Luisana Reyes Madera



Primal Instincts

May 11, 2023.

I have been taking care of a cat for 11 days. I do not have any experience with animals, and this is the first time I have ever been around a cat for more than, let’s say, an hour. He is a very stoic but sweet being, as his owner (and dear friend) describes it to me. The first few days, while my friend was still there before her departure, the cat behaved well and woke up around 5am for food. He would jump on her desk and play with things. Moving things around and clawing into beaded bags and some of the jewellery she makes. Intuitively, she would wake up, feed him, and get right back to bed.

After she left for Europe and left me alone with my own devices, the cat started waking me up several times a night. At first I thought he was hungry, but fearing putting a few pounds on him, I chose to (tried to) ignore his pleas for food—considering I had fed him a full meal less than a few hours before. I started feeling uneasy as the night progressed. The cat walked all over me, knocking things off the desk, jumping in and out of bed, purring, meowing, and running around. I thought maybe I needed to portion out his food so I could tend to his hunger every time he felt like it, while still feeding him a healthy amount of food. In hopes of getting more sleep in, in hopes of making him feel safe with me.

One morning, I had to wake up early for my 7:45am therapy session. I had slept only 4 hours due to the cat’s constant demands that I simply just stay awake next to him. I realized that at times he was not necessarily hungry but simply wanted me to get out of bed. I somehow found this endearing and started getting up and hanging out with him, this resulting in us cuddling on the couch until the wee small hours of the morning. I mentioned this to my therapist, and we started dissecting the situation further. Pulling specific meanings from what was happening and how it was making me feel.

What did it mean for the cat to disturb my sleep? What did it mean for him to follow his primal instincts?

According to Google, cats are active at night because they have been wired for thousands of years to hunt at dawn—right when the birds start chirping and the insects start crawling from wherever they live underground. I realized, while scrolling on cat owner forums, that my (temporary) cat was just acting on impulse according to who he biologically was. He was not consciously choosing to bother me (or so I hope) but just did so. He was unapologetically and naturally acting himself.

Silly enough, this new learning sent me (and my therapist) down a rushed stream of thoughts.

What if I could just unapologetically be myself, without the fear of bothering others? What if I was not afraid of making demands, just like the cat did when he was hungry, or simply felt like being caressed to sleep? Sometimes I tone myself down because I fear the possibility of being a bother to people. However, I would hope those around me feel confident enough to wake me up in the middle of the night or phone me during my workday if they ever needed me, or simply want me around. I would want them to make demands. And while I know this can become intricate if no boundaries are set in place, I feel like open and honest communication about our sentimental cravings is necessary in order to have fulfilling and meaningful relationships with others. And, honestly, not only with others but with oneself! If I simply listened to what my subconscious mind is itching for, could that ease some of those worries I feel but can't quite explain? Those worries that maybe have been weaved into my brain long before I was even conscious enough to ask myself all these questions. Perhaps if I looked after those desires and actually found ways to satisfy them, I could keep them as references for when I am feeling some type of way and cannot figure out what is it that is wrong with me. For when I wake up in the middle of life and realize there is a hunger that needs to be fed and I am the only one to wake up to tend to it.