As you know, dear readers, I try to be a fair and balanced blogger when it comes to the dogs vs. cats debate, so if I do a post on dogs doing something reading or writing related, I try to do a follow up post on cats doing the same thing. So, in honor of last month’s Everyone’s Favorite Literary Dogs post, I’ve decided to put together a list of some of the most beloved cats in literature. Who doesn’t want to have a little bit of kitty love in their reading to go along with the puppy love? (Answer: pet rock and/or chia pet owners)
The Cat in the Hat
First up to bat, Dr Seuss’s mischievous anthropomorphic the Cat! A staple from everyone’s childhood (at least, I certainly hope so! If you don’t know the The Cat in the Hat series, stop reading this post and go find The Cat in the Hat at your library ASAP!), the Cat was the protagonist of six of Dr Seuss’ rhymed children’s books which came out between 1957 and 1985, including The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, and The Cat in the Hat Song Book, among others. The iconic cat with his tall red and white striped hat and red bow tie is known for entertaining a brother and sister while their mother is out of the house with a variety of tricks. The Cat was an instant success, and to this day he is featured in the logo on all Dr Seuss publications and films made after The Cat in the Hat.
The Cheshire Cat
My personal favorite literary feline, the Cheshire Cat is one of the most memorable characters in Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Known for its enormous mischievous grin and troublemaker nature, the Cheshire Cat reappears throughout the novel, engaging Alice in both amusing and befuddling philosophical conversations. The Cheshire Cat has become a pop culture icon, particularly so after Disney released its film adaptation of the novel in 1951, and the scene in which he gradually disappears until only his toothy grin remains is one of the most memorable scenes in animated cinema to date.
Turning now to a more recent children’s series, the Harry Potter series, Crookshanks is Hermione Granger’s beloved squashed-faced cat. Crookshanks is half Kneazle, an extremely intelligent cat-like creature in the Potter universe that is known for being very sensitive to dishonesty, which is how he figures out that Ron Weasley’s rat “Scabbers” is actually Peter Pettigrew. He also sees through Sirius Black’s Animagus. Good old Crookshanks!
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has not one but two feline characters! While the Cheshire Cat is more iconic in pop culture, we must not forget, dear readers, that Alice had a pet kitten named Dinah in the “real world” outside of Wonderland. Dinah played a big enough role in Alice’s life that she is featured in Lewis Carroll’s sequel, Through the Looking Glass. In the sequel Dinah has two kittens of her own, Snowdrop and Kitty, who Alice is playing with right before she enters the Looking Glass.
Next up, the eponymous hero of Terry Pratchett’s children’s fantasy, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. The 28th novel in Pratchett’s Discworld series and the first to be written specifically for children, the story is a re-telling of the classic German fairy tale about the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Maurice, a fast-talking confidence trickster, plays the role of the Pied Piper and leads his team of sentient rats (i.e.”Educated Rodents”) as they go from town to town pretending to bring the plague with them. This is all part of an elaborate scheme in which Maurice’s partner in crime, a teenage human piper named Keith, “lures” the rats out of the towns in exchange for a reward, which Keith then splits with Maurice. Talk about a bad kitty!
Puss in Boots
My second favorite feline after the Cheshire Cat, Puss in Boots (also known as Master Cat or The Booted Cat) is the protagonist of a French folk tale written by Charles Perrault that dates back to the late 1600s (that’s one old cat!). In the original story, Puss in Boots is given to the youngest son of a miller as his inheritance. Puss in Boots, a classic animal helper character, asks for a pair of boots and then, via deceit and trickery, acquires wealth and the hand of the princess in marriage for his master. Nowadays, though, Puss in Boots is most known for being the adorable Spaniard cat outlaw and assassin in the Shrek film series.
Pluto is the feline protagonist in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Black Cat. In the story, Pluto’s owner, the narrator, is an alcoholic who, even though he is very fond of Pluto, starts abusing the black cat and one day hangs it from a tree, killing it. The narrator eventually starts missing Pluto, and goes out and finds a cat who looks just like he did. Things go sour, though, and the narrator, fueled by his alcoholism, once again tries to kill the cat with an axe. This time, however, his wife intervenes, which causes the narrator to kill her instead. To cover up the murder, the narrator bricks up her body in a wall in the cellar. He gets away with it for a few days, but then he raps on the wall while showing police around the cellar, and a wailing sound fills the room. The police tear down the wall and find his wife’s corpse, with the black cat sitting on her head; the narrator had accidentally walled up the cat too. Moral of the story, dear readers: Don’t mess with black cats!
All the cats in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
Last but certainly not least, the most famous cats in English literature, the cast of T. S. Elliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is a collection of whimsical poems written by Elliot under his assumed name “Old Possum” in the 1930s for his godchildren, and feature stories about feline psychology and sociology. None of this rings a bell? How about the musical Cats? Yes? Well, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is the basis for that musical, being adapted by Andrew Lloyd Weber and premiering in London’s West End in 1981 and quickly becoming one of the most successful musicals to date. Not too shabby for a gang of tabbies, right?