I’ve been fostering kittens for the past month. I started with three, and two have already been adopted. The last one – a female I’ve named Kali – is still with me. She is very cute.
They were an unintended litter, and the owner couldn’t afford to keep them. So, I offered my flat as a refuge and took them in. My apartment turned into a kitten-proof haven, stocked with litter, kitten food, toys, and room dividers… and, suddenly, I had three, tiny little beating hearts in my apartment.
But each of these kittens has taught me so much about life just in the past few weeks, and I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned so far. I’m sure that Kali still has a few more lessons waiting for me, but I already feel like these three little creatures have come into my life, and re-opened my eyes to some of life’s most fundamental truths.
(Would I recommend fostering kittens for the life lessons and good you do for the babies? Yes. Would I recommend fostering kittens for the emotional turmoil? Absolutely not. It’s been heart wrenching to raise them, and see them go. I’m going to be a mess when Kali gets adopted. Even though I know I’m doing a lot of good, it hurts.)
OK! Here are: Lessons given to me by three, tiny black kittens.
Curiosity is the only way to grow
These kittens are fearless. But more than that, they’re genuinely interested in new things. Infants of any species have this amazing, innate curiosity. I wrote about it in this post. These kittens don’t let fear or uncertainty stop them. They explore, they try things, they don’t allow failure to get the better of them. And the result? They find some of the coolest places in my apartment – the places I thought might be too dangerous for them.
Spoiler: They do so well. And they don’t get as hurt as I expect them too. It’s so cool to watch. Mistakes are part of the journey; and curiosity should be the shoes we wear while taking it.
Getting hurt doesn’t have to be a bad thing / something to avoid
Off the back of that, getting hurt isn’t always something to avoid. In fact, sometimes it’s what you want. These kittens try things until they get hurt. Then, they re-evaluate: Is this a danger, or am I doing it wrong? I assume you can already see why this is such a useful way to think.
I hope I can take some of this useful recklessness to heart, and not avoid things because I imagine that they might hurt. In the end, I might actually learn about what hurts me, and see some insecurities that I never knew I had. Always valuable.
I can’t control everything, and I shouldn’t try
When the first kitten got adopted, I wrote three pages explaining everything that needs to be done… And then I realised: This is what I would do. Not what’s necessary, but that I would do. I had to realise that I’m doing my part, and whoever adopts the cats needs to do theirs – and, more importantly, I need to let them.
I have this tendency to take away people’s agency by telling them what I think would be best. At the end of the day, I need to control what I can, and be OK with that which I can’t. Otherwise, I end up taking responsibility for everyone else’s needs and actions… and leave none for myself.
So, I realised that I have a lot to learn in terms of being wary of thinking I know better versus wanting to help. There’s a BIG difference.
Arguing doesn’t always mean you want to hurt someone
Kittens bite and scratch and tussle. And they have fun. And they cuddle afterwards like nothing happened. I struggle with conflict, and seeing these kittens fight helped me remember that yes, one can fight and scream and scratch, but that doesn’t mean that one’s feeling towards a person necessarily change.
When it comes to relationships, I have a lot to learn about conflict. These kittens have helped me see how fighting doesn’t have to be hateful.
Throw yourself at the things you enjoy
Like a ball on a string: Leap, and pounce at it. Don’t worry so much about how and what happens if you miss (“you won’t hit anything if you don’t aim at anything”). Do these kittens spend ages contemplating whether or not to launch themselves off the couch to grab onto a piece of string? No. They just do it.
And, what tends to happen, is they reach it AND they have fun doing it. There’s such a thing as overthinking. And watching kittens explore their world and play has shown me just how much I overthink things.
I take much better care of others, than I do myself
I will gladly speak to myself with insane negativity and judgement, but if a kitten did something bad? I’d speak to it like it has the rest of its life to figure things out and learn from this experience.
Why do we do that? Why do we exempt ourselves from the same courtesy of a growth mindset approach?
I don’t have the answer, but spending time kittens has definitely shown me that I need to give myself more compassion. If they make a mess, I laugh it off and tell them why it’s gross. If they want attention and meow incessantly, I cuddle them until they feel loved. But with myself? I blame, I criticise, I brush off, I insult. It’s disgusting, actually. I deserve the same love I give these kittens.
And they remind me of that every day I’m with them.