Friday, May 11, 2012

Harry James

My Teenage Rebellion
In high school, I was a peer mediator. This matters very little to the story except that it gives you an idea of exactly how rebellious I really was (not very) and because without being a peer mediator I probably wouldn't have adopted Harry.

After being voted into the peer mediator program the selected students took a class about conflict resolutions and "I messages" and feelings. Once we were trained, we were separated into pairs. Each pair was scheduled one class period per day in a little room in the counseling center. For those 50 minutes a day, we sat and waited for our peers to come and get their conflicts resolved. What we mostly did was sit around and try to find creative ways to kill time (no available internet! no such thing as smart phones!). Sometimes we were responsible and did homework, but mostly I remember just dicking around, doing things like drawing Scott a fake Air Force tattoo on his arm or reading the "pet" section of the classifieds.

One of those classifieds reading days, I decided I wanted a kitten. A fluffy black one. I was going to name it Joplin. I knew there was no way my parents would go for it (we already had Fluffy, Belle, Patches, and Pablo Bob at home, as well as my little bro's gross dog, Sadie), so I decided to just go get a kitten behind their back. I started scanning the ads for free or cheap kittens and using the school's phone to see if they were still available. Finally I found a lady selling her kittens for $10. She didn't have any black ones, but she promised me they were all cute. (C'mon though, find me a kitten that isn't!)

After school that day I drove out to her house. It's mildly possible I may have even skipped class to do so, I can't remember, but I can't figure out how I could have beat my mom home from work otherwise. When I got to the women's house she showed me the two kittens they had left. I only had a $20, and she didn't have any change, so I ended up paying double. Then I took my kitten home, got him a little damp (you know, so it looked like I gave him a bath), and when my mom arrived I told her I'd found him behind the school, all dirty and sad looking. There was way less arguing than I'd imagined there would be, possibly because I was in my last year of high school and they were just hoping I'd move out soon and take my cats with me.

He received the moniker Harry James from my mom. Although I love Harry Potter and everyone assumes his name must be from that, I had not read any of them back in September of 2001. His namesake is actually a musician/actor that my mom enjoyed.

Maybe that's why he wouldn't wear the glasses.

Surgery & Crystals & A Few Rough Years
The first thing I noticed was that his fur looked lackluster and he hadn't woken me up that morning by licking my eyelids. Back in 2004, the year of Harry's first major illness, I was still free feeding the cats, causing me to completely miss the first sign he was sick – not eating – for at least a day, if not more. As I got ready for work that day I fretted about him, while my former boyfriend assured me he was fine. When I went to leave my apartment, still debating with myself on if I should even be leaving, I scooped Harry up to kiss him goodbye. When I put him down, I let him drop unsupported for the last foot or so. Harry was so ill that he just fell over, so I scooped him back up and we went straight to the vet. They never did figure out what caused it, but after a couple days of IV'd antibiotics and vet supervision Harry seemed to be feeling much better.

This is one of the reasons I'm a big proponent of scheduled feeding. Had I been actually laying out the food everyday for each cat, then picking it back up again, I would have noticed immediately that Harry was not eating, which would have caused me to take him to the vet sooner, where he would have received antibiotics earlier in his illness and (in theory) he wouldn't have come so close to dying (his temperature got dangerously high during this whole ordeal).

We had a solid year of good health after that, but then the UTI's started. In August of 2005 I started noticing small, but frequent, bloody pee piles in the litter box. I narrowed it down to Harry, took him to the vet, got a round of antibiotics and then it cleared up. (Total cost: $92)

One month later, we are back at the vet with the same issue, only this time it's worse and it doesn't clear up. The vet recommends x-rays, in which we learn that Harry, although possessed with an over-sized liver, has an unusually narrow urethra and a bladder filled with crystals. One of these crystals is huge, rolling around in his bladder and irritating the lining, and causing the bloody pee. Unfortunately, the crystal is now too large for him to pass normally without running the risk of it lodging in his urethra and possibly killing him. At the age of four, Harry gets to have his first invasive surgery, a cystotomy, to remove the giant crystal that took up residence in his bladder. (Total cost: $469)

Shaved legs for surgery.
Incision for cystotomy.

Three months of good health, then January 2006 rolls around and the litter box is filled with bloody piss again. (Total cost: $71) One month later, and ohmygoodnessareyoufreakingkiddingme? we are back at the vet again with yet another UTI. (Total cost: $90).

 These constant vet visits with Harry very clearly illustrate my frustration with the veterinary/pet food industry. Even though I totally had a crush on him, Dr. G's advice on preventing the reoccurring and potentially life threatening bladder issues Harry was having was nothing more than selling me dry science diet c/d cat food. (Which changes the pH of your cat's urine and supposedly prevents crystals from developing, essentially just treating the symptoms instead of the cause.) Months of the dry c/d did nothing to alleviate the problem. Then, starting in 2006, we were living in a new town and had a new vet. Although she still subscribed to the science diet bullshit, she saw how frustrated I was with the constant problems and recommended feeding him canned science diet c/d as well as dry. Ta da, problem solved! Harry hasn't had a UTI since February 2006. Or, put in another way, Harry has not had a single bladder issue since I started feeding him wet food once a day. Canned food adds water to his diet and drinking enough water is what prevents bladder issues in the first place, science diet and changing the urine pH has nothing to do with it. All told, feeding Harry the wrong way ended up costing me over $700 in vet bills and an put a huge amount of stress on us both.

My Favorite Things
Harry loves to have his photo taken and starts posing when a camera appears. He likes to sit with his front paws stretched out and crossed and he loves to cuddle with the other cats. When cuddling with people, he likes to spread out as awkwardly as he can across you, especially if you're reading or doing something involving your hands. He's a big fan of kneading, but prefers to do so wherever you have bare skin.  

Harry and his come hither eyes.

His belly is one of the prettiest cat bellies I've ever seen. It's a light brown color, paler than the brown on his nose, and covered in black spots. He's a big fan of chewing and licking eyelashes, eyebrows and eyelids, as well as chewing on earrings. When it's meal time in our house, Harry is the first one to start harassing me to get on the ball. It starts with him staring me down intensely and progresses to long, drawn out and thoroughly desperate sounding meows. In July, Harry will celebrate his 11th birthday, and even though I don't know the actual date of his birth, we like to pretend it's the 31st, same as Harry Potter. Maybe this year he'll get his Hogwarts letter!