The Glenturret Distillery, near Crieff in Perthshire, Scotland, is the oldest working Scotch-whisky distillery in the country and the home of the world-renowned Famous Grouse whisky.

Barley stored in a distillery ready for whisky making is a big attraction for mice, and so for many years, Glenturret has kept a cat on the premises. From 1963 the position of resident mouser was held for almost 24 years by Towser, a long-haired tortoiseshell female, who had a remarkable mouse-catching career – so remarkable, in fact, that she holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s best mouser – catching 28,899 mice. She died in 1987 and her life and exploits are fondly commemorated by a bronze statue at the Famous Grouse Experience visitor centre on the Glenturret site. Her pawprints used to decorate the label on a bottle of Fairlie’s Light Highland Liqueur, another of the distillery’s products, although it has since been discontinued.

I enquired how this very exact figure of mice caught had been arrived at – surely no one had been keeping count for 24 years? It seems the adjudicators for the record claim went to Crieff to observe the cat’s prowess for a period of some days and the total was extrapolated by a statistical technique from their observations.  Even if the number might not be totally accurate, it’s a pretty impressive performance and works out at an average of some three mice every day!

Towser
21 April 1963-30 March 1987

Towser, the famous cat who lived in the still house,  Glenturret Distillery, for almost 24 years.  She caught 28,899 mice in her lifetime.
World mousing champion, Guinness Book of Records.  

Following Towser’s death, a new cat, called Amber, was appointed. Unfortunately she didn’t seem to have her predecessor’s skills and as far as is known she never caught a single mouse! She remained as the resident feline, however, until she too died of old age in late 2004. The quest for a new cat began in Spring 2005 and was reported in the national press. Scottish branches of Cats Protection were invited to help with the search.

The requirement was for a cat that would be outgoing enough to welcome visitors from all over the world and would enjoy being the centre of attention. Mousing ability would be considered an advantage, but distilleries these days are much more mouse-free than in earlier times, so that was not regarded as essential. A cat psychologist was even consulted, as it was felt it would not be easy to find the right animal . . .  but eventually nine finalists were chosen. They were all cats that for one reason or another had fallen on hard times, and each was described as a ‘real character.’

Staff at the distillery were looking forward to having a new resident after several catless months, but following the ‘interviews’ they found it very difficult to make a choice from among so many worthy candidates! In the end they found it impossible to choose between Dylan, a ginger tomcat from Forfar, and Brooke, a black-and-white female from Glasgow – so it was decided to take them both on. And there was a happy ending for the seven other cats not selected by Glenturret – all found good new homes, either with distillery staff or as a result of the publicity that took place at the time of the search. 

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This article first appeared in the Spring 2012 edition of The Cat magazine and has been reprinted here with kind permission from Patrick.

For more of Patrick’s humorous and extraordinary feline tales, visit his website: www.purr-n-fur.org.uk

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