The ideal of calm

I met this contemplative kitty while strolling on Roanoke Island, September 2013.

I met this contemplative kitty while strolling on Roanoke Island, September 2013.

“The ideal of calm exists in a sitting cat.”Jules Renard

A year ago today, my post was about the exotic and mostly unknown world of undersea creatures.  Today I’m thinking of the wonders that are often hiding in plain sight, among animals we see so often that we scarcely notice them.

Dogs, cats, birds, squirrels and rabbits…you probably see at least one of these furry or feathered friends every day.  Today I hope you’ll take a few minutes to look a bit more closely, and see what they might have to teach us.

Cats, of course, are masters of the art of relaxation. Dogs excel at lavishing affection, or at least interest and attention, on humans.  Most birds and squirrels seem to have boundless energy; I can’t picture one looking lazy.  And rabbits can be the most unobtrusively intrusive, adorable but annoying animals around, if one is trying to grow something they find tasty.  Their cuteness is such that I can’t really get angry at them no matter what they consume.  I wish I could borrow their ability to appear harmless and cuddly while behaving disruptively.

While few creatures can match the contagious calm radiated by a sitting cat, watching almost any kind of animal is a great stress-buster.  When things get a little too overwhelming, practice seeing the world through non-human eyes for a few minutes.  It might be just the perspective you need.

One year ago today:

A palace untouched


  1. We have a cat who bring such presents of presence into our family’s life! I write about her often in my blog and we call it ‘fur therapy’ when she allows us to use her as a conduit to peace, relaxation and many times, her presence in your arms can calm you with her simple purring. What a great post Julia! ♥

    • M, our beautiful calico mama cat Kitt Katt was a very important part of my life when I was a child. I loved to hear her purr. I also loved the way the tiny kittens would sound with their “baby purr” noises. A cat’s purring is like an auditory “all is well” cue. Fur therapy is SO effective!! 😀

  2. Among all the pet animals, cats are really strange creatures. I have never really understood their attitudes – lazy or wise or composed or detached or reserved or what? If I would ever have a pet animal it would never be a cat (unless some Cat incarnates with the mission to help me out of my prejudice). 🙂 I would prefer a dog, because…
    “A dog thinks: My owners feed me, love me, provide me with a nice house and take good care of me…They must be gods!
    A cat thinks: My owners feed me, love me, provide me with a nice house and take good care of me… I must be a god!” But no cat has actually ever told me what it thinks.

    • Bindu, re: feline attitudes, I would say that cats are all of the above! But I also know that they can be very, very affectionate to those in their household, and some are affectionate to everyone. Cats tend to be much more independent than dogs — they can be left alone for longer periods, for example, if a litter box and the proper provisions are made – and generally I think they need less attention, and enjoy solitude more than dogs do. But there are exceptions to everything and it’s been so long since I lived with a cat that I may have some misconceptions. I do think different human personalities match better with cats or dogs or birds or hamsters or whatever, depending on what one is looking for in an animal. Some of us like cats, dogs, birds, gerbils, or everything, but even among those who like them all, there is usually a general preference. I love all animals, but dogs are definitely at the top of my list. I like a lot of eye contact, and I’ve found that dogs are very good at that.

  3. Michael

    My daughter in law- Rachel- is a cat (owner). Cat shepherd. I will send this to her.

    • Thanks, Michael!

  4. There is great comfort in watching these creatures as they go about their business. If only for the reason that we must interupt our own busyness to observe.

    • Yes! And watching them can be almost hypnotic, so that whatever we were busy with suddenly seems less urgent.

  5. Sheila

    Julia, it’s summer and it’s anything but calm here. Bill, Jack, and I were relaxing, end of day, cool ocean breezes, on our front deck. Then above the melody of the ice cream truck, came the overshadowing sound of a helicopter. It was a Black Hawk flying lower than some of the rooftops. Nothing shocks us anymore, but it’s different! I loved the blog today. 🙂

    • WOW, I wonder why? We were just at the boardwalk in Virginia Beach and heard lots of Navy planes flying over. I wasn’t sure whether this was typical, but I couldn’t remember hearing so many when we had been there before. I hope it’s just “the sound of freedom.” Wonder what Walter thought of that chopper? I loved the photo of Mildred! So glad you liked the blog photo. Looking at that kitty makes me sleepy.

  6. Michael

    It was a performance that led Andy Murray’s mother Judy to tweet: “Sharapova is like a tea bag. Put her into hot water and you’ll find out how strong she is.”
    This was a comment from Andy’s mom that probably does not fit the post, but I thought it was a neat comment about people who are fighters. She was down 6-1, 5-4, losing in the quarter and she came back win. They say about her,” she is a beautiful lady that wins ugly.”
    Anyway, would they say about us we are strong in hot water.

    • Michael, I hope we can all be strong in hot water! But to push the analogy a bit too far, I wonder if any tea bag is strong enough to stand up to boiling water for very long. We all have limits but usually those limits are much greater than we think they are, thank goodness. I love to see athletes come from behind underdog status or a huge deficit in the score, to win against all odds. It’s very inspiring to see that.

  7. Beth

    Julia, I recently added yet another rescue cat to our home. Number six puts me beyond the crazy cat lady status. The youngest of the bunch attacks my ankles every morning, and one of the males head butts me if I’m not awake at the break of dawn. It’s difficult to be annoyed with a purring cat!

    • Beth, I am so happy to know you rescue kitties! At one time we had six cats, but I think that was before you knew us, while you still lived in Dayton. Ours were the kittens of our mama cat, almost all of whom were eventually given away to other families. You’re right, it’s hard to be annoyed with a cat who is sending out such endearing reminders to RELAX. But head butting at dawn might be my limit. 😀

  8. We’re missing our sweet kitty Beijing, today. I can’t imagine a world with out animals.

    • Alys, I was so sad to read about Beijing’s death. I loved the photos of her you posted at your blog. I know there will be lots of sorrow in the coming weeks and months, but also hopefully many happy memories to comfort you. I will be thinking of you. Love and cyber hugs!

      • Thank you, Julia. She was a sweet old cat who loved to sit in our laps. We all miss her.

        She lived a full life, and through the benefit of modern medicine, we feel that we got to keep her in our lives for over a year longer than we would have otherwise. I notice her absence the most when I’m feeding the other cats (no bowl for Beijing) and also when we sit on the couch in the evening. It was always a special time.

        hugs to you, too.

        • Alys, those little things are what I miss most about Pasha. Whenever I would open a carton of Greek yogurt I would always let him lick the foil cover before I threw it away. Now I can’t open yogurt without missing him! Hope you are doing OK and having lots of happy memories of her long life to comfort you.

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