- The Runt of the Litter
Turns Out to be the World's Smallest Cat
a farm call, vaccinating dogs in Tazewell County, Illinois,
Veterinarian Donna Sassman, MU DVM ’95, noticed a fuzzy
and awkward kitten. Obviously the runt of the litter, he had
to scurry out of the way to keep from being stepped on by
his normal-sized siblings.
Dr. Sassman worried that the little guy was too small to compete
for food with the other cats. She also envisioned him being
swooped up for dinner by the hungry Great Horned Owls living
nearby. Not wanting to leave the little gray cat to such fates,
she asked the owner if she could keep him. She could—if
she could catch him.
Back at her Good Shepherd Veterinary Clinic in Pekin, Ill.,
Dr. Sassman more closely examined the Tabby and made a discovery.
This was no kitten, but a two-year-old fully-grown cat—albeit,
a really small cat at 2.8 pounds. Dr. Sassman named him Mr.
Peebles, after a ventriloquist's dummy on an episode of "Seinfeld."
The malnourished Mr. Peebles needed Dr. Sassman’s help.
He had roundworms, earmites, and an upper respiratory infection.
After treatment, he gained a whole 0.3 pounds.
Brought back to health, Mr. Peebles, became the clinic’s
house cat, jointly tended by the staff. The tiny cat, easily
able to fit into a teacup, quickly became a celebrity among
No one could remember a smaller cat. During 2004, Good Shepherd
Clinic manager Cathy Smith researched the Guinness Book of
World Records—the accepted authority in these matters.
No other smaller cat was documented.
Dr. Sassman decided to submit Mr. Peebles. The Guinness application
form was 10 pages long with strict examination and verification
protocols by at least two veterinarians.
After providing photographic evidence and independently verified
measurements, Mr. Peebles' vital statistics were confirmed
at 3.1 pounds, 6.1 inches tall, and 19.2 inches from nose
to the tip of his tail. Earlier this summer, Guinness officially
presented the "Smallest Living Domestic Cat" World
Record to Mr. Peebles, replacing the previous the record holder,
Itse Bits, who weighs about 3.3 lbs., depending on whether
he had just eaten.
The Guinness Book of Records designation made Mr. Peebles
a media phenomenon. The Associated Press picked up the initial
local newspaper story and it appeared throughout North America,
Europe, South America, and Asia. A TV report bounced off satellites
to affiliates around the nation that aired the story. He was
featured in a National Geographic children's magazine, the
National Enquirer, and dozens of web pages. He was escorted
by Ms. Smith to New York where Mr. Peebles appeared on ABC's
Good Morning America, interviewed by host Diane Sawyer. The
segment was cut to about a minute so the network could air
breaking coverage of Johnny Carson's death.
TV shows still contact Dr. Sassman for interviews and visits.
Most requests are granted if the programs pay for a caretaker
to travel with Mr. Peebles and that he stays overnight in
a pet-friendly hotel.
The media attention has waned recently, with reporters going
on to bigger stories, leaving Mr. Peebles to hold court in
the Good Shepherd Clinic—a place where he knows he’ll
never be stepped on by the bigger cats.
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