In the first year of the pandemic I decided I wanted to train my cat, Penny, to use buttons so that she could have a way of asking for what she wanted from me. I had been introduced to the idea from seeing videos of dogs and cats using these buttons to essentially “talk” and I was enthralled and amazed!
Most people think cats are solitary creatures (some are), but some cats want to be around you all the time and demand your attention 24/7. That’s how my cat Penny is. She has front claws and she discovered a way to get my attention is by taking her claw and using it to pick at my clothes or other objects. If you can imagine a toddler tugging at your clothes wanting your undivided attention, my cat Penny is doing something very similar.
I got the buttons to train her with and started with a simple word, “Play”. I’d press the button, and my recorded voice would say “play”, and then I’d engage her with a toy so she’d get the association. The next step was getting her to press the button herself. This part proved to be very challenging.
After trying different things to get her to press the button, I eventually gave up. I had lost the desire to continue trying to train her and had decided it wasn’t worth it.
That’s when I realized I could try opening up a dialogue with her in another way. She already had a way of communicating with me, I just had to figure out what it was she was asking for specifically.
Through trial and error, I’ve become more familiar with understanding what she’s trying to tell me. For instance, I’ve learned that when she picks at the bed, it’s because she’s telling me it’s time for bed. When she picks at the blinds, she’s telling me it’s time to wake up. When she picks at my clothes, it’s usually for either play time or being brushed. She has the word association down and so if I say brush to her, she’ll flop on the floor to tell me that’s what she wants. If it’s play she wants, she’ll act restless until I engage her with a toy. It’s our own little language. :)
Here’s how this story connects to you. You have your own language with your body and you can open up a dialogue with your body.
Your body communicates with you all the time. Through trauma and/or diet culture you may have learned that listening to your body was wrong or unsafe or that you can’t be trusted with listening to your body.
Those beliefs may have disrupted the dialogue with your body. Opening back up a dialogue with your body is a way to consistently meet your needs and show respect and care for your body.
A dialogue with your body may involve becoming more attuned to the signals your body is giving and responding by giving your body what it is asking for.
There may be ways in which you’re already doing this in some areas, but have lost attunement in other areas.
Feeling the urge to use the bathroom, responding with using the bathroom
Getting a craving for a certain food, responding with eating that food
Feeling fatigued at the end of the day, responding with going to bed earlier
Sensing an emotional, gut feeling that something feels off about a situation, responding with trusting that signal
Building a dialogue with your body is not about perfection. Sometimes the signals will be off or it will be challenging to respond. Opening up a dialogue is about building trust with your body and letting your body know that you have its back.