Tails of Bad Habits


Chapter 1: Introduction

My name is PurSneakity, and I ‘m a creature of habit . . . bad habits.

Bad habits – that’s why my so-called owner shouts “Bad Kitty!” all the time. What a fool; he persists in his delusion that he is my owner. Little does he know that I call him “my human” behind his back. Get a clue buddy.

My human always threatens to haul me back to the shelter where he adopted me. Take yesterday, all I did was knock his favorite oil painting off the wall. Truly an accident, it’s not easy to pounce off the fireplace mantle without snagging something. So there’s a slight tear down the middle of the canvas, he’s gonna, haul me back to the shelter over a slight mishap?

Just like a common dog, I come a runnin’ every time my human calls me. I cozy up and warm his feet while he is lying on the couch watching TV.  I even reduce myself to playing demeaning games like fetch and beg – how undignified.

Okay, I do all this, so my human supplies me with treats, toys and fun ways to be bad.  But let’s get this straight. I’m the boss. I’m the smart one. I’m the alpha. Just watch my human try to find me when I have to go to the vet for a checkup.

I hate to admit this, but my human is right about one thing.  I am a creature of bad habits.  In my eight months as a kitten, I have acquired enough bad habits to last all nine of my lives.  At least, that’s what my littermate, Patience, hisses every time I bite her tail. Patience. . . Ha! My human gave her that name because she has no patience.

I don’t admit that I am bad, but it is fun to be bad. Who can resist a catnap on my human’s black wool slacks just back from the cleaners? What’s more fun than clicking off his computer while he is in the middle of paying bills? A fresh salmon filet thawing on the counter is just an invitation for a feast.

Then there are times when my bad habits aren’t so bad, like when I have lots of yarn to tangle or my human plays laser light with me. But soon I fall back into doing something bad again.

How can I help it? Curiosity ailed the cat. New mischiefs always intrigue me.  Fortunately, most of them lose their lure after a while. However, some mischiefs turn into bad habits, even when they are no longer any fun – like when I got into a scrap with Ralph, that awful canine living next door. Doesn’t that buffoon realize that I am the one who buries his bones in the backyard sandbox . . . before I leave a trail of sand in the house?

But then I had a terrible wake-up call. My playful scratch on my human’s arm resulted in a horribly bloody episode, prompting him to rush to the emergency room.

My littermate, Patience yowled at me, “You did it this time PurSneakity! I warned you. Your bad habits were going to cause some real trouble someday.  If something real bad happens to our owner, it will be YOUR fault!”

I didn’t even hiss back because I knew Patience was right. As I paced the kitchen floor awaiting my human’s return, I reflected on my life.  Being bad was supposed to be fun; I never really meant to hurt anyone.

So I prayed to Our Father, “If my human is okay, I will work on purr-ging my Bad Habits for good,” and I will write a book about it. Thankfully, my human was okay – he just needed antibiotics.

“You were lucky PurSneakity.” Patience meowed. “You better purr-ge your bad habits.”

In fulfilling my promise to Our Father, I prepared a list of my bad habits. That list spanned an entire roll of toilet paper, even when I used small paw strokes. My human wasn’t too happy about that mess all over the bathroom floor.  Then I thought, maybe I’ll just focus on my worst habits.

So, I pawed a list of nine bad habits – one for each of my nine lives. And, I came up with the acronym “Bad Habits” to remember them.

  B Boredom
  A Addiction
  D Deception
  H Hoarding
  A Anxiety
  B Bullying
  I Intolerance
  T Two-timing
  S Selfishness

In this book, I share tails (tales about endings) of my bad habits, and how I try to overcome them with the help of my littermate, Patience, my human, my purchologist (a human counselor who is fluent in meow and specializes in feline issues), and Our Father. At the end of this book, I reveal what all these bad habits have in common.


Chapter 3: Addiction

Since I was barely weaned, I adored kitty treats, especially with a saucer of rich cream. Perhaps I overindulged a bit because the vet kept saying I was chubby. However, I chased my littermate, Patience, on a daily basis, which helped me to carry my few extra ounces well, even if I did eat out of her food dish on frequent occasions.

Then I injured my paw after I jumped off the top of the refrigerator— okay, to snag a few kitty treats that my human stores up there. I was rather sedentary while I recovered, so I put on a few more ounces. Given my recent writing efforts, I gained even more. After every writing session, I reward myself with a few kitty treats. Now I can’t even chase Patience or climb on top of the refrigerator.

I only mildly resist my human’s attempts to take me to the veterinarian because I know I need to go. Not only does the vet pronounce me to be officially obese, she also voices concern about numbers relating to my blood and insists that I follow a diet of skim milk, watery tuna and soggy greens formed into cat-food nuggets.

That uninspired fare offers little to satisfy my taste buds, and even less to satisfy my appetite. My human now must make sure I don’t eat my littermate’s food. I become so ravenous that even the grimy mouse hiding behind the stove seems tempting. My mood is so foul that I bite any human or animal that comes within a tail’s length of me.

So, I rebel against my diet and turn to “hard” junk food— that deplorable stuff that my human eats. Every time I feel stressed or upset, I ferret out sausage crumbs from the empty pizza box in the trash can or leftover cheeseburger tidbits from the empty plates in the sink.

My human doesn’t catch on until the next vet visit— where the scale reveals I have gained another pound! After reading an article that overweight humans tend to overfeed their pets, my human decides to go on a diet himself, and that same yucky green stuff in those cat-food nuggets is all I could find in the house.

This calls for more drastic sneaky maneuvers.

Every time my human opens the front door, I dart outside. It’s so fun to watch his frustration each time he fails to stop me. Once outside, I cruise the neighbors’ garbage cans to feast on left-over cheese morsels and splats of tuna casserole. Afterward, I hide my leftovers in the backyard sandbox.

The neighborhood kitties tease me with names like “fatty catty” while poking my bloated tummy. Other kitties offer more subtle insults— they criticize a cat, half my size, for being too fat. I never let on, but all these insults hurt my feelings— which leads me to eat even more.

One day, after barely dodging the neighborhood bully cat who was chasing me, I wander into a neighbor’s garage to rest. Panting heavily, I espy a jumbo bag of my very favorite kitty treats! With a sudden burst of energy, I tear open the bag with my back claws. Then I arrive at a horrible realization. Not only did I chomp down the entire bag of kitty treats, I chewed up the bag as well.

Even I had to admit this behavior was bad.

After my human fell off his diet wagon, the kitchen trash can returned to its former glory— a buffet of sumptuous leftovers. Now I crave gyros, fried rice and tacos, vile stuff that I would never have touched in the past. I must do something about my problem, but I know my human is too engrossed in his food habit to help me. And that vet was no help!

So, I ask my enviably fit cat rival Fido how he stays so trim. He sniffs disdainfully as he offers the profound advice to “eat less, and exercise more” . . . As if that has never occurred to me. In my mind, I scream, “Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I’m stupid.” However, I politely say “Yeah, but how do you deal with treat cravings?”

He shrugs, “I don’t have cravings; I eat whatever I want— sometimes more, sometimes less.”

Time to return to the purchologist, my human counselor who is fluent in Meow. Looking aghast at the change in my appearance, she asks “How are you?”

Between choked meows, I confess that I lost control of my eating, especially kitty treats. After I have a good cry, she urges me to take some nice, slow, deep breaths. Then she calmly assures me, “Like many cats and humans, your body probably doesn’t metabolize sugar and refined carbohydrates (carbs) properly. This leads to gradual changes in your brain where you develop tolerance (need more carbs to function) and suffer withdrawal symptoms when you don’t eat them. Although not as drastic, it’s similar to alcoholism.”

The purchologist explains: “Some addictions can be controlled through moderation; others can only be controlled with total abstinence.” She instructs, “A good way to discern which type of addiction you have is to make a conscious effort to moderate intake of the substance. Several failed attempts at moderation would likely suggest that abstinence is the only solution for that particular addiction.” She recommends an online support group called HAMS, a support group for alcohol misuse.

Unlike 12-step programs that only support abstinence, HAMS welcomes those who seek support for harm reduction or moderation as well as abstinence. “It might give you some ideas for moderating your kitty treat consumption.”

The thought of giving up my beloved kitty treats is a fate near death. I pounce on the suggestion of moderation. The purchologist suggests the Dr. Oz 28-day plan to kick your carbohydrate addiction. “To stay on track, it’s important to address the symptoms of carbohydrate withdrawal – dizziness, headache, cravings, fatigue and just feeling not right. Fortunately, carbohydrate withdrawal is much milder than alcohol or drug withdrawal, which may require medical intervention.

“Here are some tips to minimize carb withdrawal,” continues the purchologist,“taper off carbs gradually, consume healthy fats like avocados, drink lots of water, get plenty of rest and light exercise. Take nice, slow, deep breaths.

“Guess what?” she asks. “Reducing the sugar and refined carbs will help improve your mood too! You also will be less depressed and clearer headed to write your book.”

We outline a food plan for each day of the next week. My daily regimen consists of three meals of fish, healthy whole-grains, fresh greens, dairy, lots of water and one snack consisting of five kitty treats. Eat enough food to be comfortably satisfied, not stuffed.

Once a week, I can indulge in some junk food like my human’s pizza. I also agree to follow her suggestion of finding some healthy alternatives to kitty treats and pizza.

“Addictions, be they mild or severe, are very tough to break.” warns the purchologist. “Cravings can be very hard to ignore. When you have one, take a deep breath and ask yourself a few questions.

  1. What do I most need right now? (Maybe a nap or a friend?)
  2. Are there any difficult feelings (like sadness) that I might be suppressing?
  3. Are there any responsibilities I am trying to avoid? (Like working on my book)?

If you must give in to the craving, then so be it. However, over time, you will identify your craving triggers and be better able to resist temptation. Each time you resist temptation, you strengthen your resolve.”

Finally, the purchologist advises me to keep a food/mood journal and find a diet buddy— just to keep me honest.