Endell Veterinary Group

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Pet Biographies - Harpo Marx Currie

Harpo Marx Currie was born in 1998, one of four kittens from a pregnant black and white stray that sought refuge one rainy night at Flowerland Garden Centre, Netherhampton Road. I was lured to owner Pat’s house and sat down by mother and babies in the middle of the floor, wondering how to escape (I already had two cats), whereupon a tabby and white kitten detached itself from the pile of fur and settled on my knee. That was it. That was Harps.

I took his brother too, and being a huge Marx Brothers admirer, called the tabby Harpo – the silent one – and the black and white, Groucho, lively, tail coat, big cigar.

Harpo was always shy, racing upstairs when the doorbell rang – many of my friends doubted his existence. “A fine figure of a cat” someone at Endell once described him, he was a great hunter, climbed trees with ease, and was a formidable jumper, leaping up from the kitchen window sill to the roof – about 6 ft – often appearing at my bedroom window on the perilously narrow sill, to my horror. Gradually my older cats died, but when Groucho suddenly went, at only 10, Harpo’s life changed for the worse. Sam Cutler and the vets at Endell thought the strain of being without his protector, suddenly exposed to garden invaders, contributed to his cystitis, later followed by pancreatitis, both these coming and going. I started to accompany him outdoors, and all my attention was focused on him, as an only cat.

In July 2009 I broke my arm, and when I came out of hospital I noticed Harpo was drinking a lot, and he was diagnosed with diabetes. This meant 2 insulin injections a day, and I had only one working arm. Sam and everyone at Endell swung into fantastic action. Harps went to board down there, while I recovered. Michelle brought him home for a day out, and taught me to inject him. It was easy: scruff with one hand and jab with the other. I managed it while he was eating (a very strict diabetic diet) and he barely noticed. Every couple of months he needed all day blood tests to determine his glucose level, but as I couldn’t yet drive, the nurses picked him up at 7 am and brought him home at 7pm. He and I received VIP treatment.

I cannot praise Endell enough. He became such a frequent visitor he had his own cage in the isolation wing, which we christened The Harpo Suite. It was a home from home, better than home. He’d spend the day being fussed over by Sam, Sarah-Jane and the devoted nurses, who even gave him catnip. In this way he spent the last two years of his life, with a glorious respite for nine months in 2010 when the diabetes abated, and he became the boy he used to be. In December 2010 it returned, he added hyperthyroidism to his collection of illnesses, and we were back to the Harpo Suite. In August 2011 he suddenly went lame, stopped eating, and Sarah-Jane, Carol and I had to make the fatal decision. Even at the end he was purring his head off, though unable to walk. He is buried next to Groucho, under the goldfinch feeders hanging from the lilac tree, and the brothers have a memorial stone inscribed by my talented neighbour, Charlotte Moreton.

Sam has asked me for this photo and biography, and I willingly agreed, adding that if I could help anybody come to terms with owning a diabetic cat, I would be happy to. Harpo had the disease for two years – on and off – but it was probably cancer, not diabetes, that killed him, and although it was a struggle it wasn’t a bad life. He loved his food, draping himself on the radiator, stretching on the deck in the sun, and even caught the occasional mouse and on one occasion – ugh – a rat. He was 13 and four months when he died.

Caroline Currie
December 2011