Most of my friends know that I’m a huge cat nerd. I love everything about them. Cats are my kryptonite. When I was in middle school, I slept in our bathtub cuddled up with our new kitten so she wouldn’t be alone on her first night. Yeah, I’m that person.For the last decade I’ve lived with 3 cats of my own. We’ve spent plenty of time together, and they’ve taught me many things about life. Here are four of them.

Life Lesson #1 — Have no shame
One evening while I lounged on the couch, something in my peripheral caught my attention. I turned to look at the small, shadowed anomaly. There, at eye level, was a cat turd smooshed into the wall. Not on the floor. Not on the window ledge. Halfway up the wall. My first thought was, “Is that what I think it is?” followed by “How the hell did it get there??” As I started laughing, in sauntered the feline that did this unspeakable, albeit impressive, deed. Head held high, like nothing disgusting or embarrassing had happened.

Takeaways: Don’t beat yourself up when shit hits the fan (or the wall) and you don’t handle things perfectly. Don’t dwell on past mistakes. When you find yourself in an embarrassing situation, laugh it off. You are still awesome. You are still worthy of unconditional love.

Life Lesson #2 — Ask for what you want
One of our cats is notoriously vocal. So much so that we eventually changed her name to Mer because that’s the sound she constantly makes. Instead of adorable meows, we get dictatorial mers. Whenever she’s 1) hungry, 2) wants attention, 3) is bored, 4) is hyper, 5) is going crazy from a full moon, or 6) just wants to say hi, we hear her speak up. Every request has its own tone and inflection, and I know exactly what she wants. She makes her needs known—clearly, immediately, and assertively.

Takeaways: Speak up when you need something or have something that needs to be said. Don’t hide your truth. You have every right to have needs and ask others to honor them. That doesn’t mean they always will, but that’s not the point. Honor your needs. Share them from a place of strength and love and respect for yourself.

Life Lesson #3 — Show appreciation for the little things
On numerous occasions I’ve woken up in the wee hours of the night to purrs buzzing inches from my face. There, hotdogged between me and my husband, is one contented, half-asleep cat. At this time of night, she’s not getting attention or scritches, she’s getting ignored. No matter, she’s still grateful. Grateful to be warm, cuddled up to free heat sources, hugged by bedding that feels like chinchilla fur.

Takeaways: All around you are things that make life sweet. In the moment, you’ll always find simple blessings to be thankful for. They don’t always involve other people. In fact, sometimes it’s the simplest things—warm sunshine hitting your face, the heat on your hands wrapped around a cup of hot tea, the cheery sounds of birds chirping as you walk to your car—that, when you really take them in, can open and soften your heart the most.

Life Lesson #4 — Seek out joy
If you have cats you know they are little hedonists. From sleeping in the sunny spots and mole-ing under blankets for a nap, to huffing cat nip and naughtily munching plant fronds, cats find a way to be happy in the moment. My cats know they aren’t allowed up on counters yet I’ll come home and find them literally snoring on top of the upper kitchen cabinets. They love to be up high. #sorrynotsorry

Takeaways: What brings you joy? What can you do to experience more joy? Moment to moment, there are millions of things you can do to fill up your cup. Figure out what those things are for YOU and intentionally sprinkle them throughout your life every single day.

“Every animal knows more than you do.” — Native American Proverb

This is true, at least in my experience. When you pay attention, your pets or even the critters frolicking in your yard can gift you with all kinds of wisdom. Watch and learn.