The Cat Guide To Productivity

Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by Julay Cat

I am lucky to share my house with two cats. Felines are independent creatures who do exactly what they want. Mine tolerate my presence as a means to fill the food bowl and turn on the heated mattress pad for their lounging pleasure.

I was recently trying to get some work done, and there was one cat on my lap and the other one on the desk draping her legs over my forearm as I tried to type. I was thinking about writing the article about cats as productivity destroyers, but then I realized that cats actually understand productivity concepts in a way that most humans don’t.

So here is the Official Cat Guide To Productivity:

Does It Serve Me?

A cat will do nothing that does not get her some benefit. Even acts of kindness, such as snuggling with a sick human or cleaning another cat’s ears, brings a benefit to the cat in action.

Human application: If a task does not have a payback, don’t do it. If there is really no reason to do a task, skip it. For example: certain housecleaning systems urge you to clean things that are not dirty. Why? To suck up time? Skip it. There are other things you can do that have a positive benefit.

Can I Get Someone To Do It For Me?

If you have ever been near a cat who wants to see what is on the other side of a closed door, you know that the cat will get you to open it. Same with the litter box, feeding, watering and brushing. Some of these tasks the cat can do for himself — I had a cat who could turn doorknobs and open doors. But most of the tasks are delegated to someone else.

Human application: ask yourself if there is someone better suited to do the task at hand. If so, ask them to do it. In other words, delegate. For example: my husband handles the taxes. It’s not that I can’t do it, but he is an accountant, and it is much easier for him. So I ask him to handle my taxes every year.

Ask For What You Want…

Cats are not held back by a sense of false modesty or not wanting to appear greedy. If they want it, they ask. They ask for doors to be opened by pawing on them. They ask for clean litter boxes by refusing to use the dirty one. They ask for petting and cuddling by circling your legs as you try to walk. They ask for what they want, and they know that “No” might be an answer; but they still ask.

Human application: don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. It is OK to want something. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it. If you ask, you may. Example: I really wanted a space for writing that was distraction-free and my own. I tried to do it myself, with little success, so I asked my husband to refurbish a closet so I could have it.

…And Be Insistent

I live with an elderly cat. He’s 17, sweet-tempered, a cuddler, and the most adorable furball on the planet. But if he feels that he is justified in his asking, and he’s not OK with “no”, he will be insistent. Many mornings I am awoken by the cat yowling in the kitchen, demanding that I get up to feed him.

The cats will also jump up to snuggle on my lap, especially if I am working or crafting. No matter how many times I put them on the floor, they are back up there within a second.

Human application: if the thing that you are asking for is really important to you, don’t be afraid to let that importance be known. No one will be vocal on your behalf. Example: being a single parent during the week, I can’t keep up with the house by myself. My daughter is old enough to take on some of the chores, but is unwilling to do so. I have insisted that she help by taking out the garbage and recycling, which frees me of one responsibility.

Taking Care Of Myself

Cats are masters of self-care. Unless they are sick, they are extremely independent and clean. They groom, they nap, they find the warmest places to cuddle up for snooze. Have you ever seen an exhausted cat? Nope, because they don’t exist. Cats put their well-being first, always.

Human application: we need to make self-care a priority. We need enough sleep, enough exercise, enough good food. We should make this our top priority. Example: I have been slacking off on eating right and exercise for a while. I have gained weight. And now my blood pressure is creeping up (not to “high” but high for me). It has to be a priority for me to eat right and exercise. As my doctor said, “You know what to do. I don’t have to spell it out. Make it happen.”

Talk To The Paw

A cat will tolerate interaction until it annoys him. Pet him too hard or too long or in the wrong place, and he will walk away. Keep it up, and you will probably get a hiss. Go beyond that and you’ll get a swipe of the paw, claws extended.

Cats are masters of not engaging in pointless struggles. When something is annoying them, instead of expecting other people to change, they simply remove themselves from the situation. They do not look to change others, but implement the change themselves.

Human application: As humans, we are often the subject of others trying to get us to do something. Whether it is an activity that you don’t have room for in your schedule, or a gossip session, we have the choice to participate or not. Instead of asking other people to change, we should change what we can ourselves. Example: a man at my last job tried to bring me to his religion. I first walked away. Then I told him it was inappropriate (the hiss). Then I reported it to HR (the paw). The situation resolved.

Take The Downtime

Cats don’t worry if their plans are don’t work out, because they don’t make plans. They take advantage of unscheduled time to do what they wish (see taking care of myself above) The lesson here isn’t about not making plans, but taking things as they come.

Human application: When plans don’t work out, make use of the time. If your plans get derailed, roll with it. Take advantage of little pockets of time here and there to do what you want and need to do — even if that is enjoying what is happening right now. Example: Thanksgiving Day saw us running to get my daughter at a friend’s house, stopping for breakfast, and feeding the feral cat colony (yes, I have many, many cats in my life). My husband, however, decided to take the “scenic” route, and my plan for where I wanted to stop for breakfast was gone. I started to get irritated, and then I realized I could just sit back and enjoy the ride through the pretty fall colors.

Cats can teach us a lot of things that will make us more productive. Do you have any lessons learned from felines? Share below.

Photo by Julay Cat


  1. mas says

    This is such an excellent post! I am suprised no one has commented yet.

    Cats truly are independent animals and this write-up pretty much points the advantage of their seemingly ‘selfish’ ways. It’s a struggle out there and sometimes taking care of onself and not worrying too much are actually a foundation in doing other things right…and well.

    A cat I once had taught me an important lesson as mentioned above by you: Take the downtime… A wardrobe door fell on him and actually hurt it’s back(for the lack of a better word).
    It was rescued and since there was no obvious sign of an injury, we all went about our business. Hours later, it came near me stroking and meowing for food- I was shocked to find out it its hind legs were trailing behind it but it wasn’t fazed at all: it has just moved on and ahead with life!!!

    P.s-i just discovered your blog:)

    • LJ Earnest says

      I’m glad you liked the article. Cats have taught me so much, and they continue to remind me to put myself first so that I can be of better service to others.

      The little masters of subtlety let me know that they were out of food this morning by playing hockey with a plastic shopping bag. Nothing like a constant rustle to wake someone up and get them to do what you want! :)

  2. Jorge Blanco says

    Indeed, cats are independent and smart creatures. I can really tell that you love your cats through this post. And I’m happy that you do because I had a cat once too. She was a sweet and funny little thing.

    I guess another thing that we can learn from cats is when you fall, land on your feet. Meaning that if we fail or run into problems, we don’t have to fall hard on our back or bottom. We can break the fall or make it less painful through positive thinking and similar methods.

    Thank you for this wonderful post, LJ. It brought back memories of my cat and is certainly making me think of getting another one.

    • LJ Earnest says

      I hope you do take another cat (or two!) into your life! Mine give me so much warmth and comfort.