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?