Do you remember the first time you realized your mom or dad — or both — were falling out of step with your generation?
The moment that sticks out in my mind is when I asked my dad a simple question, sometime in the early 1980s.
“Dad,” said little me, “How old is Garfield?”
It was a Sunday morning, and I was reading the funnies. Dad was on the other side of the living room, working his way through the week’s news. He dropped the corner of the paper and eyed me with an expression that was equal parts concentration, disappointment, disbelief, and annoyance.
“Garfield’s long dead, son. I think he was assassinated.”
With that, Dad disappeared into his newsprint again, and I was left to ponder two of life’s mysteries:
- How do you talk to a serious and stubborn parent in a manner that gets your point across.
- How old is Garfield … the cat?
That first one is a complex matter, and I’m sure my son has pondered it himself over the years.
But the second question? How old is Garfield?
We can answer that, sort of, but it depends on your perspective.
The most straightforward approach to finding Garfield’s age is to look at it from the perspective of Garfield the cartoon strip.
Jim Davis created Garfield in the 1970s as a follow-on to an earlier, mostly unsuccessful, strip called Gnorm Gnat. While he honed his new tabby for a few years, Davis didn’t unveil Garfield to the world until the sassy cat debuted in papers across the United States on June 19, 1978.
As I write this, that makes Garfield 41 years old.
Of course, 41 is really old for a cat. Probably unheard of.
So, if we look at the question of Garfield’s age from the perspective of the animal himself rather than the comic as a piece of intellectual property, we have to take a different, less direct approach.
So, how old is Garfield — the cat — who inhabits the Garfield comic strip?
Well, we can narrow things down a bit …
Visual evidence tells us that Garfield is no kitten. He’s fat, slow, and surly for the most part, while most kittens are agile, quick, and playful.
Estimates for when a kitten turns into a cat generally range from six months to a year of age. Since Garfield seems so settled into his adulthood, let’s go ahead and say that he’s over one year old.
At the other end of the spectrum, how long do cats live?
Again, you can find estimates across a broad spectrum, but many sources agree that domestic cats can/should live to be about 15 barring funky health issues.
But that’s the end-of-life number, and cats, like humans, generally experience some sort of downturn before they hit that limit.
Garfield, though, is healthy and vital, even if he is a bit sluggish and churlish.
He’s nowhere near the end, in other words, which to me indicates that he’s on the right side of ten.
So, as a general guideline, I think we can assume that Garfield is between two and nine years old.
Let’s not kid ourselves here, OK?
The real appeal of Garfield is that he can talk, even though his humans can’t hear him, and that he has very human emotions and thoughts.
This falls right into line with the way most of us feel about our pets, right? That they’re part of the family, with concerns and desires just like the rest of us?
Yeah, I think so for sure.
And if we grant that Garfield is one of us — at least for the few minutes we’re with him — how old is Garfield then?
Again, it probably depends on your life perspective, but for my money …
- The surly looks
- The disdain for his “dad”
- The quarrels with “brother” Odie the dog
- The incessant sleeping
- The bottomless pit of a stomach
Yeah, that pretty clearly adds up to “teenager” in my book.
So, where does that leave us?
Pretty much that Garfield is who, and how old, you want him to be, which is how all our favorite characters should be.
To me, the salty “old” tabby will always be a grumpy teen who can turn on his kitten at the drop of a hat, and who shares many of my life experiences.
Pass the lasagna, dude!