World's loudest cat
Monday, 30 November -0001

My life with the world’s loudest cat

So what’s it like living with the puss with the planet’s loudest purr? As Smokey sees off her latest rivals, her owner and manager reveals all…

Written by Ruth Adams

How’s your cat?’ It’s always the first question to greet us. Not ‘How’s the family?’ or ‘Work going well?’ It is beginning to cause some friction. ‘That b***** cat,’ my husband puffs, ‘has taken over our lives.’

So how did it happen? I ask myself the same thing. For I have somehow become the owner, and servant, of a 13-year-old rescue cat named Smokey.

And Smokey is no ordinary cat. For, according to Guinness World Records, she holds the world record for the Loudest Purr by a Domestic Cat. Indeed, her purring can easily drown out a conversation, or the television. It is rather like sharing your living room with a very happy lawn mower.

The story begins about a year ago, when my friend Diana and I were chatting about her voluntary work for the charity Cats Protection. With my background in marketing, I suggested holding a purring competition on local radio to publicise the charity’s spaying and neutering campaign.

An interview was duly arranged for Diana, myself and my very loud cat on BBC Radio Northampton in early February last year – and Smokey’s purr made her an instant star. Within a week, she had been pictured in every UK national newspaper, interviewed by radio stations all over the world, and had television companies ringing up and asking to film her.

It’s not always that easy to get a cat to purr at the exact moment required. Smokey just has to be in the mood. On one occasion, an American film crew managed to annoy her so much that when it came to her live ‘interview’ before 5 million US viewers, I had a hissing and spitting cat on my lap.

We had a different problem when we were interviewed, via Skype, by a New Zealand TV station. So she could be seen, I had to sit Smokey on a pile of cushions, which collapsed in the middle of the interview. Oh dear.

Radio stations, meanwhile, would phone at all hours, asking that I put the cat on for an impromptu broadcast, regardless of the time difference. Proving how loud a cat can purr can also be a difficult task. The world’s media demanded to know, and it was suggested that I should put Smokey forward for a purring Guinness World Record. It had never occurred to me that such a record even existed.

I got to work. For the necessary proof, I needed a sound engineer, a category- 1 decibel reader, a vet, a notary witness, professional video footage, photographs and a data print-out of all the recordings. Some shopping list.

Telephoning around for volunteers certainly wasn’t easy, as not many people would take me seriously. Fortunately, my local Northampton College agreed to help.

Guinness World Records at first specified that all recordings take place outside, as walls can reflect and amplify sound, but we found it impossible to find a quiet enough place in the countryside and so we took the cat into a recording studio in the College. Unfortunately, Smokey was petrified and wouldn’t even leave her basket.

So it was decided that the recordings be carried out at home, where she would feel most comfortable, and the trial was organised for 25 March 2011. We followed the very strict guidelines and positioned the cat at a distance of one metre from the decibel reader. Everyone was silent. I revved up Smokey by stroking and feeding her ham, and before long she was purring her socks off.

We were aiming for a reading of 80 decibels, but her peak purr level was only 73dB. Nevertheless, this was still significantly louder than a normal cat’s purr of 25dB, so I crossed my fingers and sent off the evidence.

A few weeks later, whilst on holiday, I received a call, asking me for a missing data print-out. Unfortunately, due to technical gremlins, the decibel machine had not generated such a thing. All we could do was start again.

My volunteers were superb and all rallied around to help organise another trial in late April. Our local newspaper agreed to provide the video footage required and an alternative decibel reader, capable of producing a data print-out, was sourced. But Smokey’s purr came in at a less impressive 67.7dB. Never mind, we submitted the new data and crossed our fingers.

Then, on 5 May, Guinness World Records called to inform me that Smokey was indeed the world’s loudest purring domestic cat.

Another feeding frenzy of journalists besieged the house and the pressures of being the manager of an international celebrity cat began to take their toll on me.

I felt that some good should come out of our work so, to help promote the Cats Protection spaying and neutering programme, I decided to write a book. Smokey: The Very Loud Purring Cat tells of Smokey’s rise to fame from being a many-times rehomed rescue cat to being probably the most famous cat alive today.

Smokey and I have now started touring bookshops to give ‘pawtographs’ (she has a rubber stamp of her paw, so that she can sign her own books), and I have visited schools to talk about creative writing (she’s a huge hit with the children).

Smokey has also been filmed by an ITV company for a documentary about Guinness World Records, to be broadcast nationwide this summer.

But, as we all know, celebrity can be fleeting. Even for a cat. This year has been rather traumatic for Smokey and me, as Guinness World Records informed me that two other cat owners had contacted them claiming purr levels of 100dB and that they would be sending a crew to investigate.

The good news is that Smokey has managed to retain her title; the sad news is that one of her rivals apparently died before the film crew got there, and the second was too scared to purr in front of all the cameras.

So, for now at least, Smokey remains the world’s loudest cat – and I’ll have to keep buying the earplugs.

Smokey: The Very Loud Purring Cat by Smokey and Ruth Adams (DB Publishing, £6.99)

PS Please remember to spay or neuter your cats if not used for breeding.

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