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Sketch drawing of Caligula's horse being toasted at the Emperor's dining table

5 pampered pets who lived their best life

Caligula's horse Incitatus regularly dined with the Emperor and was toasted to the high heaves | Image: Wikimedia Commons

We could easily have filled this page with a load of pampered cats and dogs owned by Hollywood types, but we’re not going to go down the simple route. Instead, we’ll have one pampered cat and one pampered dog for posterity, but we’ll start with a couple of surprise pets while working down to a frankly, jaw-dropping finale.

It’s obvious that pets deserve a certain degree of pampering, it’s part of both their appeal and purpose. However, some owners can go a little bit too far, especially when they have unlimited access to moolah.

1. Caligula’s Horse

When it comes to notorious acts of unprintable perversion, Caligula fairs very well indeed. Despite having a cute name that means ‘little boots’ - bestowed onto him when he was three years old - Caligula grew up to be a seasoned sexual deviant, mass murderer, and all-around nightmare. And if the stories written about him a few decades after his passing are to be believed, Caligula was only fond of two things, his sister Drusilla (we’ll leave that there) and his racehorse, Incitatus.

By all accounts, Caligula loved Incitatus as much as he despised people, so the horse dined with the crazy Emperor where he was fed oats cut with gold and toasted to the heavens. On days before he was due to race, those that lived within earshot of Incitatus stables had to remain completely silent, so the spoilt steed could focus on the forthcoming event from the auspicious surroundings of his marble stall.

Unfortunately, the rumours about Caligula making his horse a consul in the Roman Senate never came to pass. Caligula was stabbed to death before he had a chance to fulfil his wish aged 29, in AD41 by Cassius Chaerea, an embittered member of the Praetorian guard.

2. Pope Leo X’s Elephant

Let’s stay in Italy for the next one, and while we’re at it, chuck in a bit more gold. King Manual I of Portugal gifted the four-year-old white Asian Elephant, Hanno, to Pope Leo X, (aka Giovanni di Lorenzo de’Medici) and it wasn’t long before Hanno had his own residence close to St Peter’s Basilica.

Hanno became a firm favourite in processions - no one had ever seen an elephant, of course - he had epic poems written about him, and Raphael immortalised him in silverpoint sketches. But Hanno’s time was short. He died with the Pope by his side a couple of years after arriving in Italy in 1516, following complications caused by the insertion of a gold-infused laxative, originally prescribed for the beast’s constipation.

After his passing, the Pope commemorated Hanno with an epitaph that was immortalised on a monument (now lost, sadly) designed by Raphael. Parts of the elephant became relics as if he was a saint, but most of him was buried where he had lived, under the Cortile del Belvedere, enclosed by the Vatican library, where he remains to this day.

3. Josephine Bonaparte’s Orangutang

There is a lot more to Josephine Bonaparte than unfounded rumours of body odour or being apocryphally turned down by one of Europe’s most controversial leaders. The former widow with two children was older than Napoleon when they met and, while it seemed he adored her, she appeared more interested in the Chateau de Malmaison’s gardens, the visual arts, and Rose, her small, female orangutang.

This modest arboreal mammal was among many of her exotic pets (which included kangaroos, emus, and swans) but it was the house-trained Rose, often dressed in a white chemise while dining as a guest of honour with her own knife and fork, that captured her heart.

It’s reputed that Rose often slept in the marital bed, but all this fuss and pampering didn’t stop Rose’s body from being gifted to French scientist Georges-Frederic Cuvier when she died, barely one year after meeting her devoted mistress.

4. Karl Lagerfeld’s Cat

Consider Karl Lagerfeld’s cat as one (fine) example of numerous cats that have been feted and adored by their privileged and/or eccentric owners. As the creative director of the legendary fashion house Chanel, it’d be almost rude if German-born Lagerfeld didn’t have any capricious fancies. But even so, having two full-time beauticians, a bodyguard, chef, and doctor, Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette, gets more than her fair share of the cream, so much so that she had an agent and bank account.

In 2015, Choupette pulled in more than $4 million alone for participating in a car and cosmetics advertising campaign. Choupette also received a good portion of Lagerfeld’s $270,000,000 estate after her owners passed in 2019. Well, Lagerfeld did say, on more than one occasion, that if he could legally marry Choupette, he would have.

5. Crowned Prince of Thailand’s Dog

Vajiralongkorn, the then Crowned Prince of Thailand (since 2016 the King of Thailand) had a white poodle called Fufu, which was promoted to Air Chief Marshall in the Royal Thai Air Force. The pampered pooch was dressed in his own little Air Chief uniform and would attend lavish receptions dressed in formal evening attire.

And speaking of dress, a leaked video from 2007 showed the King's third wife - he’s on his fourth at the time of going to press - very much in a state of undress, singing happy birthday to Fufu and helping to blow out the candles on his cake. When Fufu popped his mitts in 2015 aged 17, there were four days of national mourning and a traditional Buddhist funeral held in his honour.