In the creation story documented in the first chapter of Genesis, God created the animals, fish, and birds before he gave life to men and women. Then He said to mankind, “have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the Earth.” (Gen 1:28)
Have you ever attempted to “have dominion” over a cat? Or a Jack Russell terrier puppy? We have a beautiful Koi pond in the backyard. Not one of the fish understands that the entire habitation is under Husband’s dominion.
According to Google, 70% of U.S. households (about 90.5 million families) own a pet. One of mine is crawling over my keyboard as I type this. She isn’t hungry, thirsty, or announcing she used her litter box. She doesn’t need me to open a closet door or find a lost toy. Tweety Bird will keep pestering me until I stop and spend quality, focused time with her.
Our Maine Coon mix doesn’t play and refuses to sit on our laps. He is currently staring at my feet because he wants me to open the treat sack and give him a few. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. Sylvester only interrupts when he requires an act of service.
In 1992, Gary Chapman published “The Five Love Languages,” my favorite book to recommend for everyone who wants to learn how to love others more strategically. Husband and I take the language quiz whenever we are experiencing “more misses than hits” in our relationship.
Chapman observed there are five basic ways people receive love: touch, gifts, acts of service, quality time and words of affirmation.
Could the same be true of our pets?
I pitched this idea to both Gary Chapman and Jackson Galaxy (aka “The Cat Daddy.”) I’m still waiting to hear back from them. So I’m going to share this bit of brilliance with you — pets have the same love languages as humans.
If you’ve ever wondered if your cat or dog knows that you love them, there is a definitive way to tell them. Learn their love language and speak it. Try each one and notice Fluffy’s or Fido’s reaction.
I just lifted Tweety off my keyboard (again) and was rewarded with a hiss, growl and a clawless swipe. I offered her treats, brought her a toy, told her that no cat has ever been cuter, and checked the food and water. She followed me back to the office and immediately returned to the keyboard. Is she a jerk? Obnoxious? Demonically influenced? No. Tweety won’t stop until I give her 10 minutes of undivided attention. Her love language is quality time.
My friend’s cat, Happy, and I understood each other on my first visit. He greeted me with head-bumps. I immediately recognized that his love language is touch. I’ve taken him toys and cat grass. He sees no point to them. A head scratch and a few swipes with the grooming brush are everything Happy needs to feel loved. I love him every time I visit.
With the pandemic still dominating our lives, most of us have had extra time to notice the quirks of our fur-family. What do they like? When do they respond? If you’re not sure how to figure it out, get Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages of Children.” His suggestions work for all our non-verbal housemates.
Proverbs says, “A righteous man regards the life of his animal.” (Prov 12:10)
OK, Tweety. You are now the most important thing in my life for 10 targeted minutes.
Sylvia Peterson is former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and the author of “The Red Door: Where Hurt and Holiness Collide,” which can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at email@example.com.
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