LONDON – No need to bell this cat: A gray-and-white tabby by the name of Smokey has cat-apulted to fame with purring so loud it has been recorded at a potentially record-setting 73 decibels.
The British community college that measured the sound said it peaked at 16 times louder than that of the average cat. By some estimates, that is about as noisy as busy traffic, a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner.
The 12-year-old, ordinary-size feline first came to national attention last month when her owner, Ruth Adams, decided to run a local competition for the most powerful purr. That led to a local radio show appearance, and from there, media coverage snowballed, with the tabloids full of headlines like "Thundercat" and "Rumpuss."
"Sometimes she purrs so loudly it makes her cough and splutter," Adams said on a website devoted to the cat, which was rescued from a shelter about three years ago. Smokey "even manages to purr while she eats."
Hoping to see Smokey recognized as top cat, Adams asked Northampton College in central England to provide the equipment needed to submit a world-record application. Last week, the college dispatched a team with specialized sound equipment to record Smokey purring in the comfort of the family home in the village of Pitsford, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) northwest of London.
The recording has been submitted to Guinness World Records, the college said.
Seventy-three decibels is louder than ordinary conversation, which is generally around 60 to 70 dB. On a video posted on the website, the purring sounded like the cooing of an angry dove.
Guinness World Records spokeswoman Amarilis Whitty said she is eagerly awaiting the recording.
While Smokey may have gotten used to the attention, the Adams household seems to be getting a little sick of it all.
"Oh, God, you're not the only caller," said a man who answered the phone at the home Wednesday. He then hung up.
Cats purr by moving the muscles in their throats and diaphragm. But precisely why they do it is a matter of debate. Cats can purr when they are pleased — for example, when they are stroked — but they also purr under stress. Some scientists believe that purring has a social or even a healing function.
"She is LOUD VERY LOUD and keeps going," Adams said on the website, adding: "She is one very happy pussycat and wants to tell the whole world how happy she is."