The 7 Best and Worst Mosquito Repellents, Ranked by Effectiveness and Cost


In every family, in every group of friends, there’s always going to be at least one unlucky person who is a mosquito magnet. Amongst my family members, that person is me. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself scratching the half-dozen bites on my limbs while my dad sat next to me nonchalantly in the kitchen at home.

While I find there are few greater sources of satisfaction than slapping a mosquito dead, I’ve come to realise that prevention is better than cure—especially with dengue clusters always in the news and the recent headline about the possible transmission of the Zika virus in Boon Lay Place.

In hot and humid Singapore, battling mosquitoes is a way of life. Aside from getting rid of stagnant water, you should also keep your family and yourself safe from the mosquitoes that are already swarming our nation. Here’s a guide to the best and worst mosquito repellents, ranked by effectiveness and cost—take it from this mosquito magnet who’s tried them all!

Ranked: The best mosquito repellents and their costs

Wearable mosquito repellents

1. Mosquito repellent patches
2. Mosquito lotions and creams
3. Mosquito sprays and aerosols

Mosquito repellents you don’t need to wear

4. Mosquito repellent gels
5. Electric mosquito killer lamps
6. Mosquito nets and screens
7. Mosquito coils


Cost and effectiveness of mosquito repellents: Mosquito patches, sprays, coils and more

Mosquito repellent Average cost (for 8 hours of use) Effectiveness Overall rating
Mosquito coils ★★★★★
$0.16 (range: $0.13 to $0.18)
★★★★★ 10/10
Mosquito sprays and aerosols ★★★★★
$0.17 (range: $0.07 to $0.26) 
★★★★☆ 9/10
Mosquito nets and screens ★★★★★
Practically negligible if they last you years.
★★★★☆ 9/10
Electric mosquito killer lamps ★★★★★
★★★☆☆ 8/10
Mosquito repellent gels ★★★★☆
$0.25 (range: $0.14 to $0.36)
★☆☆☆☆ 5/10
Mosquito lotions and creams ☆☆☆☆☆
$10.20 (range: $3.60 to $16.80)
★★★★☆ 4/10
Mosquito patches ★☆☆☆☆
$1.57 (range: $0.69 to $2.45)
★☆☆☆☆ 1/10

* Based on working voltage of 220V/6W and assuming the cost of electricity is 32.58 cents per kWh. Cost of the lamp is excluded because it becomes almost negligible if it lasts you for years.

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How I ranked the mosquito repellents

Before we go into the different types of mosquito repellents, I want to talk about how I rank them.

Cost (per 8 hours) Effectiveness at preventing bites
–5 stars: Below $0.25
– 4 stars: $0.25 to $0.49
– 3 stars: $0.50 to $0.74
– 2 stars $0.75 to $0.99
– 1 stars: $1 and up
Where there is a price range, I look at the median value.
– 5 stars: A repellent heavyweight—I can’t recall ever being bitten while using these repellents.
– 4 stars: Another heavyweight—I almost never get bitten with these.
– 3 stars: Hit and miss. Far from useless, but also far from good.
– 2 stars: I still get bitten a lot.
–1 star: The repellent is near useless, best used only as a very lightweight supplementary tool. Don’t count on this.

For the cost component, I calculated how much it would cost to use the mosquito repellent for 8 hours—pretty much a full day. After I looked at all the average costs, I could see a problem—there was 1 clear outlier. Mosquito repellent lotions or creams turned out to be relatively expensive due to the amount of lotion you’d need to fully cover your arms and legs. While every other repellent costs a few cents or $1+, mosquito lotions cost $10.20 on average if you want 8 hours of protection. I decided to treat this option as an outlier; it gets zero stars (I usually award at least 1) and the rest of the rubric is built around the other mosquito repellent options to more evenly grade them.

(Speaking of costs, don’t forget to use your CDC vouchers to purchase your mosquito repellents!)

The effectiveness component is based on my personal experience using these mosquito repellents—not the alleged “99% efficacy!” advertising that their manufacturers might push to you. You might have different experiences from me, but these are just how effective I’ve experienced them each to be.

I ranked each mosquito repellent by final score in the table above, but I’m going to talk about them below in 2 sections: mosquito repellents you wear, and mosquito repellents you set up in your surrounding environment.

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Wearable mosquito repellents

1. Mosquito repellent patches (1/10)

Images: Eu Yan Sang, Watsons

In my opinion, one of the most useless of all commercial mosquito repellent options. I’m trying to recall all the times I’ve used a mosquito repellent patch—on my clothes, on furniture, on my bag, you name it, I’ve tried it. I don’t think I’ve ever used one of these in an environment where I knew there would be mosquitoes and successfully managed to avoid a bite. In fact, I’ve even been bitten right under a patch I’d placed on my shorts.

I would advise mosquito patches as a (really unnecessary) cherry on top to your main arsenal of mosquito repellent products and not as the main weapon you’re using to repel those pesky bugs.

Having said that, mosquito repellent patches do have their advantages. For one thing, they’re very convenient and easy to use—just stick those adhesive patches onto clothing, furniture, or other nearby surfaces. You do not apply them directly onto your skin (please don’t, that won’t make them any more effective), so they’re also non-invasive and a great option for those with skin sensitivities who can’t use mosquito repellent sprays or creams. I’ve also never had any problem with these patches dropping off—of course, don’t repeatedly stick them on and rip them off to stick somewhere else.

How do they work? Mosquito patches release mosquito-repelling substances into the air around you. The active ingredients in these patches can vary, but they commonly include natural oils known for their repellent properties, such as citronella, eucalyptus, and lemongrass, or synthetic compounds like DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) or picaridin that interfere with a mosquito’s ability to detect humans. A lot of mosquito patches use only natural ingredients to ensure they’re safe for children, babies, and breastfeeding mothers or pregnant women.

Natural or synthetic, the idea is that mosquitoes are repelled by these substances. They won’t want to fly near you, reducing the likelihood of them coming close enough to give you an itchy bite.

Most of the patches we have here in Singapore claim to give you up to 12 hours of protection, but I want to point out that this is a maximum. Environmental factors, like wind and humidity, can affect how long a patch remains effective. Based on my experience, bites can occur within the first hour of wearing them.

Mosquito repellent patches—Are they MoneySmart?
Cost: ★★☆☆☆ ($0.69 to $2.45 for 8 hours of protection)
Prices range from about $2.60 to $9.20 for 10 patches. Each patch lasts 12 hours, so that’s $1.04 to $3.68 for 12 hours of protection. I’m assuming you use 4 patches (one for each limb) since in my experience these patches aren’t very effective anyway. You’re going to want to use more.
Effectiveness: ★☆☆☆☆
Personally never been able to avoid mosquito bites using mosquito repellent patches alone. I recommend you use these as supplementary repellents to your main arsenal.
Pros: – Convenient, fast, and easy to use
– Non-invasive and perfect for those with sensitive skin
– Many use only natural ingredients like citronella or eucalyptus.
– Many are safe for kids, babies, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
– Like plasters, some patches come in fun designs—perfect for kids!
Cons: – Usually don’t give you the full 12 hours of protection due to factors like wind and humidity.
– Generally protect only a limited area around them, so you have to use several patches to protect your whole body (mosquitoes can bite through  tight-fitting lightweight clothes!)
– Can still cause irritation, especially with the use of synthetic chemicals
– Overall, limited efficacy based on my personal experience

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2. Mosquito lotions and creams (4/10)

Images: Ceradan Ceramoz/Guardian, 21st Century/NHG Pharmacy

If the idea of mosquito aerosols freaks you out, opt for lotions and creams instead for a more controlled application without the risk of inhaling those nasty chemicals.

Mosquito repellent lotions and creams are applied directly to the skin and usually contain active ingredients that hinder mosquitoes’ ability to detect humans. This decreases the likelihood that they’ll be able to bite you.

I’ve only used a mosquito repellent lotion once. It was when I was in Batam and the beach resort I stayed in provided mosquito repellent creams to all guests. Although I can’t say it was 100% effective, the cream did its job as well as a mosquito repellent spray did. It was, however, more sticky and greasy than its spray counterpart. I felt gross, but at least I wasn’t itching.

On that note, some mosquito lotions and creams double up as an anti-itch solution in the unlikely event you get bitten by a mosquito anyway. So if you feel an angry itchy welt forming, just slap on even more of the same cream to both soothe the itch and repel other mosquitoes from having a go at you.

You can’t point a mosquito spray at your own face, but some mosquito repellent lotions are safe for use on facial skin. If you’re going on a trek to really mosquito-dense areas like Sungei Buloh or Chek Jawa, you might just need to resort to covering your face with a mosquito-repelling cream. I mean, aside from mosquito bites on the underside of your feet, there are few worse spots for a bite than your face.

If you are planning to use a mosquito repellent cream on your face, I advise you look for the lotions formulated for the sensitive skin of babies. As my mother likes to say, if it’s safe for babies, it’s safe for me.

Mosquito repellent lotions and creams—Are they MoneySmart?
Cost: ★☆☆☆☆ ($3.60 to $16.80 for 8 hours of protection)
$6 to $28 per 100ml, each providing 4 hours of protection. I’m assuming you use 1 teaspoon (5ml) for each arm and 2 teaspoons (10ml) for each leg.
Volume used per application: 5*2 + 10*2 = 30ml
Cost per application = $1.80 to $8.40
Do note you’ll need to reapply after 4 hours, so to compare lotions to sprays, you need to double the cost here. 
Effectiveness: ★★★★☆
I find they work as well as the mosquito sprays and aerosols.
Pros: – Just like the sprays, many use only natural ingredients like citronella or eucalyptus.
– There are also safe options for kids, babies, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
– More controlled application than sprays and aerosols.
– Some lotions also work as soothing creams for itchy bites.
– You can use some formulas on your face, as advertised. Look out for baby-safe formulas in particular.
– Targets your skin directly, so I find them more effective than mosquito patches.
Cons: – They can feel even stickier on your skin than the sprays.
– You can’t apply this on your clothing; it has to go on your skin.
– The repellent lotions that double up to also soothe itchiness tend to cost more.
– You’ll need to use more lotion than spray, so your bottle isn’t going to last very long. A 100ml bottle is only going to last you 3-4 uses if you use 30ml per application.
– Each application also doesn’t last very long—you’ll usually need to reapply after 4 hours.
– Can cause irritation, especially with the use of synthetic chemicals.

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3. Mosquito sprays and aerosols (9/10)

Image: Tiger Balm/Watsons, Moz Away/Guardian

Mosquito sprays usually come in an aluminium can (aerosols) or plastic bottle (sprays) with a spray nozzle. Your job is to spray the repellent they contain directly onto your skin or clothing—or both, as I like to do. The aluminium canisters usually produce an aerosol, a finer mist of repellent—think your Glade air freshener. On the other hand, the sprays that come out of the plastic bottles are more “wet”—kinda like your Magiclean kitchen cleaner sprays.

Like mosquito repellent patches, the active ingredients in mosquito repellent sprays interfere with mosquitoes’ ability to detect humans, thus reducing the chances of them biting you. More rarely, some mosquito sprays can also kill mosquitoes upon contact. This is pretty rare these days in this part of the world at least. Most of the mosquito repellent aerosols we get here only repel mosquitoes. I mean, think about it: If that stuff could kill mosquitoes instantly, would you really want that on your skin? It’d be like dousing yourself in Baygon. No thank you!

In fact, a lot of the mosquito repellent sprays on our shelves are au naturale—just like the mosquito patches. They’re made with natural ingredients like citronella, lemongrass, and peppermint oil, which as a bonus also create a fairly okay-smelling cocktail of anti-mozzie perfume for you to spray on yourself (don’t get any in your eyes or mouth though).

I would take mosquito repellent sprays over patches any day because I find they are much more effective. If I spray a patch of my skin with that stuff, I’d be hard-pressed to meet a determined mosquito that would still bite me in that area (it’s not impossible—some mosquitoes are stubborn old cows).

What I hate most about mosquito sprays is how they feel on your skin. Manufacturers can advertise their non-greasy, non-sticky formulas all they want, but you’re still applying some sort of mosquito repellent chemical or eucalyptus oil derivative on your skin at the end of the day. In a country where you feel sticky just walking outside for 5 minutes, mosquito repellent sprays are the last thing you’d want to have to apply on your skin. They can be as sticky as sunblock lotions.

Speaking of sunscreens, it’s worth noting that some sprays can also double up to offer UV protection. Alobaby has a 2-in-1 UV and Outdoor Mist spray that serves as both an insect repellent and a waterproof SPF15 sunscreen, which is the minimum sun protection level you should go for.

Mosquito repellent sprays—Are they MoneySmart?
Cost: ★★★★☆ ($0.07 to $0.26 per use for 8 to 12 hours)
$6 to $22 per 100ml, each providing 8 to 12 hours of protection. Typically, consumer spray bottles dispense about 0.1ml to 0.2ml per spray, so I’m assuming each spray is 1.15ml and you use 8 sprays each time (2 sprays per limb, front and back).
Number of sprays per 100ml bottle: 100/1.15 = 667 sprays
Cost per spray = $0.009 to $0.033
Cost of 8 sprays = $0.072 to $0.264
Effectiveness: ★★★★☆
These do a good job of repelling mosquitoes when applied directly onto your skin. 
Pros: – Convenient, fast, and easy to use
– Many use only natural ingredients like citronella or eucalyptus.
– There are safe options for kids, babies, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
– The aerosols produce a fine mist for an even coating, so you don’t need to rub it in with your hand.
– Some also offer UV protection.
– Targets your skin directly, so I find them more effective than mosquito patches.
Cons: – They generally don’t feel nice on your skin—sticky, greasy, urgh.
– Most effective when applied directly onto your skin and not just on your clothing.
– The aerosol versions get in the air. While not toxic to us, none of us wants to inhale this stuff.
– The spray versions don’t produce a fine mist, so you usually need to get your hands greasy and rub it on your skin. These types of sprays are also less ideal for spraying on your clothing.
– The 2-in-1 formulas with UV protection usually cost more.
– Can cause irritation, especially with the use of synthetic chemicals.

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Mosquito repellents you don’t need to wear

Some of us hate the idea of spraying ourselves with mosquito repellent or sticking those patches onto our clothing. We hear you! These next few mosquito repellent options are to be placed around you and not on you.

4. Mosquito repellent gels (5/10)

Images: Yamayo/Lazada, Antimos/Shopee

Unfortunately, this for me is the off-body equivalent of a mosquito repellent patch. To speak plainly, these don’t work for me—and I’ll tell you why I think that’s the case.

Mosquito repellent gels come in a little plastic tub that you open and allow to dissipate into the environment like an air freshener. They work like an air freshener, except that instead of filling your air with the earthy scents of clean sandalwood or floral fragrances of lilies, you’re getting a citronella-laced, eucalyptus-heavy anti-perfume that mosquitoes despise. This cocktail of mosquito-repelling smells should in theory make mosquitoes want to stay as far away from you as possible and prevent them from coming close enough to take a bite.

In practice, I’ve found that these gels do little to repel mosquitoes. The closest you can put them to your body is at your feet, beside you on a chair, perhaps even on your lap if you’re desperate enough. But this just means that the vague area around you is going to smell stinky to a mosquito. Your skin? Still a bloodsucker’s paradise. I’ve found that mosquitoes find a way to bypass or power through whatever aerial olfactory barrier the mosquito repellent gels create. As I mentioned earlier, mosquitoes are stubborn old cows. Once they get past the bad air quality, they’ll happily take their reward and give you a bite.

In theory, these mosquito repellent tubs are long lasting—they release their anti-mosquito cocktail of scents for up to 720 hours (4 weeks) per tub. Unfortunately, I’ve found that mosquitoes take less than 12 hours to ignore the repellent and give you a bite. You’re not going to need that long a period to release that these things don’t work very well. I’ve even tried using 3- to 4 tubs at a time placed all around me like a seance circle, but even as a collective force they have been unable to repel mosquitoes from the mozzie magnet that is me.

However, mosquito repellent gels might work nicely as complementary mosquito repellents to the wearable options we discussed above, or some of the other more effective environmental options we’ll discuss below.

Mosquito repellent gels—Are they MoneySmart?
Cost: ★★★★★ ($0.14 to $0.36 per 8 hours)
$1.20 to $3 per tub, each lasting up to 4 weeks.
Effectiveness: ★☆☆☆☆
For me, these are the non-wearable versions of mosquito patches.
Pros: – They practically always use only natural plant-based ingredients like citronella.
– You don’t need to stick these onto your clothing or apply these on your skin.
– Very affordable.
– Lasts very long, about 3 to 4 weeks.
– Easy to use—just open the tub.
Cons: – Non-targeted, so I find them ineffective.
– Easiest to use if you’re not moving around. Otherwise what can you do, wear them around your neck?
– Some people aren’t going to like the way the citronella-laced perfume permeates the air around you.

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5. Electric mosquito killer lamps (8/10)

Images: Sun Living and Jiya Technology/Shopee

This is the only anti-mosquito tool in this article that is actually meant to kill the pesky bugs. The UV mosquito killer lamp attracts mosquitoes to fly into it, then delivers a killer electric shock to them when they make contact with its high-voltage grid.

If that sounds like a safety hazard to you, don’t worry. These lamps usually come with an external grid that prevents the little ones or your pets from sticking their fingers and paws into the lamp and getting shocked themselves.

I have mixed feelings about electric mosquito repellents. The first one I ever used did nothing for me—I didn’t find any bugs in it while I had a ton of mosquitoes on me biting my limbs. A few years later, my family gave another one a try to better results. It did catch some bugs, but I also got bitten a few times. Others have told me that these machines work well for them, so perhaps it just depends on the exact model or the type of mosquito you have in your area.

Look at it this way: If you find mozzies in your lamp, it’s doing something. If you still get bitten by mosquitoes even with the lamp on, it could do more.

You might find greater success leaving the lamp on in a dark, empty room without the promise of fresh human blood to distract the mosquitoes. Leave it there to clear out the room of those  bloodsuckers before anyone enters.

Mosquito killer lamps—Are they MoneySmart?
Cost: ★★★★★ ($0.02 to run for 8 hours + the initial cost of $16–$22)
$16 to $22 for a basic lamp. Assuming its working voltage is 220V/6W, the lamp uses 0.048 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity to run for 8 hours. If electricity costs 32.58 cents per kWh, that will cost you 1.56 cents. 
Effectiveness: ★★★☆☆
These lamps catch some mosquitoes, but not all.
Pros: – The only option on this list that actually kills mosquitoes.
– May kill other bugs too that get attracted by the UV light.
– Non-invasive, zero chemicals, zero smells.
– Very affordable, especially if it lasts you for years.
– A good option for those who don’t like the smells of citronella, eucalyptus, peppermint, or lemongrass.
Cons: – Needs a power source, so will only work indoors.
– You need to empty out the bodies of the dead mosquitoes and other bugs, which some might find gross or troublesome (others might find it shiok).
– More effective if used before humans enter the room.
– More effective if other light sources are turned off.


ALSO READ8 Best Home Appliances for People Who Travel Often (You Can Even Fit Some in Your Suitcase)

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6. Mosquito nets and screens (9/10)

Images: Shopee

Ah, mosquito nets. These old school contraptions used to be a lot more common in Singaporean homes before mosquito repellent products grew in popularity and production. They’re less common in our homes these days, but they’re an excellent choice if you want absolutely no mosquito-repelling substance—natural or chemical—introduced on your body or in the air.

Both mosquito nets and screens work as a physical barrier to protect you from mosquito bites, especially during sleep. They’re typically made from a fine mesh material that allows air to pass through for comfort while being dense enough to prevent mosquitoes and other biting insects from entering. Mosquito nets can be tucked around your bed, while mosquito screens are typically installed on windows. These days, you can even find mosquito net tents!

As you can guess, the mesh is crucial. Even one small hole could be a gateway for mosquitoes to get to the free-flow blood buffet that is your sleeping body. So while in theory mosquito nets don’t run out like a mosquito-repellent spray or finish burning like a mosquito coil, the lifespan of these nets depends on the environment and how roughly you handle them.

I for one am clumsy and have been called a destroyer by my family and friends, so I know a mosquito net won’t live long under my roof. But if you handle your net carefully and store it in the right conditions (away from direct sunlight so the materials doesn’t degrade), you can expect your net to last you several years.

Mosquito nets and screens—Are they MoneySmart?
Cost: ★★★★★ (Cost per hour is almost negligible if they last you years!)
Mosquito net: $6 to $9 to fit a king-sized bed
Mosquito screen (magnetic): $14 (0.7mx0.7m) to $48 (3mx1.5m)
Mosquito mesh (cut to size yourself): $1.60 to $2.20 (1.95 sqm)
Mosquito tent: $16 to $20
Effectiveness: ★★★★☆
Bonus points for zero use of any mosquito-repelling compounds, natural or synthetic. However, these nets are vulnerable to tearing if handled or stored incorrectly.
Pros: – Non-invasive, zero chemicals, zero smells.
– Very affordable if they last you years.
– A good mosquito repellent option for those who don’t like the smells of citronella, eucalyptus, peppermint, or lemongrass.
Cons: – Only work in homes. You can’t be on a trek wearing a mosquito net suit (although you can bring a mosquito net tent outdoors with you).
– Once there’s a tear in the net, you are compromised.

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7. Mosquito coils (10/10)

Images: NTUC FairPrice, Shopee

I was pleasantly surprised by this mosquito repellent method. I thought they’d be similar to the near-useless mosquito repellent gels, but they turned out to be quite the heavy hitters.

Let’s talk about what they are and how they work first. Mosquito coils are large, dark coils that are slightly bigger than the palm of your hand. The coils look like incense coils, except these are infused with insect-repelling compounds. All you have to do is light the outermost end, the coil will release these mosquito-repelling substances as it burns.

You do need to have something below the coils to collect the ash, but a lot of the companies that sell these coils also provide a small metal stand that allows you to use the tin cover as an ashtray. You could also buy a coil holder for $1 to $2.

Coils generally burn for 8 to 10 hours, so that’s pretty much a full day’s worth of protection against mosquitoes. If your coil breaks, don’t sweat it. You can light any size of coil from any end, even if it’s just a small chunk the size of your fingernail.

What about the smoke? These days, manufacturers create smoke-free formulas that produce little to no smoke, making them suitable for indoor use. I myself use these coils indoors in a well-ventilated room and hardly see any smoke released.

Do they stink? Not to me. I barely smell anything when I use a mosquito coil. If the citronella or eucalyptus scents of mosquito sprays and patches are a plague upon your nasal passages, rest assured these coils don’t smell anything like that. 

Mosquito repellent coils—Are they MoneySmart?
Cost: ★★★★☆ ($0.13 to $0.18 for 8 to 10 hours of burn time)
$5 to $7 for a pack of 40 coils, which comes up to $0.125 to $0.175 per coil.
Effectiveness: ★★★★★
These are very effective for me. I think I’ve only been bitten once in all the times I’ve had a coil lit near me, which is record-breaking in my books.
Pros: – Non-invasive. You don’t need to stick these onto your clothing or apply these on your skin.
– Very affordable.
– Lasts the whole day.
– They work wonders to keep mosquitoes away from me!
– Most are low-smoke or smoke-free.
– A good mosquito repellent option for those who don’t like the smells of citronella, eucalyptus, peppermint, or lemongrass.
– Can be used both indoors and outdoors
Cons: – Not easily portable—can you imagine trekking through Sungei Buloh with a mosquito coil in tow?

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About the author

Vanessa Nah is a personal finance content writer who pens articles on everything from the pros and cons of different mosquito repellents to the ins and outs of travel insurance. She’s a researcher at heart and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to breaking down complex finance concepts and making them easy to understand for the everyday Singaporean. When Vanessa’s not debunking finance myths, you’ll find her attending dance classes, fingerpicking a guitar, or (most impawtently) fulfilling her life mission to make her one-eyed cat the most spoiled and loved kitty in the world.