stuff that provides them, but it shouldn’t mean that we spend our whole lives acquiring (or desiring) them.


  7. These are great “kitty” points! Especially number 2. If only we took the time to see and be content with the beauty/utility of simple things like our cats!


    • Thanks for visiting! I think our companion animals do us a huge service in reminding us about what really matters.


  8. […] Lessons from the Cat About Being Green from Jennifer Mo at It’s Not Easy to Be […]


  9. Hi, I got here through a link at Always Well Within and just felt I had to write a few words. Because I found this post so relaxed and at the same time truthful. Thank you! Animals and nature has so much to teach us humans if we are just open and willing to learn.


    • Thanks, Tom! I agree that there’s so much to learn if we just pay attention to things outside ourselves. I wonder why we find that so difficult.


  10. Posted by Todra on 01/28/2011 at 13:49

    I just got a ding in my in-box telling me you were following me on Twitter. I always check to see if bots are following me before I follow back. When I saw your link and landed here, I realized I’ve found a wonderful place where the thoughts expressed are so similar to mine. This is a great post, but honestly, you had me at “child-free” in your profile description. I am happily in the same camp! Great writing. I’ll be back.


    • Hi Todra! I think we’ve met up before on Facebook through Healthy Beauty Project. I’ve enjoyed your video reviews, but I didn’t realize you were into many of the environmental issues that I am. Look forward to keeping up with you.


  11. And nine lives to boot! Great post. I’m particularly compelled by your childfree parallel between your content feline and those humans (myself included) who are perfectly suited to living kidless.


  12. Hello, all the time i used to check web site posts here in the early hours in the morning, since i enjoy to gain knowledge of more and more.


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