- The Double-Sided Sticky Tape Trick With Furniture. How did I miss this one? Bar none, this is the easiest and most humane way I've found to keep cats from transforming upholstered furniture into a shredded mess. Inexpensive. Inconspicuous. Effective. Sure beats the old idea I tried years ago of wrapping furniture in aluminum foil for a month to deter cats from destroying upholstered furniture. Which mostly had the effect of making my living room look like a Star Wars set and giving my friends another reason to poke fun at me.
- The Furminator! Again, where was I when this came out? How did I not learn about this until this year? I totally love this tool. It's a fabulous time saver for grooming cats and, hooboy, do they love it. There are way fewer flying cat fur dustballs around now that I've discovered this de-shedding tool.
- Dr. Pierson's Cat Litter Box Cleaning Method. I shudder to think of the thousands of pounds of litter I hauled and discarded for decades until I learned, d'uh, that there's a great way to keep litter boxes pristine without emptying all the contents regularly. Saves time, saves money, saves your back. It's much greener too.
- Biodegradable Bags for Soiled Cat Litter Stuff. Using the Dr. Pierson Method means having handy and nearby a durable container lined with a bag into which the "stuff" you take out of the box at each cleaning goes. But I sure didn't like how un-green it was using plastic bags, even if I was re-purposing grocery store bags. There are lots of choices now for 100 percent biodegradable bags that work perfectly well for this purpose. I like the 3-gallon "food waste" bags sold by Bio-Bag. Put one of those inside a durable plastic container to hold it in place when you're scooping and you're good to go.
- Raw Feeding is a Good, Sane Idea. This should go without saying, but I'll go for it anyway. I wish I had known many years earlier than I did that feeding dry food is a horrible idea for cats and that feeding a balanced, raw-meat based diet is the single most important step one can take to set a strong foundation for a cat's health.
- Feeding Chunks From the Start! When I first started raw feeding, I under-appreciated the value of including large chunks of muscle meat in my cats' diet to help keep their oral health as good as it could be. That said, when I first started raw feeding, the cats I had then were adults and weren't big fans of eating anything "chunky." When our new kitten, Sidney-Beans, arrived a couple months ago, one of the first things I did was offer him oversized chunks of muscle meat to work on. He and his most awesome big brother Wilson now get one "chunk treat" a day of chicken thigh meat. I'm hoping this dramatically decreases the chances that they'll need to have regular dental cleanings. This doesn't mean they won't need or get dental cleanings, but it sure seems to me that feeding those chunks is a smart way to reduce the chances that their oral health will deteriorate.
- Glass Jars for Storing Food. I've never been a fan of storing food in plastic containers. They're environmentally yucky and can leach dangerous chemicals into the food inside them. A healthier, and greener, solution is found with can-or-freeze jars. They're durable as can be; I've had the same set of jars for nearly a decade now and not one single jar has broken or cracked. And yes, I've dropped more than a few.
- That Annual Revaccination is Not The Great Idea I Used to Think It Was. I wish I'd had the wisdom and information decades ago to recognize that the practice of blindly revaccinating cats each year is unnecessary and carries serious risks of side-effects, both long- and short-term. I used to feel so righteous and responsible when I'd haul my cats in once a year to get their 'booster shots.' Once I started digging more into it, I learned that I wasn't doing them any favors.
- That Adopting an Adult Cat is Equally if Not More Rewarding Than Adopting a Young Kitten. Until this year, I'd always assumed that if I brought any new animal into our lives, it would have to be a young kitten. Too many risks and unknowns, I thought, adopting an adult cat, even though I know that they are the ones who often have the hardest times finding good homes. Once four-and-a-half year old Wilson entered the scene, however, I changed my mind entirely. Maybe it's because Wilson is Mr. Wonderful and within a remarkably short period of time I fell head over heels in love with this guy. Maybe it's because he came into our lives exactly when his vibe, his unique presence, and his demeanor was exactly what we needed. As my friend reminds me, adopting a kitten is like getting married on the first date! You never really know what their unique personality is going to shape up to be. But with an adult cat, you usually have a pretty good idea of who they are. Adult cats in need of homes should get the love and forever home they deserve.
- That Fear of Loss Shouldn't Intrude on Loving the Cat(s) You Have Now. No doubt, losing a beloved animal companion is painful. But I wish I had realized years ago that worrying about the fact that our lifespans are longer than theirs and that one day, most likely, their form will be out of our reach is an absolute waste of time. And that any subtle, lurking fear just beneath the surface about one day losing them depreciates the relationship. And makes it more difficult for you and for them to experience the elegance of the moment with clarity. Love them now. Appreciate them now. Don't let anxiety about what may or may not happen in the future invade your nervous system and poison the moment. Now is all you ever have, so cherish it, absent fear. It's the only way. It's really the thing. It's not always easy, but it's worth the effort. Try on love without fear. It's huge.
In no particular order, below is a top ten list of stuff I wish that I had known about long ago. On taking care of, living with, and feeding cats, that is.