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Shitty Kitty: Boundary Queen

We joke in our home that Shitty Kitty rules the roost--she's a little maybe 8- pound black cat with half a tail and a saucy attitude. She showed up in our backyard one day as a tiny kitten with some injuries to her leg and tail (that eventually fell off at about the mid-point). She's the cuddliest of the crew (two cats and three dogs), but also the meanest. She'll straight low-growl at you if you start to try to pick her up when she doesn't want you to. And heaven forbid you try to pick her up after that--you're getting bit. If Snoop (80lb. yellow lab) gets his big head too close to the edge of the bed while she's there, she won't hesitate to smack him. And watching the new kid on the block (Bo the Texas Heeler) learn about her boundaries has been entertaining to say the least.

She got her name one day just because it rhymed, but then it stuck...and well, she can be kind of shitty if you're on the other end trying to push her boundary. There's so much that we don't know about her arrival in our backyard. A likely scenario is that she got picked up by a bird of prey and dropped. We'll never know for sure, but here are the things we do know: she is not a fan of being in open areas outside. When she runs from the shed to the back door, she fluffs herself up and RUNS to that door. She does not like to be picked up abruptly or without her asking to be (which she will do by way of her claws on your leg). Whatever happened to Shitty Kitty that dropped her into our lives was likely scary and traumatic for her and has affected who she is as adult kitty. Sound familiar?

We're not so different from animals in that regard. What is different is that when our little humans hit the magic age of adulthood, we often expect them to suddenly "be adults" and be capable of managing all the ups and downs that come with it--in relationships, We expect them not to fluff their tails and hiss at everyone that come near them and tries to pick them up, and then get frustrated or angry with them when they do.

How about if we start encouraging our kids to have their own Shitty Kitty moments? Someone touches their hair without permission at the grocery store? A swipe and an aggressive hiss will probably stop that behavior. Obviously, I'm taking the metaphor to the extreme (though if I had young kids, I'd probably be teaching them how to hiss right this moment). But what if....

What if we taught our kids that their voices mattered? That their feelings mattered and that they had the power to set and enforce their own boundaries? What if we taught them how to do this with respect and love, but also firmness and confidence? What if we did the same ourselves? World changing.

Animals really are the best. They don't live in the past, or the future. On a good day, Shitty Kitty doesn't choose violence. But that also doesn't mean she isn't willing to remind anyone that she is capable and willing to protect those boundaries she has clearly defined. (And as if on cue, she just walked in and jumped into my lap and curled up, making it impossible to finish this paragraph. So I created a TikTok video that will give you the perfect sense of the essence of Shitty Kitty one-eyed glare and all). I love that little cat--I love the lessons she's brought to us about setting boundaries, enforcing them, and not letting your size determine your place in the pack or how loud your voice is.

I believe one of the most important things you can do for your kids is empower them with knowledge and vocabulary to name the emotions, behaviors, and experiences with others that they will have throughout their lifetimes. Giving them that, plus the Shitty Kitty level of boundary setting and holding? Warriors, I tell you.

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