August 8, 2014

Cat in Clovis nears 25 years, may be among oldest in world

Marlee, a brindle calico female short-hair cat, likes to jump onto a queen-sized bed to nap during the day or sleep through the night.

Not a big deal?

It is to Marlee's owner, Tanya Armstrong, who recently moved in with her mother, Beverly Stairs, in Clovis.

Marlee is 24 years, 91/2 months old.

That's 112 in cat years, says Rhonda Schmidt, a veterinary technician at Alam School Animal Hospital in Mesa, Ariz., where Marlee was checked out May 9 before her move to Clovis. The hospital's records show Marlee's birthdate is Oct. 27, 1989.

"I call her, 'My Little Old Lady Kitty,' " says Armstrong, who also has a young male cat named Vixen.

According to, a cat reaches the approximate human age of 15 during its first year, then 24 at age 2. Each year, thereafter, it ages approximately four "cat years" for every calendar year.

Schmidt says only about 1% of cats reach Marlee's age. The average life span for cats is about 16 years. Some cats, mainly Siamese, have lived to 21 years, but "that's pretty rare," Schmidt says.

It's possible Marlee could be among the world's oldest living cats.

Armstrong recently watched a television report about a tortoiseshell cat, Poppy, in Bournemouth on the south coast of England that Guinness World Records recognized as the world's oldest living cat. She died June 6 at age 24.

"Marlee, that's your age," Armstrong remembers telling her cat during the broadcast.

Armstrong says the news about Poppy got her thinking about Marlee and records for cat longevity.

"Marlee needs to get in the running," Armstrong says.

In an online article May 14 about Poppy, Guinness World Records editor-in-chief Craig Glenday said the reference book is overwhelmed with claims for the oldest living cat, with owners from across the globe making applications on behalf of their cats.

The oldest in history was a feline Creme Puff, who was born Aug. 3, 1967, and died Aug. 6, 2005 — an amazing 38 years, 3 days.

Armstrong still hasn't decided about applying for a record on Marlee's behalf.

One thing is certain: Marlee has enjoyed a good life.

A neighbor, who was moving away, gave Marlee to Armstrong, who had just divorced. The cat was about 1 to 2 years old and spayed.

Armstrong, a Phoenix Suns fan, named the cat after Suns standout Dan Majerle (pronounced Mar-lee) but changed the spelling to make it "more girlie."

When Marlee was younger, Armstrong let her go outdoors to hunt for birds.

"I got tired of the carcasses," Armstrong remembers.

So she tied bells on Marlee's collars, hoping the noise would tip off the birds. But Marlee still was too quick. So Armstrong turned Marlee into a house cat around age 5.

About the same time, Armstrong added to the family — a male cat named Barkley, after Suns star Charles Barkley. He lived to be 20 before Armstrong put him down in 2011.

Armstrong says Marlee has never had to pay an emergency visit to the vet.

"Never anything traumatic," Armstrong says. "She's been a lucky kitty."

In Clovis, she gets around slower due to arthritis in her back hips. Armstrong occasionally lets her slip out into the backyard to get a little sun.

The thin Marlee eats just a couple of times a day, mainly nibbling at dishes of canned Friskies wet food. Dry food is hard on her teeth.

Although her eyesight is diminishing, she navigates the halls into Armstrong's bedroom and jumps onto the bed, where there is a special pillow just for her.

Marlee welcomes visitors and likes to press her nose against hands.

Stairs, Armstrong's mother, says Marlee is a "very sweet cat" who is well-loved by Armstrong.

"The reason the cat is still alive is because she is so loving," Stairs says. "It's not necessarily the physical care; it's the love. Tanya is always talking to Marlee. It's the talking, the kissing."


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