Learning Boundaries From Arthur


For the past month, my cat Arthur’s eating schedule has been off. I usually feed him breakfast at 5am when my alarm clock goes off, but lately he has been waking me up at 2am wanting to eat. Arthur is very persistent when he is hungry, he will bop me in the face with his paw for hours until he gets what he wants. At first it was easier for me to feed him and then go back to sleep, but with the busyness of school starting, pitching lessons ramping up, and life in general during the fall, I had been finding my mind was racing at 2:30am and I was out of the habit of falling back to sleep. I was only getting 5-6 hours of sleep per night and this week I was exhausted. Something had to change so Arthur wouldn’t wake me up in the middle of the night.

I did some research about why a cat’s sleep or eating schedule might suddenly shift. The articles I read presented logical explanations like the cat is starting to experience old age, has a hormone imbalance, or might be going deaf, but the last line of every article always said “When trying to adjust a cat’s schedule don’t give in to the cat.” Meaning it was most likely a behavior problem reinforced by a human’s weak boundaries. 

I am totally that human. 

So at 2am, after feeding Arthur on Wednesday morning, I was wide awake, and I started to think about why I didn’t feel like I could say no to a cat. My self realization was that I wanted Arthur to love me and I was worried that if I didn’t cater to his needs immediately, he would feel hurt. I was scared that my cat would feel abandoned and unloved. Being a cat parent is no joke, but these thoughts are ridiculous! He is a cat, and if anyone knows Arthur, he is the most loved cat in the world by my family. He could absolutely wait to eat, I just had to be strong enough to stand up for myself and my own sleep. 

The next night, I did the unthinkable (for me). When Arthur came up at 2am, hitting me in the face, wanting to eat, I picked him up, put him in the hallway, and closed the bedroom door! I had NEVER done that before. He clawed at the door, and meowed and meowed for an hour, but then I fell asleep. In the morning I was so happy and proud of myself and felt much more rested. At 5am Arthur was sitting at the door, ready to be fed, and he purred as we walked down stairs. He still loved me!

While I was learning about the importance of setting and holding boundaries with my cat at home, I realized this theme was popping up in my professional life too. I was feeling guilty about a boundary that I had drawn at school this week, and the lesson from Arthur helped remind me that I didn’t need to. Setting and holding boundaries provide safety and structure for both people involved. Boundaries are an act of love. And for me, protecting my sleep is the most important forms of love– self love.

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