Corporate Learning Lessons from a Cat

Felines are impressively clever creatures, skilled in the art of persuasion. They usually get what they want, and they are excellent at survival—skills that likewise can be applied to business.


Your greatest lessons in corporate intelligence, which you need to absorb yourself, and teach others, can come from unlikely sources. One of those unlikely sources could be a cat. If you own a kitty or are a feline caregiver, you know what I mean. These are impressively clever creatures, skilled in the art of persuasion. They usually get what they want, and they are excellent at survival, earning the legend of having nine lives.

I sometimes ask my Jackie Cat to transmit her “feline power” to me. I wondered if anyone else has thought about the many teachable lessons for business people from cats. I found an article in Forbes by Clem Chambers that aligns with my thinking.

House cats are not big, and yet they are powerful enough in many cases to convince people to take them into their homes and care for them. Sometimes they can even convince people to spend significant money on them. Have you seen photos of “caticos” online—patios designed especially for cats? Chambers says that while house cats are not nearly as physically powerful as big-cat relatives like tigers and lions, they may be much more clever from an evolutionary standpoint. Many of the big cats are in danger of extinction now, and those that continue to survive often are relegated to captivity in zoos or sanctuaries. House cats, on the other hand, are going much stronger. They certainly are in no danger of extinction.

“For a business, keeping it small and funky is the way to survive in this fast-evolving and ferocious business environment. The glory of being a big cat might look good on paper, but staying small and keeping it fun is the way to go if you want a quality business life,” Chambers writes.

The corporate learning lesson is to think creatively, rather than feeling compelled to think in terms of expansion. Rather than growing and buying more, think about what you can do with what you already have. House cats are not big, but they are incredibly resourceful and make the most of the powers they do have, such as agility—and being adorable, of course.

That brings up another lesson for corporate employees. Part of the house cat’s power is many people find them charming—so charming that some of those people feel the need to invite cats into their homes. To be successful in the corporate world with fewer resources than larger competitors, a great executive can work wonders with charm. The ability to charm customers and potential business partners can make the difference between surviving and going out of business.

Once cats get into a person’s home, and gain their love, they stick their claws in to make the most of their opportunity. From a corporate perspective, there are lessons to be learned in maximizing the profitability you can realize once you’ve made it into customers’ good graces. “Don’t give good customers a break, as they are either too rich, too desperate, too stupid, or too enamored by your product to stay away. Stick your claws into them and enjoy. It doesn’t matter if they protest, throw you off their laps, they will be back for more. They are hopelessly co-dependent on you,” Chambers writes.

You don’t want to teach employees to take advantage of, or abuse, customers, but you do want to teach your employees to help you make your company indispensable to customers. Once customers buy from you, train your employees to deliver the kind of service that maximizes opportunity, so you can stick your “claws” in even further, so to speak.

One of the most wonderful things about cats is, unlike dogs, you don’t have to walk them. The human companion of a cat will never be forced from their couch on a cold, rainy night by a cat who needs to relieve itself. They use a litterbox, and usually do so without needing to be trained. Most relevant to corporate life, they bury their droppings. They are compulsively clean animals that then meticulously clean their paws. How many employees, and companies, have gotten into trouble by not figuratively doing the same thing?

“Delete all your e-mail, always. Make sure all your corporate cats know they don’t have any future with you or anyone else, unless they always bury their poop. Make sure your poop is protected by attorney client privilege. Be certain you never stumble across or go looking for where the poop is buried. Never admit to pooping,” Chambers advises.

In an age of frequent IT security breaches via hacking, phishing, and ransomware, etc., training employees to keep private business well “covered” is essential. You don’t want to teach dishonesty when a wrong has been committed, but you do want to teach tidiness of business habits. Employees who know how to be discreet, and stay clean, will go a long way toward helping you build a secure and profitable organization.

What lessons do you think your company can learn from cats? Is there another animal, such as a dog or horse, that you feel your company can learn from?