Colonel Meow the cat -- once in Seattle kill shelter -- wins Guinness record for longest fur

colmeow1By Amy Hubbard

Los Angeles Times

It’s official. Colonel Meow has been awarded the Guinness World Record for cat with the longest fur -- it averages 9 inches long.

It's a story that combines good genes with a lot of luck. The rags-to-riches tale of this Hollywood cat begins at a Seattle kill shelter.

Colonel, as owners Anne Marie Avey and Eric Rosario affectionately refer to him, has fur that surrounds his body like an angry storm cloud. But he was hardly the product of careful breeding.

"He was actually left on the side of the road and then taken to a kill shelter,” Avey told the Los Angeles Times. Colonel Meow was rescued by the Seattle Persian and Himalayan Rescue, and Avey subsequently came upon him at a Petco adoption event.

“It was an impulse purchase,” Avey said. One look at this very hairy cat with the intense green eyes, and she was sold.

Persians are known for their long hair, said Jerry Hamza, president of the Cat Fanciers’ Assn. The association, the world’s largest registry of pedigreed cats, recognizes a dozen long-haired breeds for competition, he told the L.A. Times, but "the breed with the longest coat is the Persian and is CFA’s most popular breed of cat."

The Colonel sparked curiosity among cat genetics experts interviewed by The Times.

The length of his fur earned a “wow!” from Becky Ewalt-Evans at the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. The lab provides do-it-yourself tests -- a simple swab of a Q-Tip -- for owners curious about their animals’ genetics. Owners often check before breeding an animal; those with purebred short-haired cats, for example, would prefer not to have long-haired kittens. They will also check for genetic diseases.

Ewalt-Evans, supervisor of parentage and diagnostic testing, said the test can turn up surprises: “My medium-length-hair cat was genetically short-haired.”

Leslie Lyons agreed: “It would be very interesting to genotype this cat.”

Lyons, a professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri, Columbia, said the cat's head and facial structure indicate he is non-pedigreed Persian -- a mix.

The first domestic cats were short-haired, but the long-haired variety has been around for thousands of years. The Persian long-hair mutation is very ancient, Lyons said, noting that her lab has done research to prove that the gene actually originated in Iran, or Persia.

“His hair length is among the normal for long-hair Persian cats,” Lyons said. “They have pretty long hair.”

By giving Colonel the world record, she said, Guinness may be throwing down the gauntlet.

"As soon as you announce this kitty has the longest hair, I think you’ll get people who say, ‘Hey! I have one that looks just like that!’ ” That's what happened with Venus, the cat with the half-black, half-calico face, who went viral online.

To geneticists, Lyons said, Venus' striking visage was rare but also  completely logical. As Venus’ fame spread, other cat owners popped up to declare they, too, had cats like her.

Guinness welcomes the competition. "Longest fur on a cat" is a new category for 2014.  The new world records book will be out on shelves on Sept. 12. Guinness public relations manager Jamie Panas said cat owners are welcome to register their proposals by way of their website.

Avey and Rosario seem happy just to be temporary holders of the crown. They just want people to know Colonel Meow has not been PhotoShopped.

"People call us and say, 'You use product in his hair," Avey said. "Trust me, there’s no gel or mousse involved.  There’s no rhyme or reason."