Pets are pretty amazing. They don’t tell on you if all you do on a Friday night is eat takeaway in your pants. If you want to wear your pyjama pants three days running they’ll still love you. They don’t post pictures to social media of you snoring. Their little personalities are all different and they are loving, and depend on you (OK not so much cats). I should know. We have six. Yes you heard right, six of the little darlings. Two dogs and four cats. Our hybrid family came together from a mix of locations; two single households, some joint ownership and two failed foster cats. (Failed in the sense that I couldn’t give them back.)
You’d be forgiven, particularly if you’re not a pet owner or animal lover for thinking we’re pretty bonkers for having so many pets. However we love our busy household full of furry friends. And since I’ve been practising mindfulness, I realised something about pets, which is pretty good for me. They make you more mindful.
So how can pets make you mindful? Especially if they’re getting in the way when you’re trying to meditate or do a bit of tai chi or pilates? Here’s six ways they can make you more in tune…
- Pets live in the present. You never see a cat ruminating on the mouse who got away or worrying if the tuna he ate at lunchtime is going to add on a couple of pounds. We can learn a lot from this.
- Stroking a pet is actually proven to be good for your wellbeing, as well as reduce the risk of illnesses such as heart disease. If you take time to stroke a cat or a dog (or a hamster or rabbit or whatever your pet of choice is) it emits something that soothes, a bit like when we touch our heart in self compassion exercises, or hug someone.
- Having a pet can help you develop loving kindness to others. Pets rely on you for everything (well I haven’t caught one of our cats opening their own food but it might happen some day.) and they pretty much just want some affection. There’s nothing more rewarding when a dog sits at your feet waiting for some attention, or you hear the purr of a cat that is happily being fussed. The love you give to an animal can then be expanded to others.
Pets, particularly dogs, give unconditional love. They don’t care if you shouted at them for putting mud on the carpet five minutes ago, you’re still the best thing since sliced bread to them. They give you unconditional love, day after day. If you struggle with self compassion, opening up to this love and accepting it might actually help you to start accepting it from others.
- Dogs are particularly good for this one. Dog walking gets you out and about. During your walk, you can practice mindful movement, mindful walking and being present in nature. You can try walking a cat, but it’s not such a peaceful exercise. Believe me I have tried!
- Being mindful to me is about appreciating your place in the world, living peacefully in the present, being kind and compassionate to yourself and others, and being your best self, whilst trying to help others to be theirs. Pets embody this. They appreciate their place in the world. Look at a cat. We let them out untethered into the wilds of our gardens and streets. They know their home, and they (almost) always come back to it. Pretty mindful characters
Have you got pets? Do they help you practice mindfulness?