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5 Ways I’m a Better Cat Parent Now Than I Was a Year Ago

I've learned a lot about health and care. My cats eat better, and we play more. Still, I can improve.

 |  Apr 15th 2013  |   33 Contributions


Since I started writing for Catster, I've been delighted to learn that thousands of people see their cats the same way I do: as eccentric, furry family members who poop in boxes. Because they're family, I have always loved and cared for my cats to the best of my ability -- but the more I learn about their health, care, and behavior, the more I realize I have room for improvement.

Here are five ways I'm a better cat parent now than I was a year ago.

I'm an awesome cat parent because I let Bubba Lee Kinsey sleep anytime, anywhere.

1. Wet food is for winners!

When I was 19, feeding Bubba Lee Kinsey used to be cheap and easy. I would dump kitty kibble into his bowl and not think about it again until that bowl was empty. I had no idea what constituted “good” vs. “bad” cat food; I only knew that if it had a picture of a cat on the bag, it was probably legit.

It bears mentioning that in these days I did not eat much better myself. I considered SpaghettiOs or Easy Mac a good dinner -- and Taco Bell was a special treat.

Phoenix in my claw foot tub, from which she and Bubba both used to drink before I switched up their diet to include more wet food.

Then I read Fast Food Nation and got wise to the truth behind most mass-produced meats. I changed up my own diet, and I tried to change Bubba’s diet as well. I bought higher-end cat food in tuna or salmon flavors instead of chicken or turkey. By the time I got my second cat, Phoenix, I thought my furry friends were pretty damn lucky to be eating so well. 

But it turns out I still wasn’t doing enough. A couple of months ago, I asked my vet why my cats were obsessed with licking my claw-foot tub after I showered, and she revealed that many cats are dehydrated. She recommended feeding them approximately 50 percent of their daily calories in canned food, which contains more moisture than dry. She also suggested placing a water bowl in another room away from the food, since cats prefer to have their resources separate.

And guess what? My cats don’t lick the tub anymore.

Further reading: "Does Your Cat Have a Drinking Problem?"

I am really lucky that even though Bubba is 11 and Phoenix is only 4, they get along famously and even groom each other.

2. I quit drinking so darn much

Drinking whiskey used to be my favorite thing. And it was a lot of fun ... until it wasn't. I quit drinking a little more than a year ago, and looking back it seems fairly obvious that my drinking was a lonely and miserable affair more often than it was hilarious and carefree.

My cats, I'm sure, agreed. When I was hungover, they didn't get fresh water. I didn't play with them. If they wanted attention, I usually ignored them -- unless I needed tufts of belly floof in which to bury my face while I cried. They even got out a few times when I failed to close the front door all the way, and I'd find them on the neighbor's porch or under a nearby car. They deserved better.

Simply by being sober and present, I am able to give my cats -- and myself -- the love and care they deserve.

Further reading: "5 Ways My Cats Keep Me Sober"

Phoenix stoically endures her most recent trip to the vet.

3. I sucked it up and took them to the vet

For years I told myself that my cats didn't need to go to the vet because they lived indoors and weren't around other cats. I was also afraid of how much it would cost -- veterinary care is not cheap.

Then I learned that cats are pretty much zen masters when it comes to hiding pain. If my cats did have secret ailments, I probably wouldn't know until the problem was so severe that it could no longer be helped. This is particularly true with dental disease -- it is estimated that up to 85 percent of cats over the age of three have some form of dental disease.

So I finally sucked it up and took the house tigers to the vet. It was a physically and emotionally draining experience, but I did get some much-needed advice to help my cats lose weight and hopefully prevent arthritis and diabetes. Also, Phoenix is getting her teeth cleaned this summer.

Bottom line: I love my cats and do not want them to be in pain, so the money and the stress associated with the occasional vet visit is well worth it.

Further reading: "5 Things I Did Wrong When I Took My Cats to the Vet"

Having a cat means keeping a box of poo in your home. I don't know about you, but I'm cool with that.

4. I switched to natural kitty litter

When I read Cat Daddy by Jackson Galaxy, I discovered that the clay kitty litters I'd always used might not be best for my cats: The clay dust can cause asthma, and the silica found in certain litters can cause cancer.

So I went on a quest to find a natural kitty litter that was affordable and effective enough to keep my small apartment from smelling like an episode of "Hoarders." The winner? Arm & Hammer Essentials. It clumps tight and controls odors, and the price is reasonable. The best part? It's made out of corn and baking soda, meaning it's safer for Bubba and Phoenix.

If my weird, reclusive roommates have to poop in boxes, I might as well make the experience great. Or at least as good as possible. 

Further reading: "My Cats Tested 5 Top Brands of Natural Cat Litter Just for You"

Even though I'm a pretty decent cat parent, I still can't break up every fight.

5. I'm willing to admit I might be wrong

What have you learned lately that's made you a better cat parent? Got any suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments!

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