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6 ways being a cat parent is preparing me for real parenthood

Ally Hirschlag is a producer/actor/writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY and buys way too many toys for her cats. She contributes to several publications, including Bustle, and The Nerve, and enjoys writing about all things woman. In her spar...

Cat parenting is teaching my fiancé and I a few things about becoming parents of real children someday

My fiancé and I love and dote on our cats a great deal, perhaps as much as some parents love their actual children. Our photos on our phones are 90 percent cat-related, and we look for absolutely any excuse to whip them out and take our friends through a brief (or not so brief) slideshow. If one of them throws up, or sneezes or looks remotely under the weather, we look up symptoms for hours online, and argue about whether or not a trip to the vet is needed. I've even caught myself saying, "Grandma's here!" to them when my mom comes over to visit.

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So yes, we baby our cats, and while it may not be the healthiest behavior, I do think it's helping to prepare us for actual parenthood. Becoming a parent is a huge, life-altering transition for anyone, but I believe we'll be slightly less blindsided by it because of our experience in taking care of our felines. While they might not need as much attention as a human baby will, they're alive and doing well because of us, and that's definitely something. Here are six ways having our cat babies have prepared us for real parenthood.

1. We're now hyperaware of things that could cause choking

Babies and cats have a few things in common, and one of them is they both try to eat things they find on the floor. As such, we've become really good about not leaving anything small enough for them to swallow on the floor, or really anywhere that they could get. Cut to a few years down the line, and I'm the mom with all the tiny toys in various-sized Tupperware containers.

2. Nutrition comes first when we buy them food

Sure, it would be easier to just purchase the cans at the bodega around the corner, but that's not good enough for our little guys. We make sure to buy grain-free, hormone-free food in a variety of flavors so they don't get bored. Just because it's good for them doesn't mean it can't taste great, right? (I'm a cat food commercial.) I do notice it's made their fur look shinier and kept their teeth and gums healthy, so it appears to be worth the extra money.

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3. We make sure they get enough playtime

For some reason, our cats like to play with us like dogs might, so we make sure to give them a good amount of attention, especially in the morning when their energy's high. I equate this to taking kids for walks to the park to keep them active so they'll sleep better and longer during nap time (which, thankfully, with cats is all day).

4. We think about their health and well-being as much as our own

I mentioned this above, but I am insanely diligent about keeping their health on track. This one's actually a little harder with cats, because they don't cry like babies do when they're uncomfortable, so you don't always know if something's wrong until it's really wrong. That's why I take them to the vet annually, and make mental notes about any changes in behavior and appetite I might notice. While it's not the level of concern I'll need to have with my own kids, it's certainly a step in the right direction.

5. We don't let just anyone stay with them

When we have to go out of town, we always make sure to leave them with a trusted friend, or a sitter company we've thoroughly vetted. We also insist on sitters staying over even though it costs extra, because you never know what can happen when cats are left to their own devices at night. So, no impromptu cat (or kid) parties on my watch!

6. We let them know they're loved every day

A great deal of cuddling goes on at our house. Granted, that benefits us as much as our cats, but we think it's important to express our love to them on a regular basis. It will be the same way with our kids — that is, until they're teens and start saying, "Ugh, get off me, Mom, my friends are looking!" Thankfully, our cats will never do that, because they don't have any other friends.

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