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Lessons from the Litter Box



A few months ago, I decided to adopt a cat named Mr. Squish. I had never had a cat before was a bit nervous on how to take care of him. Part of me figured that some things would come instinctively, and this was true to some extent. The rhythms of feeding Mr. Squish, petting him, brushing him, and playing with him fell into place almost effortlessly.


The steepest learning curve took place around the litter box. After buying the first package of litter, I read the instructions which said to fill the box with 3-4 inches of litter. I scoffed at this and thought that this was a marketing scheme to convince us to use more litter than we needed to, and thus buy more litter sooner. This was partly the immigrant in me telling me not to waste resources. It was also a deeper, and perhaps more universal part of me that operates from a scarcity mindset. I felt strongly that I needed to conserve as much litter as possible so that I wouldn’t run out and have to buy more.


With this set-up, I was scooping the litter box every other day, if not daily, because it quickly filled up with Mr. Squish’s poo and pee. By the end of every week I found myself dumping out the litter box and washing it given how dirty it was. After a few months of this, I felt exasperated by how much energy I was putting into the litter box maintenance and asked for help. I learned that I was actually not putting enough litter in the litter box—the bag directions were right!


I was incredulous at first—the scarcity mindset still strong—but I was able to be convinced, mainly at the promise that investing in more litter could save me in the long run. The box would not get as gross because it would be able to absorb more, which meant that I wouldn’t need to dump out all the litter every week. So, I tried filling the litter box 3-4 inches, and it worked! This became a lesson in how investing more in something initially can pay off to save time, energy, and resources.


This example isn’t just for cat owners, however. The litter box lesson can be extended to other aspects of life too. Take, for example, eating well. While fixing a proper meal may take more time than eating crackers and peanut butter, it gives you better nourishment, which will help keep you in a more positive mood and operating with more energy for the rest of the day. The time taken aside to pause, to stop and rest, can be an investment too. Similarly, it may be tempting to push forward for another hour when you’re working on something, but taking a five minute break can actually help you feel rejuvenated enough to work for even longer.


Often the resistance to investing, at least in my experience, comes from fear. Are there times that you don’t want to put effort or energy into something because you are fearful that you won’t have enough resources? How can you go against the current of scarcity – that I only have so much litter to use and I need to conserve it as much as possible—and switch to a mindset of abundance, in which you trust that the extra litter you invest in now will bear more than its share of benefits?


My call to you now is to put more litter in your litter box, whether it’s nutrition, rest, water, and in the process also be aware of moments when scarcity mindset emerges. Connect to the abundance of the present moment, and don’t be cheap on yourself!


And last, here is a picture of Mr. Squish.




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