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WALKING VETERINARY ENCYCLOPAEDIA
A lot of people think Persians are boring; well, it's just plain not true of any of my cats, but particularly not true of Harpsie. Harpsie is a very laidback, placid cat, yet he's also confident and extremely determined. This is partly because he's Persian (they are known to be placid and easygoing); partly because he has always been loved so he has no hang ups; and partly because he is Harpsie. His placid nature belies his astonishing determination to overcome whatever life throws at him.
Harpsie has a very kind heart - he doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He likes everybody, human, cats, dogs. He's less keen on vets and vet nurses, unfortunately, ever since his urinary tract blockage; though he's mellowed a little as he's got older, he still gets frightened at the vet's, and becomes aggressive sometimes as a result (fear aggression).
Harpsie likes male humans more than females, but it's the other way round with cats: he tolerates other male cats, but he absolutely adores female cats. We say he likes to have a harem, but it's a very wholesome harem, with no hanky-panky. He is terribly protective of his sisters. If I am grooming or pilling one of the girls, and she starts to howl, Harpsie comes over and lets out an indignant squawk, and tries to stop me.
Here are some of the cute and/or funny things that have happened over the years.
The Toilet Episode
When we first got Harpsie, although he was about four months old he was still quite small because he had been bottle-reared, and so he wasn't very good at jumping. Therefore we had been lifting him up to sit on the toilet seat while we were brushing our teeth each day. One day when I was getting dressed I thought I heard some frightened squeaking from the bathroom. This day he had finally worked out how to jump up himself but the toilet seat was up! He had somehow managed to land feet first, and I kid you not, he was stuck with all four little feet wedged in the bottom of the toilet! I really wish I had had a camera, but I rescued him immediately rather than fetch the camera first. After that he rarely jumped on the toilet seat...
Harpsie loves to sit on chairs and rugs like a human, with his paws lying forward while he leans back on something. At left and below you can see examples of this. Sadly, he no longer does this now he has arthritis, which is a shame, because he looks so cute and funny.
The Little Boy at the Vet's
We once went to the vet, and in the waiting room was a little boy of about 4 with his grandfather. After a bit, I noticed he was looking intently at Harpsie in his carrying basket, and I heard him whisper to his grandfather "I think it is", and his grandfather said "I don't think so". This went on for a little while, then the little boy asked if he could speak to me. Grandfather checked me out, then gave his approval. The little boy approached me and asked shyly "is that a baby lion?". It was so cute! I had to disappoint him on that score, but I let him stroke Harpsie and so Harpsie won yet another admirer.
Harpsie's Friend, Dozy Dog
I bought this toy dog for my niece for Christmas one year. Unfortunately I made the mistake of putting it in the lounge when I brought it home, and that was it. Harpsie promptly adopted Dozy Dog as his own, and I had to buy my niece another present. In the second photo, Harpsie and Indie are both snuggled up with Dozy Dog, though Indie doesn't actually get that close to Dozy (because Harpsie has first claim on him).
The Thermometer Episode
Harpsie is usually very placid. We went on one
of our regular vet visits and the vet, knowing how
placid Harpsie was (this was before Harpsie had his
blockage which made him frightened of the vets), stuck the thermometer up Harpsie's bum
but didn't hold it in place. You should have seen the vet's face when
two seconds later, accompanied by an indignant
squawk from Harpsie, the thermometer literally
flew across the room. Got strong muscles, my
Harpsie, and great curve in the pitch. The vet,
going in for typical British understatement, merely
said calmly "I don't think he liked that",
as he reached out and caught the
The Chimney Incident
We moved into a house with fireplaces in the lounge and dining room. On our second day there, Tanya came into the lounge from the dining room and jumped on the sofa and began to walk towards me. Then she talked to me with Harpsie's miaow! I was startled and looked up. It was Harpsie - he had climbed the chimney in the dining room, and was now an attractive blue colour like Tanya! He had to have a bath, and ever since we have had to keep something in front of the chimneys to stop him climbing up them again.
We had 21 people round for lunch one Christmas Day, so we had to be mega organised. We used a hostess trolley to hold some of the food, naff but extremely useful when you are cooking for so many. Harpsie took not a blind bit of notice of all these people, he simply bagged the best seat in the lounge, and nobody had the heart to move him, so he snored the day away.
In the evening we noticed that Harpsie was no longer in the lounge, but nobody could find him. Everybody searched, and I was getting increasingly panicky. Some people began to clear the dishes while the rest of us searched. They opened the hostess trolley door - and there was Harpsie, having a nap in the warmth of the trolley. He wasn't too amused at being disturbed either. The turkey was still in the trolley, but, being Harpsie, he hadn't touched it; he was never much of a one for human food.
The Exercise Programme
The Christmas episode was not the only time Harpsie went missing. On one occasion I had the entire street looking for him, and he was in my sweater drawer the whole time.
He went missing on another memorable occasion. My husband was up in the loft doing some work, and of course Harpsie was there too - we didn't call him The Foreman for nothing. After a couple of hours, I took a cuppa up to my husband and asked where Harpsie was. He said he didn't know, he wasn't in there. I said he must be, I'd closed the door tight after my last visit, but we couldn't find him.
Well, then we searched the house and garden, no sign. Just as I was beginning to panic, my husband called. He said he had found Harpsie, and I really must see him. So up I went to the loft, oh, I wish I'd had my video camera: there, under a dustsheet, was Harpsie stretched out balancing on my leg exerciser as if he was working out! Just call him Harpsie Fonda!
Harpsie's New Friend
We had security lights placed in our back garden, which triggered whenever someone walked on the lawn. Harpsie did not go out much in the evenings, and when he did, he tended to walk around the side of the lawn. But one night, while he was out, the security lights came on, so I looked outside to check. He was sitting on the lawn looking down at a hedgehog, who was sitting on the lawn looking up at him, with their noses almost touching. It was just adorable, and I went to get my camera, but by the time I came back the lights had gone out and the hedgehog had scurried away.
Harpsie never had much of a problem with hairballs, probably because he never washed much (Tanya used to wash him when she was alive). He did have a couple of hairballs one summer though, so the vet gave me some hairball gel. I tried to give this orally to Harpsie, but although he has always been incredibly easy to pill, he was not at all keen on the hairball gel. I told the vet, and she suggested I simply squeeze an inch of the gel onto his front paw, and he would then lick it off - she said this worked every time. So I squeezed it onto one of Harpsie's front paws. He looked at it in disgust, looked at me in disbelief, strolled over to my cream-coloured sofa, and carefully rubbed his paw on the sofa. Result: one non-medicated but smug cat, one dirty sofa.
Harpsie's Arthritic Walks
When we moved to the USA, Harpsie got a new hobby. He started going for walks down the hall. Since we were staying in what was essentially a hotel, it had long corridors, and we figured it would do him good to walk down them since we no longer had stairs which he used to climb back home which gave him exercise. He absolutely adored his walks, and waited by the door hoping for another one.
One night was priceless, we turned a corner and there was a little old lady walking along with the help of a Zimmer frame. She swooned when she saw Harpsie (as happens with all his fans, of course), as did her daughter who was with her - they both thought he was adorable. So Harpsie and his fellow arthritis sufferer shuffled along the hall getting exercise together - it was so cute. Now just as long as Harpsie doesn't demand a Zimmer frame too (-:
Sadly, we were only in this accommodation for a few weeks, and the hall outside our new apartment was very short and with no friendly old ladies, so Harpsie soon gave up his new hobby.
Harpsie's Carrying Basket Incident
Harpsie likes to sleep in his wooden basket in front of the floor heater, but it was incredibly cold one night, so I also got his carrying basket out (Harpsie is a truly strange cat, he loves his carrying basket) and draped it with towels and put a cosy blanket in it. The following morning (he's not always quick on the uptake), Harpsie finally noticed his carrying basket and wobbled over to it. But, for some bizarre reason, he decided to climb on top of it rather than get in it. He managed it somehow, but it is soft-sided, so the top of it promptly collapsed under his weight and he was stuck in a hole in the collapsed top. I rushed over but he was actually quite comfy and cosy and didn't appreciate being rescued!
Talking of carrying baskets, I've got Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, so carrying heavy boys is difficult for me. Therefore we bought Harpsie a wheel-along basket, which was promptly christened Harpsie's Chariot. Harpsie is fine in this basket, so I wheel him around New York City in this when we are going to his various vet appointments. We have never once been out without someone asking me where I got it from (our record is five queries in one trip to acupuncture).
Here is a photo of a chariot like Harpsie's (his is black).
Sleeping in the Litter Tray
Harpsie not only likes sitting in his litter, he likes sleeping in it. Before you all think "what a mucky boy", I should explain that he only does this when it has been cleaned (-: If we can't find him, we always check the litter tray (which is covered, so we can't see him just by glancing over) in case he is having a kip. He has not been too popular in the past when his sisters have wanted to use the litter tray, lol: they sit outside it, paws akimbo, glaring at him, until he takes the hint. Being Harpsie, this takes a while (-;
If a cat doesn't normally sleep in the litter tray but starts doing so, this may be a sign of a urinary tract infection. In Harpsie's case, however, we think it is a sign of dominance (by lying in the litter tray, he is controlling access to it).
Yes, it's not only Harpsie who is eccentric. I am the proud owner of some Harpsie balls of wool. I found a lady near my home who spins cat hair into wool. Cat fur is not rugged enough for spinning alone, it has to be mixed with sheep's wool. It's very nice, wonderfully soft, and since Harpsie is cream, it looks rather like Aran wool. So far I only have two balls of wool but once I have a bit more (I have lots of fur waiting to be spun), I'll start knitting. Probably crazy, since I'm allergic to cats, but I could always make a scarf for my husband or something.
Yes, this house revolves around the cats, as evidenced by my husband's decision to buy me portraits of Tanya and Harpsie as a birthday present - I was thrilled. I later also had a portrait painted of Indie, but funds and wall space could not stretch to portraits of Thomas, George and Karma too, unfortunately.
When the portrait painter came to meet Tanya and Harpsie, she exclaimed "oh, he has marmalade eyes". And he does. When Indie arrived, I realised she has lime marmalade eyes.
This page last updated: 3 February 2008
Links on this page last checked: 2 February 2008
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