When notorious “Queen of Mean” Leona Helmsley died in 2008, many people were shocked that one provision of her will allocated $12 million for the care of her dog, a Maltese Terrier named Trouble. Yet as one psychoanalyst explained to the New York Times, it’s not all that unusual for humans to show a distinct preference for animals over their fellow humans. “Humans tend to be very disappointing—notice our divorce rate,” said Joel Gavriele-Gold, the analyst and also the author of a book entitled When Pets Come Between Our Partners. “Dogs are not hurtful and humans are. People are inconsistent and dogs are fairly consistent.”
Based on the lavish lifestyles provided to Trouble and other dogs—as well as cats, monkeys, and even pet chickens—Helmsley apparently wasn’t the only one to feel that animals are more deserving of pampering and special care than people. Here’s a top 10 list of animals with fortunes that most mere humans can only dream of.
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When Countess Karlotta Libenstein of Germany died in 1991, she left her entire $80 million fortune to her pet, a German shepherd named Gunther III. Trustees of the estate have done well with investments, turning the inheritance into roughly $375 million, which now belongs to the next in line, Gunther IV. The pampered, jet-setting dog owns villas in Italy and the Bahamas, and in 2000 purchased Madonna’s Miami Beach mansion for $7.5 million.
The Internet’s favorite kitty—circa 2014 anyway—had to be Grumpy Cat, the pet whose seemingly ever-depressed frown helped it net a personal coffee brand, a Christmas movie, and nearly 1 million followers on Instagram. Grumpy Cat’s worth has been estimated at $1 million and even $100 million. Her owner says the latter is an exaggeration, but it’s not clear by how much.
Toby, a poodle owned by Ella Wendel, the last remaining sister of a New York family that amassed phenomenal wealth in the Gilded Age, slept in a miniature four-poster bed in his home on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue and dined nightly at a brass table with a velvet tablecloth and napkins. Though some 2,300 people claimed to be heirs to Wendel and her real estate holdings, worth $40 million when she died in 1931, none came away with the money. Most accounts say that her fortune was passed along to the poodle, though Toby only outlived his owner by a few months, according to a report by New Jersey’s Drew University—which was one of a handful of charitable institutions that eventually wound up splitting the estate.
According to Guinness World Records, the world’s wealthiest cat ever was Blackie, who inherited an estate worth $13 million when his owner, a British antiques dealer named Ben Rea, died in 1988. Granted, Internet sensation Grumpy Cat may be worth far more than that if you believe some of the estimates that have been passed around.
Yet another ultra-rich cat, Tommaso was a stray found in Rome and taken in by an elderly Italian woman named Maria Assunta. She reportedly left a $13 million fortune to the rags-to-riches cat when she died in 2011. “I promised her that I would look after the cat when she was no longer around,” explained Assunta’s former nurse, who said she had no idea how rich the woman was and wound up being asked to care for Tommaso after Assunta passed away. “She wanted to be sure that Tommaso would be loved and cuddled.” Money like that can buy a lot of cuddling, that’s for sure.
“Rich Bitch” has to be one of the all-time great headlines. Remarkably, the headline, for a story about how controversial “Queen of Mean” real estate developer Leona Helmsley left $12 million in her will to her fluffy white Maltese Terrier with the appropriate name Trouble, was published by The New Yorker rather than the New York Post like readers might expect. The tale about how the money was bequeathed to Trouble by Helmsley was a huge media sensation when she died in 2007. In fact, a judge later trimmed the inheritance down to $2 million. According to a 2011 obituary of sorts for Trouble in the New York Times, it was reported that the spoiled dog was known to be a biter, and spent her final years relaxing in luxury in Sarasota, Fla.
The Chihuahua known as Conchita was described as the “most pampered dog in the world” even before her owner, Miami socialite Gail Posner, passed away in 2010 and left her a fortune that included a $3 million trust fund and a $8.3 million mansion on Miami Beach. Conchita, also known simply as “The Boss” to intimates, wore pearls, designer bikinis, Cartier necklaces, and Louis Vuitton bags. She also was a regular at Miami nightclubs and slept in a custom-made pink racing car bed.
The only chicken to make the top 10 richest pets list, Gigoo was owned by British publishing giant Miles Blackwell, who sold his interest in the family business and retired to the country late in life to raise rare sheep and hens. When Blackwell died in 2001, he gave much of his fortune to charity and reportedly left some £10 million ($15 million in U.S. currency today) to his apparently beloved hen Gigoo.
For a while, the world’s richest monkey was Kalu, a Congolese chimp who was once worth £40 million. But its owner, eccentric aristocrat Patricia O’Neill, lost her fortune before Kalu could inherit it. Today, the world’s most spoiled monkey could very well be Chunmun, a long-tailed macaque monkey purchased in 2005 for the equivalent of $8 by an Indian couple who were ostracized from their families because of their interfaith (Muslim-Hindu) marriage. The couple says their business took off after adopting Chunmun, and they’ve thanked the monkey by raising him like a son, with home-cooked meals and much pampering. They even arranged an elaborate “wedding” for Chunmun in 2010, and in the couple’s will the monkey is the sole heir to their home and business.
If you believe what fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld told New York magazine earlier this year, then his pet, Choupette, is “the most famous cat in the world, and the richest.” According to Lagerfeld, Choupette “hates other animals and she hates children. She stays always with me and she has two personal maids.” She also reportedly earned $3.3 million last year, thanks solely to two modeling gigs—one “for cars in Germany and the other was for a Japanese beauty product.” What makes Choupette so special, and worth that kind of money? “She is the center of the world,” Lagerfeld explained. “If you saw her, you would understand. She is kind of Greta Garbo.”