You know, this painting, which makes a fine backdrop for photos of our Most Important Cat:
I noticed something very odd:
Holy cow! Someone had licked off a cookie-sized amount of gold from the frame.
I knew it was Harris. We had noticed him sniffing the corner of the frame with great interest a couple of days earlier. We could tell he was thinking about tasting it, so I picked him up and put him elsewhere. And thought that was the end of it.
This had happened in the middle of the night, when cats often resume experiments they'd begun earlier.
I couldn't be late to my appointment so I called the vet as I walked. My vet was busy so I had to leave a message for her. The receptionist wanted to know if the frame was gold leaf or gold paint and I didn't know. She suggested calling poison control. I've had to call them a few times because of potentially dire cat situations; they charge your credit card before you can begin to consult them, so I resigned myself to that $65 (or $75?) charge. But calling them wouldn't do much good if I didn't know what Harris had ingested.
I looked up the gallery where we'd bought the painting in 2001. They had moved to a different city but I managed to find them and reached the owner. She couldn't remember what frames she used back then and gave me the name of her framer. I found them, in Rhode Island, and they said that all of that gallery's frames were 22k gold leaf. Attached with a glue made from rabbit skin.
RABBIT SKIN! Harris was licking 14-year old rabbit skin glue. Geez, am I not feeding him enough?
And 22-KARAT GOLD. I guess Harris feels that nothing is too good for Harris.
I called my vet office's again to report this and then waited, quietly freaking out, until my vet called back. Keep in mind that all of this was happening while I was supposed to be leading a serious meeting with three colleagues. I felt guilty; I wasn't sure if should have been sitting with Harris in the ER at Angel Memorial. My colleagues were very understanding.
The vet reported that, in all of her years in an all-cat practice, she had never heard of such a thing. (That Harris, so original!) I was hoping she'd say that gold leaf was edible, since I know that bakers dust some of their confections with gold, and bartenders put some in fancy cocktails. My vet confirmed that, and also thought the rabbit glue was safe, too. So Harris was off the hook for treatment. But that still left the big brown spot on the frame.
It's heartbreaking to see it. We love that landscape and it's the focal point of our living room. It has to get fixed but it could cost a small fortune, and we are far from flush these days. Sometimes high-quality gold-leaf frames will cost more the the oil paintings inside them.
Fortunately, my husband happens to be leading an unusual project at his university that required a gilder to come in and cover a reproduction Egyptian chair with gold alloy this month. This is the first time in his life that he's ever needed a gilder. The gilder was working the day this happened.
Harris has impeccable timing to accompany his criminal tendencies, I'll give him that. The gilder is very nice, married to a long-time colleague of his; we've been to their beautiful house. So he told her what happened. And she said she'd try to help. We're waiting to have her over to see what she thinks.
I've covered the mantel with teetering piles of books to discourage further gold thefts. Harris acts like he's more valuable than ever. I have never seen a cat with higher self-esteem, and I'm not sure I want that experience. When my husband cleans the litter box, he says he is panning for gold. No "gold nuggets" have been spotted yet.