Fighting cat addiction by tooth and claw

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It doesn’t take much to light the flame under my secret addiction. Not Facebook, since that’s no secret.

My drug of choice? Kittens.

Heaven help me, I’m a complete sucker for those little balls of fur and moist noses. The wide eyes and frisky tails. The fluffy paws batting at air. All of it makes me melty and happy, like warm chocolate sauce is coursing through my veins.

And every single day, Facebook serves up a buffet of kitten pictures. Kittens, cats, puppies, dogs. Babies. In ridiculous, adorable poses.

I bring much of this on myself, of course, by some of the pages I “like” on Facebook. Like Blue Mountain Humane Society’s page. That group has gotten really savvy at marketing on Facebook. Puppy in Mardi Gras beads? Cats posing on crinkly velvet? Already hooked, reel me in.

Which is why I’ve called a few times over the years and requested to be put on the shelter’s do-not-adopt-to list. People think I am kidding when I say that, but I assure you I am not. That decision comes when I am being proactive about my addiction.

The folks at the shelter just laugh, by the way. “OK, Sheila, we’ll put you on there. Again. For now.” I hear them wink at one another.

I can tell when things are getting bad and I’m looking for a fix. I look at Annie Mae, our kitty of 13 years, and think how nice it would be if she had another cat to commune with while we are gone.

Never mind that Annie Mae has no use whatsoever for her own kind, now that her boyfriend of many years is gone. Max was special to our tuxedo cat — never laughing at her stick-thin body, never hissing while she ate his food, always willing to share his mom’s generous porch and its cushy wicker chairs with our curmudgeon of a cat.

Beyond Max, Annie Mae preferred there be no other felines in the universe, thank you.

I know this in my head, but that wisdom is unavailable to me when the fever starts climbing. At the next notch, I briefly consider the cost. A visit to any number of web sites will assure anyone that owning a cat is not for the faint of wallet. Estimates for monthly costs range from $600 to more than $1,000 a year, not including any adoption fees.

And that’s not just the obvious stuff — regular vet visits, food, kitty litter, toys, medicine, flea control — but the things you can’t anticipate. Like when your cat gets out and hides in the engine compartment of your car and you, whistling as you go off to work, start the engine. That is so not cheap.

Then I start imagining a new kitty in the house. Not a brand-new kitten, because I really am past the curtain-climbing, leg-shredding stage. But a younger cat with some joy of play in it, one that will chase the balls and gnaw on the catnip mice that Annie Mae won’t give a second glance to. A sweet feline to cuddle under the covers, sharing its time equally between three teens who could all use a furry ear to whisper into.

And that’s about the time I click on the websites and read the classifieds. Then — this shows you how sabotaging addiction is — I post pictures of adoptable kitties on Facebook, just like all the other addicts out there posting similar pictures.

It’s sort of how I often approach deadlines, like the one for this column. Heat the water slo-o-owly until it is at boiling point, until the pain forces a leap of action.

By posting those images, all the other cat ninnies understand their cue. “GO GET A CAT ALREADY,” my daughter will reply. “DO IT,” my friend Amy — potential cat lady in the making — will type in. “So cute!” “Oh, how precious. What will you name it?” The positive feedback just pours in.

My kitty crush validated times 1,000. At that point I’m euphoric.

Now comes the battle of wills within myself. I’m at my desk, say about 3 p.m. I have another hour, hour-and-a-half of work. I think, “I should take a break. Get my blood pressure down. Drive over and see animals.”

THAT is the exact moment I have to become sane, slap myself around a little and hide my car keys from myself.

It would be so easy to just indulge. Just a tiny taste of kitty madness. However, my past informs my present. Because my Nana was a cat lady.

Oh, my goodness.

Not the kind of cat lady you see in the movies, cheerfully feeding masses of purring fur and tails. Nana was the sort you see on those hoarding reality shows, living with as many cats as they have bundles of newspapers “just in case.” She was dialed back a bit from that extreme, but at one time in my childhood we had 40 cats living at this house. Mostly outside, but close your eyes and imagine 40 cats, and not very healthy ones, in your yard. Go on.

See? Those are the genetics I’m up against. I’m going to start a support group soon, Cat Lovers Anonymous.

OK, now you know more about me than you wanted to. I’m out of here, just looking for my car keys. What? Of course I am driving straight home. I’m not even thinking about going past the Humane Society. At 7 E. George St.

It’s not like there’s a little black bundle named Midnight that I’ve had my eye on, or anything. Or the lovely Stella. Or Bruce, that little cutie...