Smokey the cat, as loud as a 747: Now with video and audio!

March 29, 2011 • 3:22 pm

by Matthew Cobb

The BBC website reports the case of Smokey, a cat whose owner, Mrs Adams, claims that her pet is the noisiest cat in the world. Indeed, the claim is that she is sixteen times louder than your average cat, @ 73dB, which allegedly makes her as loud as a 747. They don’t explain quite how close they placed the mike, but Ray Meadham from Northampton College said “The recording equipment we used to record Smokey’s purr included a Rode microphone, Logic music software and a category 1 sound meter which measures decibels – it’s the same equipment music professionals use.”

Smokey the cat
Smokey thinking about purring but not quite sure what the camera is

Smokey will be submitted to that definitive journal of all things extreme, the Guinness Book of Records. But in the best tradition of 17th century science, they already had some reliable witnesses: “Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris, veterinary nurse Kaye James, Diana Johnson from Cats Protection, and British Airways captain Alisdair Tait.”

Smokey the cat
Smokey with her owner. This is a silent photo.

[EDIT] Reader CarlosT, in comment #10 below posted this link to a UK TV news item, which includes the sound of Smokey! “To me, the cat sounds like an owl” he says.  Smokey’s been recorded at 85 decibels, equivalent to a pneumatic drill operating 50 feet away.

This is what a normal cat sounds like: this is Ollie, who scandalously scratched Jerry’s nose when he came to visit a couple of years ago. You have to listen closely.

22 thoughts on “Smokey the cat, as loud as a 747: Now with video and audio!

  1. Jerry, how could you? It must have been something really nasty that you did to that poor sweetheart to get him to scratch your nose. For shame!

    I bet he still has nightmares, poor dear….



  2. There is nothing like a purring kitty 🙂

    The Beeb’s website seems to be back up & running, but without being able to hear the purr it is a little hard to imagine an animal that small being able to generate that level of noise.

    I’m surprised that they’re running the story without a sound-clip. It’s a bit like running a story on those cartoons without showing what they looked like.

  3. Oh — by the way. 73 dB is loud for a purring cat, but I guarantee you it’s nowhere near as loud as a 747. Maybe background noise levels at cruise?

    Anyway, that’s about as loud as conversations get, but well short of shouting matches. It’s almost as loud as a dial tone.

    From the edge of the runway as that 747 is taking off, the sound levels will be well over 150 db, which is loud enough to cause hearing damage even with protection.

    Somehow, I doubt there’s any need to wear earplugs near Smokey….



      1. A jet engine at 100 feet is about 140decibels.

        Four JT9Ds at full throttle from less than 150 feet away (the width of a typical runway)? And two of those engines less than 75 feet away? “Above 130 dB” is a bit of an understatement….



        1. Of course – logarithmic! Never been outside a jet that close with the engines running… fortunately.

  4. Almost completely off-topic…but, in case anybody’s wondering, cat ears don’t make very good mousepads…though it would seem that mice make acceptable cat pillows.

    <sigh />


  5. Kink has a very quiet purr. You can hardly hear it. However, he makes up for it with the eye-squinting, claw stretching and full-on gaze.

    He will pat me on my cheek with claws in just like I scratch him on his cheeks which is his favorite pet.

    Srsly, I’m becoming cat and, you know, those Kat Snax aren’t half bad!

  6. My beautiful, unfortunately late, Abyssinian had the loudest purr I have ever heard. At night he would drape himself around the top of my head as he snoozed on my pillow and he would purr for what seemed hours. Could not go to sleep because it was too loud, but never could bring myself to move him.

    In addition to the loudest, he was also one of the most acrobatic, gorgeous, and kindest cats I’ve known, though he did have a real talent for getting into pickles. I named him Ender because, though he was always causing disasters, he was nevertheless completely innocent.

  7. I was once dong some computer repair/tune-up in a client’s home.

    I kept hearing an odd noise that I thought I recognized, and finally connected it with the family cat, who was watching me from a nearby table.

    That cat had a purr that sounded for all the world like Sandhill Cranes making their raspy, rattling calls in the distance.

    I mentioned it to the owner. He had known that the cat’s purr was loud and different for a long time, and agreed that the sound was very close, after I mentioned it.

  8. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, in The Tribe of Tiger, tells of how, as her husband gradually lost his hearing, the family cat obligingly increased the volume of his purr to compensate.

  9. Thanks, CarlosT. I was beginning to hear the refrain, “Pics(sound clip) or it didn’t happen!”

  10. “They don’t explain quite how close they placed the mike,…”

    Typically, when not specified, sound pressure is measured at a distance of 1 meter. Assuming that the measurement was scientific and all. They also don’t explain which dB scale they are using, which is generally important as well. And for those who aren’t aware, dB scales are logarithmic.

    1. In the video, you can see them place the mic right on the cat’s side while it’s purring. It would read much lower at a 1-meter distance.

      By “which dB scale they are using,” do you mean like dBspl? I think you can assume that for audio.

  11. Smokey might indeed be thinking about purring in that first picture, but from that look, the option of clawing the eyes out of the person with the camera is decidely still an option at that point!

    Makes me think that that is a good way of thinking of a cat’s look in general–“At this point, all options are on the table!”

    Thanks, in general for allowing me to indulge our shared loves of cats, atheism, jazz, food, and evolution, Jerry.

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