Fictional Cats That Were Played by Real Cats [Random Pop Culture Top Twelve]

I have always liked cats, ever since I was a kid. I now own two dogs, which is a product of (who I am married to) x (where I live), but they are the only two dogs I have ever owned, while my family have had cats since I was a little kid. And the cat I own now is one of the coolest animals ever.

So to celebrate the cats in our life we are doing another Random Pop Culture list–the top twelve fictional cats that were played by real cats.

As always, there are a variety of disclaimers:

• “Top Twelve” is a bit of a loose term. They are the “Top” in that they are the ones that I thought of that I most wanted to list. Obviously, there are hundreds and thousands of cats that have appeared in visual fiction, many of whom I’ve forgotten about or never seen. But these are some that I have seen and remember. So they can be a Top Twelve for me. At least, today.

• When I say, “fictional cats”, I mean “housecats”. Or at least, creatures that strongly resemble regular housecats. So no lions, panthers, ocelots, lion-men or alien cat-ladies.

• And this list is only cats that were played by real cats, at least as far as I can tell. So no animated cats, or comic book cats, or cats in audio dramas (this is a real thing–my audio dramas The Adventures of Captain Strong and The Hanna Jo Stories have featured cats that are played by a variety of humans). Some of them may have been aided by CGI, and many of them were actually played by multiple cats, but there was (as far as I know) a real cat in there someplace.

So now that the disclaimers are out of the way, let’s proceed with an honorable mention, as well as one dishonorable mention:

Honorable Mention: Falling Cat

So back in 1894, when the art of cinema was still in its infancy, French scientist Étienne-Jules Mare created a two second movie of a cat falling (and landing on its feet, naturally).He did this using his own “chronophotographic gun” which took 12 exposures in a second. I’ve no idea what the cat’s real name is, but it’s claim to fame is that it is thought to be the first cat to ever appear in a motion picture. Check it out here:

“Falling Cat” is kind of awesome but doesn’t make this list because obviously you can’t really call it a “fictional” cat. There’s no “story” here, so it just remains a cool thing that we have a neat, free-to-watch record of. Thanks internet!

Honorable Mentions: Ulysses & his accidental replacement

The Coen brothers movie Inside Llewyn Davis is about a disaffected folk musician in the 1960’s, and involves a running bit of him having been responsible for a cat escaping an apartment, and thus attempting to recover it. According to Joel Coen, this was included simply because otherwise, there wasn’t much of an actual plot in this rambling character study. Later, Llewyn finds the cat but it turns out to be the wrong one. He later is forced to abandon it by the side of a road where his car has broken down, and then it’s possible that he hits it with another car when hes driving back in that direction. Ultimately, it’s revealed that the original cat eventually found its way home.

I watched Inside Llewyn Davis a couple of years ago for one of my movie-blogging series, and I quite liked it, melancholy slice-of-life story that it is. I almost included Ulysses and his double on this list but didn’t because I realized that though I recall the human character pretty well, the cats are a bit of a blur for me. And there is something about Davis’ flippant treatment of the cat which is a bit off-putting (whilst still being fully consistent with his character).

Dishonorable Mention: Goose

Goose is the alien “Flerken” that spends most of the movie Captain Marvel looking like an ordinary housecat, before it’s eventually revealed to be an alien with giant ferocious tentacles living in its transdimensional stomach. It’s also revealed to be the being that Nick Fury trusted which resulted in him losing an eye.

Goose was one of the first cats that I thought of when I conceived this list but wasn’t sure if he was eligible because he’s obviously not an ordinary housecat. Eventually I decided he was, for reasons that will be clear toward the end of the article. But I chose ultimately to not include him because 1) I didn’t like his movie very much, 2) I thought Goose’s role in that story wasn’t very well done, 3) I thought Goose’s CGI tentacles looked ridiculous, and 4) I think the thing with him being the one to scratch out Nick Fury’s eye is really dumb.

And now onto the actual list:

12. “Déjà Vu” Cat

The Matrix

I’m not the biggest fan of The Matrix–I think it’s good but ultimately overrated. But it does feature a brief but pivotal moment with a black cat, where the main character Neo sees a cat walk by a doorway twice in a row, revealing that there is a glitch in the virtual world of the Matrix, which we quickly find out is an indication that the heroes are about to come under attack.

The cat doesn’t have a name or any other identity–indeed, it’s not actually real, but rather just part of the simulation–but when Neo sees it, he remarks, “Déjà vu,” which is where our title comes from. It’s as good a name as any other, although of course what Neo experiences (seeing the same event happen twice and in rapid succession) is not at all what that usually refers to.

11. Mews

Stranger Things 2

Poor Mews. The ginger cat belonged to the Henderson family, and seemed to be a particular favorite of Dustin’s mother Claudia. It looked like a bit of a pampered cat that was living the good life, but that all changed when Dustin came home with D’Artagnan, a cute little creature that turned out to be a baby Demogorgon. That was all well and good until “Dart” got hungry, and then it was poor, poor Mews.

There’s not much more to say about Mews. Dustin kept the truth from his mother whil he was tryign to sort things out, meaning that she never really understood the truth of what happened to her beloved cat (although this never inspired a #justifceformews movement). Eventually, Mrs. Henderson moved on, just like we all do when we lose a pet, and Mews was replaced with “Tews”.

10. Don Vito Corleone’s cat

The Godfather

Full disclosure: I have never seen all of The Godfather, although I have seen the opening scene. There, Don Corleone, the titular Godather of the Corleone family, entertains a petition from someone in his extended circle. While the apparently genteel man chats with this friend about the role of honor and respect in their relationship, he pets a small gray tabby cat. The cat makes Corleone look more friendly and approachable, but just as a cat’s cuteness can hide its claws, there is a world of vionece underneath Corleone’s seemingly easy-going exterior.

Don Corleone’s cat was apparently played by a stray cat that director Francis Ford Coppola found roaming stray on the lot of Paramount Pictures. The cat was added to the scene at more or less the last minute. According to the report, the cat’s purring was loud enough to cause some of Marlon Brando’s lines to be too muffled to use without dubbing them in later.

9. Frankenstein

Red Dwarf: The End

Frankenstein is a black cat that appeared in the very first episode of Red Dwarf, ironically entitled The End. He was owned by Dave Lister, the lowest-ranked member of the crew of the mining ship Red Dwarf, and though he appeared only briefly, he motivated pretty much the entire plot of the series.

It’s revealed in that episode that Lister has smuggled Frankenstein on board the ship (from one of the moons of Saturn!) and that he hoped to bring him someday to his dream home on Fiji. When his contraband pet is discovered, Lister opts to spend 18 months in stasis rather than give up the cat (who will certainly by euthanized). But when an accident during that year kills the rest of the crew, Lister wakes up three million years later. In that time, the pregnant Frankenstein has given birth to kittens who have gone on to evolve into an intelligent species, Felis sapiens, one of whom (just known as the Cat) becomes one of the main characters of the show.

So Frankenstein’s role was pretty small (the original version of the character only appeared in the one episode) but she was monumentally important to the mythology of the series. An alternate-universe kitten version of Frankenstein also appeared in a later episode of Red Dwarf).

8. Mr. Jinx

Meet the Parents

Mr. Jinx is the beloved cat of Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro), the the father of the fiancé of Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) in the comedy film Meet the Parents from 2000. Jack was former spy and was particularly fond of Jinx, and the cat ended up being at the heart of a lot of the high-jinks that filled the movie. Most notably, Greg accidentally let Jinx escape the house, prompting him to find a similar cat and to spray-paint its tail in order to impress his future in-laws.

Jinx was a fancy looking Himalayan cat that had been trained to use a toilet (although not to flush it)! The cat was played by at least two cats named Bailey and Misha, but possibly more. Jinx also appeared in the sequel films, but I either don’t remember them well (Meet the Fockers) or have never seen them (Little Fockers), so I won’t be adding any comments about them.

7. Jones

Alien / Aliens

Jones (or Jonesy, as he was sometimes called) was a ginger tom who was a “ship’s cat” aboard the USCSS Nostromo in the movie Alien. He seemed to just wander the mining ship freely dealing with any rats that were about, and generally being a source of comfort to the crew, just like a real cat. Against all odds, Jones actually survived the devastating attack by the deadly Xenomorph, even after coming basically face to face with it, presumably because his small size made him useless to the alien.

It’s unclear whether Jones was owned by Ripley in the first place, but she took him in after the two were rescued decades after the original attack. It’s unclear what happened to Jones after Ripley returned to LV-426 in Aliens, but the eventual deaths of pretty much all the human characters in that film (either in the movie itself or as revealed in the sequel) means that Jones is pretty much the only named being from the first two Alien movies who doesn’t die a violent death at the claws of the Xenomorph.

Jones was apparently played by four cats in Alien, and presumably by at least one more for his smaller role in Aliens (being that it was made seven years later, I assume it was a different cat).

6. An Unwilling Actor Cat / A Studio Cat

Day for Night

Two cats for the price of one! And in some ways these are two of the most awesome, because they are actually two fictional cats who are played by real cats who are both playing cat actors who are supposed to be playing fictional cats in a movie!

Day for Night (or La Nuit américaine in the original French) is a comedic take on the filmmaking process by director François Truffaut. The story is about the disastrous production of a melodrama called Meet Pamela. In one scene, a tray of leftover room service is left outside the door of a hotel bungalow. A cat is meant to wander into the scene and start taking advantage of the treats before it–an idea straight out of Truffaut’s actual film, The Soft Skin.

Perhaps reflecting the challenges the director had in real life, the original cat (a long-haired gray kitten) refuses to cooperate, and we are given quick cuts of several amusing efforts by the filmmakers to get their shot. Eventually, the script girl finds a plain tabby studio cat, who though it takes a while for it to get to the food, eventually pays off for the production team.

5. Blofeld’s Cat

James Bond franchise, starting with From Russia with Love

One of the most popular movie heroes of all time is James Bond, and his most prominent enemy is certainly Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and one of the most recognizable aspects of Blofeld is his long-haired white cat!

Blofeld was originally introduced as a villainous mastermind whose face was never seen. Instead, he became instantly recognizable thanks to the presence of his pampered cat on his lap. I’ve heard his cat described as both a Persian and a Turkish Angora–it’s possible that it was both at different times, given that it appeared in many different films, and that in some of them it appeared to meet an uncertain fate. One presumes Blofeld himself had lots of different cats, or just kept getting similar cats because he liked them so much.

In any case, the cat appeared with an unrevealed Blofeld in both From Russia with Love and Thunderball, and then was seen with various famous actors in You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds are Forever. Then the cat showed up at the start of For Your Eyes Only where it was with a guy who was presumably Blofeld, but whose name and face were never revealed, apparently because the films had lost the rights to talk about Blofeld at that point (in this sequence the cat is called Solomon, the only name that Blofeld’s cat was ever given). It showed up again in the “non-canon” Bond film Never Say Never Again, and then made a return to the series proper many years later in Spectre.

Blofeld’s cat is a widely parodied concept, versions of which you can see in Cats & Dogs, Monty Python, Danger Mouse, Inspector Gadget and more. I’ve sometimes wondered whether Blofeld’s cat might have even helped inspire Vito Corleone having a cat in The Godfather, but that might be a bit of a stretch.

4. Butch

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Butch was an orange tabby (although the movie is in black and white, so it might be hard to tell) owned by the Careys. The Careys are an ordinary couple except that husband Scott (Grant Williams) has the misfortune to be exposed to both radioactive material and a poisonous pesticide–the combination of which results him in continually and uncontrollably shrinking in size.

At first the Careys are determined to find a way to cure Scott’s condition, but a solution eludes them. Things take a turn for the worse when the family cat gets into the house while Scott is there alone, and becomes a very real threat to his continued survival. After a harrowing battle, Scott finds himself trapped in his basement, where the film changes focuses and becomes a man vs. the wilderness survival tale.

I love Butch’s appearance because it’s so realistic when it comes to cats: my cat Soxie is super-cute and loves being pet by us. But if I were the size of a mouse, I’m pretty sure he’d try to eat me.

Butch, by the way, is performed by Orangey, an extremely prolific feline actor from such work as Breakfast at Tiffany‘s, This Island Earth, Batman (the TV show) and The Beverly Hillbillies. Not for this movie, but Orangey actually won two Patsy’s–basically the Oscars for animals that were handed out starting back in 1951 for a few decades.

3. Spot

Star Trek: The Next Generation

In an effort to better understand humanity, Lt. Commander Data–an android–got himself a cat. And hilariously, he named the cat Spot, even though the cat didn’t appear to have any spots. Spot debuted in the episode Data’s Day. In that original appearance, and later in the same season (the fourth) in the episode In Theory, Spot was a long-haired Somali cat. Spot then reappeared eight more times in the show starting in the sixth season, only now he was a orange tabby. Spot was a male cat until the seventh season, when suddenly it was decided that Spot was to have kittens!

These changes have been jokingly attributed to transporter accidents, prosthetic makeup, and Spot in reality being a shapeshifter. Of course, the truth is that it was simply a series of continuity mistake, although you could combine it with a simpler explanation of Data just having had more than one cat during his time on the Enterprise, all of whom he gave the same name.

Data once wrote a poem about Spot (“Ode to Spot”), and in one seventh season episode, Spot devolved into an iguana, but at the same time provided the means for the crew to be saved from a similar fate. Spot also appeared in two Star Trek movies, and in a deleted scene it’s clear that Spot actually outlived Data.

At least four cats played the orange tabby Spot–their names were Monster, Brandy, Bud and Tyler.

2. Jake

The Cat from Outer Space

As a fan of both cats and science fiction, this movie (from 1978) just hit the spot for me, at least when I was eight years old. And to this day, it has a special place of fondness in my heart. The story is right there in the title: an alien cat becomes trapped on earth, and seeks the help of some friendly humans to find a way to get back home. It has special telekinetic powers and must contend with aggressive government-types. As I write this, I realize it sounds exactly like ET, except it came out four years earlier and stars a cat.

Or technically, it stars two cats–twin Abyssinian siblings Rumple and Amber–who both perform Jake, a cat with a special collar that allows him to move things with his mind. Jake’s real name is “Zunar J5/9 Doric 47”, but he gains his nickname from the first scientist he befriends, Dr. Frank Wilson (Ken Berry). Jake is also performed by actor Ronnie Schell, who provided his voice.

Even though the whole movie is about Jake trying to find his way back to outer space, it ends with him deciding to stay on earth and even becoming a US citizen! Apparently, he had become a big fan of tuna during his stay, and also of beautiful Persian cat named Lucy Belle, which is owned by Frank’s love interest.

1. Morris the Cat

9Lives Cat Food Commercials

All right, Morris isn’t a character in a fictional story, in the traditional sense. But he did feature in a extensive series of television commercials for 9Lives cat food, starting in 1969, and in those ads he was most certainly a character. He was described as the world’s most finicky cat, who would never settle for anything less than 9Lives. He was voiced by actor John Erwin with a dry and sardonic drone that would always reject any other cat food brand in humorous style.

Morris is large orange tabby tomcat. Several cats have performed Morris over the years, all of which were rescue animals. You don’t hear too much about Morris these days, but he’s one of the most iconic live action cats that there is for me. If you were a kid growing up at the same time as me, you were well familiar with Morris–particularly if you watched a lot of TV. He even had a mock presidential campaign in 1988.

And that’s the list! Like it? Loathe it? What cats did I miss? Feel free to let me know.

Incidentally, if you want to see a film of mine which includes a fictional cat, check out Doug 2: Electric Bus Boogaloo below. My cat Soxie has the small but pivotal role as “Kitty” toward the end of the movie.

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