I’m a cat person. Oh, sure, I like dogs too. I have two of them. But cats and me – somehow we just understand each other. Well, as much as you can understand a cat.

What I love most about being a pet owner is what animals are able to teach me about things. Cats are brilliant this way – they are exceptional teachers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about success lately – what it means to be successful, how to become successful, why some people are successful and others aren’t. Then one day, I was watching my cats. And I realized – they are success machines. Here’s why.

Cats are extremely solution-oriented. A cat will only do what is most appropriate and comfortable for the cat in any situation. A cat will get to the highest point in the room to get away from the large, smelly dog. A cat will seek out the sunniest, warmest spot in the house to sleep the day away. A cat will only go to it’s owner if there’s something in it for the cat (e.g. scratches, snacks, crinkle toys, catnip).

I firmly believe that the number one way to set yourself up for success is to be a problem solver. Don’t have a job? Figure out what combination of skills, networking, positive attitude, and luck you need to land one. Work stressing you out? Figure out what you need to do to take the steps to remove that stressful situation. Money troubles? Come up with a plan and act on it. But do what a cat does – solve your problems as they come up, but make sure you are looking out for number one in the process. Cats are content, and it’s because they consider themselves and their happiness first, and figure out how to remove obstacles that are getting in the way of that happiness. Then the rest just falls into place.

Cats are intensely resilient. When one of our cats, Molly, was younger, she loved two things more than anything – to watch the birds out the window, and to chase the laser pointer. Then, about 4 years ago, she was diagnosed with Progressive Retinal Degeneration (PRD). In other words, she’s gone blind. She’s 8 now, and at this point we figure she sees shadows, that’s about it. She can’t see the birds anymore, or the laser pointer.

The first reaction many people have when I tell them Molly is blind is “Awww! The poor thing.” But they don’t know Molly. We live in a three bedroom bungalow, with plenty of obstacles like furniture, humans and other pets to navigate. Molly is un-phased by these obstacles. She uses her sense of smell, her freakishly long whiskers and her front paws to feel her way around, to the point where sometimes she gets into and onto places that would be difficult for a sighted cat to get to!

My point is, Molly doesn’t care that she can’t see. It’s only other people that care, that feel sorry for her. She can’t see the birds, but her ears definitely perk up when she hears them. She can’t play laser pointer anymore, but the scrunchy ball toy makes noise and that keeps her occupied for hours.

Being successful is all about resilience. If Molly falls down, and she does it quite often, she just gets back up and keeps moving. She has a pretty significant limitation, not being able to see. But she’s figured out how to adapt to her situation and it definitely doesn’t hold her back. And she certainly doesn’t give any energy to feeling sorry for herself and her plight.

Nothing that’s worthwhile in life comes without effort. The ability to think on your feet and solve problems, and to work around the obstacles that are thrown your way are the two most important skills you can hone in order to achieve success. Cats have been doing these two things for centuries. And you don’t have to spend very long with a cat to realize that they are on to something.

P.S.

As I was writing this post today, I came across my friend Jennifer Winter’s new blog. Jen and I have been friends since high school. We live on opposite sides of the country now but because of the Internet we’ve been able to maintain a good friendship. One of the things we’ve always had in common is our love of animals, particularly cats. She’s compiled here the “Rules of Cat Ownership” as defined by her cat, Geiger. It’s hilarious, true, and definitely worth the read.

Photo: That’s my Molly.