Life Matters

Can curiosity kill the cat?

Can curiosity kill the cat? Afterall, don’t they have nine lives. That adds up to a lot of curiosity. But what does it mean when someone says, ‘curiosity killed the cat?’ When I hear the phrase, it takes me back to a song. ‘Curiosity killed the cat’ was the title. It was recorded by the Little River Band in 1975. Forty-six years later the tune and lyrics are still with me!

Is everyone curious? Or only some people? And what are we curious about? Some of us are more curious than others. How did we get that way? Was it through teaching or an innate natural ability?

Taking curiosity too far

But while curiosity is a good thing. It can get out of hand when curiosity causes people to meddle in the affairs of others.

There is a fine line between inquisitiveness and nosiness. That is, snooping into other people’s business when it does not concern us. Too much nosiness can lead us into trouble.

Curiosity can get us into trouble

I grew up with four sisters. It was much easier for us to have cats than other pets. We soon found out that cats are curious creatures. They can climb, jump, and get into all types of mischief.

When I was 11 years old my family moved into a rambling old mansion of a home. It was not only our home, but it was also a three-story hotel (counting the ground floor) – the Grand Hotel, Toowoomba. These days known as the Hotel Norville.

The top floor at the front of the hotel was converted into our living space. It had everything but a kitchen. For this we had to go to the ground floor and out the back. The hotel has a beautiful old winding timber staircase.

When living in the hotel my two younger sisters had a cat named ‘sweetie.’ Like all cats, she was curious. One day, when on the top floor, she poked her little nose into the balustrades and fell to the bottom floor. Sadly, ‘sweetie’ did not survive. So, too much curiosity can get us into trouble!

At another time my other sister and I had a white kitten. This wee kitten was so curious she went missing. My sister Susan and I walked the CBD asking local businesses if they had seen our white kitten. The next day three white kittens turned up at our place!

Curiosity and children

Yet there is a positive side to curiosity. It facilitates learning. The more curious a child is the more they will learn. Reading is a great way to nurture children’s curiosity. But it also takes an interested adult to answer questions. If a child has the attention they need for learning, then they will not need to be attention seeking. As adults we can all start with creating curiosity opportunities for children. Encouraging children to ask questions sets them in the right direction.

I saw the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge ask questions of Sir David Attenborough. What a wonderful opportunity for the children to ask him questions. Their curiosity about the animal world helped them grow in knowledge and understanding. Yes, the children have a privileged life. Yet I could see that it was their parents who were behind their curiosity. This is where it all starts – interested parenting.

There are also other ways that supports a child’s curiosity. We can all encourage children to be more observant. To ask them questions and to describe what they are seeing, hearing, and experiencing. The more curious a child is the more they discover that learning can be fun and interesting.

Curiosity and older people

What about us older folk? We can choose to never stop learning. The more curious we are the more we will learn.

But if we read the entire phrase, we find a different meaning. It tells us that ‘curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.’ The cat lives on. Curiosity does not kill it!

As long as we do not take curiosity too far and meddle in other people’s business all is well. Too much curiosity may not kill us, but it could come back to bite us!

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