Meet Smokey — A Real Purr Machine

Smokey reportedly possesses the loudest purr in world. Photo by Geoff Robinson Photography

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Here’s my latest post on Pet Connection about the famous purring cat named Smokey. As a Pet Connection advisory team member, I encourage you to check out the other newsy posts on the site by clicking here.

My first cat was a talkative Siamese named Corky who earned the nickname, Loud Mouth. My dad was fond of saying that Corky “purred like a Mack truck.” But Corky’s vocals would be considered whispers compared to a gray tabby named Smokey. This very content cat from Northampton, England is generating headlines, TV appearances and YouTube fans for reportedly possessing the world’s loudest purr.

Are you ready for this? Grab your ear plugs. Sound tests performed on this 12-year-old cat by a British community college team registered as high as 92 decibels – about as loud as a lawnmower or a hair dryer. The average happy, contented cat purrs at around 25 decibels.

Smokey’s owners, Ruth and Mark Adams, submitted an application to the famed Guinness Book of World Record to have their cat declared as the World’s Loudest Purrer. The couple rescued Smokey from a local shelter about three years ago and Smokey is now recognized as an honorary volunteer for Cat Protection’s Northampton branch.

On Smokey’s website, Ruth Adams proclaims: “Sometimes, she purrs so loudly it makes her cough and splutter. She even manages to purr while she eats.” In a recent news report, Diana Johnson, of Northampton Cats Protection, declares, “I have never heard anything like her purr in my life. It can drown out your conversation.”

So, how loud does your cat purr? Any competition for this Brit cat? If you want to hear Smokey’s purr machine, just click here for her audio performance on YouTube that has 210,000-plus visits.

That signature purring in a cat is comparable to the happy tag wag in a dog. But somehow, I find purring more magical. As editor of Catnip, a national monthly affiliated with Tufts University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, I work closely with top veterinarians and animal behaviorists.

In explaining the art of purring, Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, director of the Tufts’ Animal Behavior Clinic, reports that cats produce purring sounds by using the diaphragm to push air back and forth across vibrating nerves in the larynx. All domestic cats and most wild felines are born with the ability to purr. Cats, from young kittens to seniors, purr when they are happy, anticipating dinner or snuggling on a warm, cozy bed.

Mother cats purr when nursing their kittens, and kittens purr when nursing. But many cats also purr when they are afraid or in pain. That helps explain why some purr when being examined at a veterinary clinic or when they are recovering from an injury. The purring might serve to reassure or comfort the frightened cat. In addition, some studies suggest that the low-level vibrations of purring physically stimulate feline muscles and bones to keep them healthy and actually speed up the healing.

Some cats purr right to the end. When my beloved Samantha had to be euthanized due to advanced liver disease, the sound of her purring comforted both of us as she slipped peacefully away in my arms at the veterinary clinic.

For now, Smokey is the poster cat for purring and I hope the Guinness World Record officials will give serious consideration to adding this entry to their long list of record-setters.

And there is one purr feat that cats everywhere can achieve that we mere humans cannot:  Cats can purr while inhaling and exhaling. Don’t believe me? Try for yourself. It is far easier to say “toy boat” 10 times fast than imitate a purring cat.



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