“Here are the illustrated teachings of one wise cat in a book that may, very possibly, change your life. Or at least let you know there’s always time for a nap.” ~ Suzy Becker, 1990
I first read Suzy Becker’s bestseller All I Need To Know I Learned From My Cat when I was only a few years old. The book belonged to my mother – and while I don’t believe it’s even considered children’s literature – the combination of short, simplistic language and pastel-colored drawings were too much for a kid like me to resist borrowing from her time and time again.
While the book itself doesn’t have an actual narrative, it provides life advice for fellow feline fanatics to follow. Each line is so cleverly written with adults in mind (e.g. “pretend you’ve never heard of flossing”) but is enacted by Becker’s own Binky – an illustrated Holstein cat who steals each page of the book.
As a child without a pet, I was drawn to the cat’s antics and alluring personality. I remember seeing the cover of the book with Binky’s many faces and thinking it was made just for me. There was just something about this cat that hooked me, which is a testament to Becker’s minimalistic, Hallmark-like illustrations and sparing use of color. Even though some of Becker’s word choice went over my prepubescent head, Binky’s attitude and reactions to each situation were universal enough for a child to understand. This primed me to campaign for a cat – a feat that would take over a decade to pull off.
The day my mother brought home our tuxedo cat, I learned just what Becker meant when she said, “be able to make someone feel better just by being there.” I owe so much to Boogie: my self-reflection, as he has always given me his most unbiased opinion on everything, my tolerance for pain with the way his hind claws dig into my wrists when I hold him too loosely, and my sense of wonder by looking at the world (and occasionally the ceiling) through dilated pupils. He’s also the best listener I know, as when I’m stressed or unsatisfied with myself on any given day, the first thing I look forward to is coming home and delivering a monologue to him while he silently demands his dinner. He serves as a constant reminder of Becker’s/Binky’s wisdom by somehow offering his own bits of guidance without even saying a word. Cats really are enigmatic, as they know nothing of the world at large and yet seem to have all of the answers.
Rereading All I Need To Know I Learned From My Cat as an adult and 11-year cat owner, I now have a thorough grasp on every one of Becker’s implications, both subtle and blatant. I “try not to obsess about cholesterol.” I’m accepting, “but not overly accommodating.” I constantly remind myself that “money’s only paper.” But most importantly of all, I’m thankful for the simplest things and appreciate life’s littlest moments – as to a cat, nothing in life is insignificant.