We have two cats. Both rescue cats. One of them, (Bee) we took in as an eight-week-old kitten; the other (Cassie) was about 13 months old when we adopted her. We don’t know what had happened to Cassie before she came to us.

Both are truly excellent at the job of Cat – each having different skills and specialisms.  Bee is good at being a comforting lap-sitter and, well, eating. Cassie is a master mouser and can scale pretty much anything effortlessly. (Due to the eating, Bee finds this aspect of cat-ness more challenging).  

We appreciate and value their differences. Sitting on our sofa, I might throw a sock in an attempt at pet entertainment. You know, one of those fluffy ones that rolls up into a nice ball:

  • Bee, who would be probably lying utterly relaxed, prone and belly to the sky, will welcome the beginning of the game; batting it and interested. She might, in another mood, raise a sleepy eyelid and disdainfully ignore it. (Current record is four socks balanced on Bee’s midriff before she shifts her position).  
  • Cassie, who would be sitting alert, would startle and disappear in short order.  She would see the sock as a threat, and the thrower as an aggressor.* (No sock has ever been balanced on Cassie).

My point (if you are still with me) is that the same behaviour might land very differently depending on an individual's background, disposition, view point, or mood. Their reaction will be just that – a reaction. It’s not a rational, thought through response. It comes from that part of the brain that stores patterns, past experiences, and memories - and not the cerebral bit that does logical risk analysis. And you cannot tell someone they must not react that way. It’s not an active choice they make.  

So it is with cats and with people. On World Kindness Day it lies with us all to be considerate, thoughtful, and modify our actions. As doers (sock throwers) our role is to remember that a comment, an email or a joke may not land with someone else as it would land with us. We can never fully understand the lived experience of our colleagues (or cats) and we may not be aware of what they are going through now, or in the past, and how it affects their reactions. Humour is a lovely thing to share at work, but we need to mindful of our impact.  

*Due to this, no-one throws socks (or anything else actually) near Cassie.