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If you’re a regular reader, you know I share my home, my life, my treasure — pretty much anything else they might take a fancy to — with six cats. I always feel the need to underscore the fact that I never set out to have six cats, they are not reproducing, and they’re all rescues.

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With that disclaimer out of the way, anyone who knows cats understands that the level of their curiosity knows no bounds. There are many sayings about cats, and from my expert observation, they’re all rooted in reality. We all know the one about cats and curiosity. No question, cats can allow their curiosity to get them into some difficult jams.

For cats, curiosity is in their nature. It’s part of what is popularly called “situational awareness.”  They assess their environment and ensure that newcomers don’t pose a threat. They have a natural desire to understand the world around them.

Being curious can have a number of benefits for us as humans. It can help us build and strengthen relationships by making us better (more mindful) listeners. If you tend to be a control freak, you may find that opening yourself up to curiosity can help you overcome that tendency. There is liberation in the notion of just experiencing things the way they are instead of always trying to control them.

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My personal favorite is learning new things. I am always actively seeking new and interesting things to learn. At age 58, I have taken up photography. I have a spiffy new DSLR and I’m making a concerted effort both to learn how it works and experiment whenever I have a chance. My sheer curiosity about how this type of photography works — what ISO and shutter speed and exposure mean, and how I can use knowledge of those things to take great pictures — keeps me constantly looking for new things to learn about my camera, as well as interesting things to take pictures of.

In an article for The Atlantic last year, Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote that curiosity contributes to both high achievement, as well as a fulfilling existence. In their book Curiosity and Interest: The Benefits of Thriving on Novelty and Challenge, authors Todd B. Kashdan and Paul J. Silvia describe curiosity as “the recognition, pursuit, and intense desire to explore novel, challenging, and uncertain events.” Kaufman goes on to note that curiosity has been linked to happiness, creativity, and increased meaning in life. Kashdan describes curiosity as “one of the most reliable and overlooked keys to happiness,” and suggests that, with practice, “we can harness the power of curiosity to transform everyday tasks into interesting and enjoyable experiences.”

So, while it’s true that curiosity can sometimes cause our kitties to get into all sorts of mischief and sometimes hair raising situations, it’s also undeniably true that it keeps them entertained and, in their natural environment, safe. Curiosity keeps even some of my older kitties playful and enjoying life. Let’s take a cue from them. Stay curious.

 

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