Dante the Vegetarian
Smokey with the record-breaking purr
In early 2009 a cat in a village near Norwich, in the east of England, had cat experts scratching their heads because he refuses to eat meat or fish. The black-and-white tom was found in an alleyway, close to starvation, by Becky Page, who named him Dante. Thinking he would love some chicken, she put a tasty sample in front of him but he turned up his whiskers at it and wouldn't eat it. There was the same result with tuna and other seafood. 'But just when I thought nothing was going to work,' said Becky, 'I found him wolfing down a plate of left-over vegetables that was by the kitchen bin waiting to be thrown out.'
Ever since then Dante, about 2 years old at the time, has loved to eat melon, bananas, broccoli, rhubarb, asparagus, aubergines (eggplant) and Brussels sprouts even uncooked potatoes. No one had ever come across a vegetarian cat before, as cats, unlike other mammals, need the amino acid taurine, and other minerals found only in meat, to maintain their health and especially their eyes. Fortunately Becky grows her own organic fruit and vegetables in her garden but she admits to trying to sneak small pieces of meat into Dante's food to fulfil his needs. Sometimes he spots it, though, and will leave it.
Dante does not seem to supplement his food with live prey in fact he prefers to stay indoors, finding the world outside rather scary and he shows no interest in the other animals that Becky and her partner keep, including rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens. Despite his strange diet he appears to be in excellent health. Maggie Roberts, director of veterinary services at the UK's largest cat charity, Cats Protection, said, 'This is extremely rare. Cats are obligate carnivores, and I have never before heard of a cat that will not eat meat.' Well, she has now!
It's official Smokey the cat has the loudest purr in the world! Most cats' purrs are measured at around 25 decibels, apparently but a pet from a village near Northampton in England purrs at an average of some 70 decibels, and when she really gets going a close-up measurement shows 92, which equates to a lawnmower, or a hairdryer.
Smokey, about 12 years old, is a rescue cat taken on by the Adams family for their ten-year-old daughter. Noting Smokey's very loud purr, Ruth Adams started a 'cat-purring competition' in Northampton to raise funds for the charity Cats Protection. In early 2011 it became obvious that Smokey was going to be the clear winner, and Ruth and her husband Mark wondered whether maybe she had a record-breaking purr! They say she has always been very vocal, purring at some level much of the time and being silent only when she's asleep. She purrs even while eating. If she's in the room it's difficult for them to hear radio or TV programmes, and telephone conversations can be a struggle, with people on the other end of the line wondering what the loud noise is!
The Guinness Records organisation was approached, and trials and expertise were organised by Northampton College. The Guinness requirements are very stringent, and recording of Smokey's purrs was made with equipment used by music professionals and in the presence of authorised witnesses. Confirming the feline's purr-themed title in early May 2011, a Guinness spokesperson said, 'It's incredible to think a purr can be as loud as a vacuum cleaner!'
Smokey can be seen and her purr heard in YouTube videos here and here, and she now has an official website.
Smokey has a book out entitled Smokey, the Very Loud Purring Cat, for which she was helped by her owner Ruth Adams, and it has a brief foreword by Larry of Downing Street! Published by Derby Books (DB Publishing), of Derby, UK, the ISBN is 978-1-78091-000-0. It has a good colour-picture section.
Sadly, Smokey died from kidney failure in August 2014; she was 14 years old and was greatly missed by her family. At the time of her death she still retained her world record, despite many challengers, and was featured in the 2014 edition of the Guinness book. However in 2015 Merlin, a 13-year-old rescue cat from Devon in south-west England, narrowly beat Smokey's record to become officially the world's loudest-purring cat.