I’m a cat person. Cats are cute — in the first five minutes of petting them. Once they get sassy at you, they’re not so cute anymore. So I like cats but not to the point of being willing to live with one.
That all changed when I had a cat as a roommate.
This is Koda.
He’s not my cat. He’s my roommate’s cat. So technically, Koda’s my roommate. He’s half-Persian and half-Siberian; that’s why he’s really fluffy. When I first met him, he was just like any other apathetic roommate — except he has fur. He was just the house pet that’s better left alone. Now, I can’t even imagine a day without Koda.
I never thought I could gain so much wisdom from living with a cat, but I could say with confidence that living with my roommate’s cat completely changed my life for the better. Here are just some of the lessons Koda taught me:
- Having company is okay.
As an introvert, I don’t really like people. I’d much rather be alone. There’s less hassle, less emotional involvement, less drama. It’s just a lot healthier for me. But then, because I rarely hang out with people, I also tend to feel lonely.
When I first lived with Koda, I finally experienced what it’s like to have someone greet you when you come home or see you off before you go. And it actually feels nice.
Koda’s a clingy cat so he tends to follow you around once he takes a liking to you. At first, it was kinda creepy because you’d suddenly feel his tail swish between your legs as you’re cooking or you’d hear him meow at you while you’re taking a bath. But then, I started getting used to it and actually liking it. When I’m having a really bad day, I go home and open the door and Koda greets me by rubbing between my legs. When I’m so sad I end up crying, Koda cozies up next to me and purrs beside me.
Koda made me realize that you don’t have to go through your tough times alone. I may be afraid of being vulnerable to people, but being vulnerable to someone — even if it’s just a cat — makes the burden I carry a little less heavier.
- Empathy is the key to a good relationship.
I’m a pretty selfish person. I’m so absorbed in my own thoughts that I don’t really bother wasting brain space on how people feel. If people don’t like me, then I’d just leave them be.
But then Koda’s not a cat you can just leave alone because he would meow his lungs out until you got him what he wanted. I always found it fascinating how my roommate could tell if Koda wanted food, water, or just plain hugs. So in an attempt to make my life easier, I started to look up cat language (i.e. trying to tell what they want through their tail, facial expressions, et cetera). After I read up on that, my relationship with Koda completely improved. I knew exactly when he was asking me to feed him, when he wanted to play ball, or when he wants to just be left alone.
That made me realize that maybe I could have saved a couple of relationships if I just took the time to understand the other party instead of burning the bridge because they’re “too hassle”. Of course, it would take a lot more effort but good connections can be formed if we just took the time to hear each other out.
- Making others happy can make you happy.
I’m the self-serving type. I always thought that the key to happiness is to have as little people around you as possible so you don’t have anyone but yourself to make happy. But then there was a time when Koda started feeling so depressed that he wouldn’t eat.
I was surprised that even if I hadn’t known Koda long, I’ve grown so attached to him that I started getting concerned. So even if it was out of my comfort zone, I would take time out of my schedule to play with him. I would try to pet him until I can hear him purr. I would even talk to him about my day just so he wouldn’t feel lonely. Over time, he started getting perky again and I was surprised how glad that made me feel.
Every time I would see him happily sway his tail, I’d smile. Even if he’s just a cat, Koda taught me that being happy goes beyond yourself. For me, those extra minutes of effort I spent on him instead of myself are worth it.
- Responsibility is fulfilling.
One of the things I dreaded when it comes to having a pet is responsibility. You have to clean up after him. You have to feed him. You have to play with him. It’s a whole lot of to-do’s I have to add with my already-long to-do list.
Koda has this morning call service where he would meow at your ear at 7 o’clock in the morning just to make it perfectly clear that he’s hungry. When he’s really hungry, he’d pounce at you while you’re sleeping and meow harder. At first, it was annoying. I didn’t like having to clean his litter box. I didn’t like that I would have to feed him first before I even make coffee for myself. I didn’t like that my back would ache from crouching down so much from petting him.
But then I’d hear him purr. I’d see his tail swish happily as he gorged down his meal. I’d see him running straight to his newly-cleaned litter box. It’s those moments that make all the annoyance go away.
I finally understood what my parents meant when they tell me that seeing me smile made all their stress go away. Even when it was tiring, seeing Koda happy made the responsibility worth it.
- Patience is a virtue.
I think I’m one of the most impatient people out there. I don’t like defrosting meat so I’d rather eat canned goods. I don’t like waiting in traffic so I’d just book a motorbike. I especially hate it when I don’t get what I want in the time I expected to get it.
But then being with Koda has taught me why patience is really the standard moral excellence because Koda is just as, if not more, impatient. Every morning, Koda wants to eat wet food. But before I have to give him his wet food, I would have to wash his bowl, take the food out of the can, mash the food into tinier pieces so he doesn’t choke. Still, the longer I take preparing his food, the louder and more irritated his meows get.
In the middle of his meows, I looked at him and said, “Patience is a virtue, Koda.” That’s when I truly understood that statement. Maybe the reason why I didn’t get I wanted on the time I expected it is because it’s not ready yet. Maybe they’re still being prepared for me so that I don’t choke from the big pieces. Just because it’s being prepared doesn’t mean I won’t get it. In the same way that Koda has to wait a little bit so that he can enjoy his food in the best way possible. Maybe we all have to wait a little bit so we can enjoy the fruits of our hard work in the best way we can.
- Unconditional love is a choice.
Reading this article, you may think that Koda’s the sweetest cat out there. But honestly, he’s not. He wants me to touch him but when he’s had enough, he bites me. When I don’t give him what he wants immediately, he meows so loud that you can hear him from outside. Sometimes he looks at me like I’m the scum of the earth.
But even so, I love him.
I love Koda even if he’s grouchy. I love Koda even if he’s demanding. I love Koda even if he’s not my own cat. That’s when I realized that love isn’t measured by good deeds or benefits; it’s a choice. I chose to take responsibility for Koda even if he’s not my own because I love him. He doesn’t have to prove to me why I have to love him. I just do.
This makes me think that if I can choose to love a cat — not even a human being, not even my own cat, then maybe I can also choose to love myself.
Living with a cat goes beyond cute pictures or funny videos. For me, being roommates with a cat is one of the most profound experiences of my life.
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