As I said in a recent post that was posted in the recent past, I have longed loved cats.
That recent post was all about fictional cats (normal cats, or cats that at least appeared normal) who were played by real cats (that were presumably were normal). This is the follow on–about Fictional Cats that were not played by real cats at all, and in some cases were not even real cats, and did not appear to be so.
Still, even with all the wiggle room I’ve given myself, there are no examples of lions, panthers or the like here. This is all about domesticated house cats, or creatures which were obviously trying to give off the vibes of a housecat. As a result, the following sorts of entries are excluded, no matter how cool they might be:
The Lion that eats Michael Douglas from The Ghost in the Darkness
The leopard Baby from Bringing Up Baby
The stuffed tiger / potentially imaginary playmate Hobbes from Calvin & Hobbes
Singer-songwriter-musician Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam, born Steven Demetre Georgiou)
The movie Cat Ballou starring Jane Fonda
Actress Caroline Catz from Doc Martin
Actor William Katt from The Greatest American Hero
I think you get the idea.
So what does make it onto this list?
Batman comics and movies
This is the furthest entry on this list from an actual cat. Catwoman, who is most commonly the costumed identity of Selina Kyle, is usually an enemy / ally / love-interest for Batman, depending on which version you are reading or watching. She debuted waaaaaay back in 1940 as “the Cat”, and later became known as Catwoman. Of course, she’s usually just a femme fatale-type who uses a cat motif, she has occasionally been shown to have more of a mystical or spiritual connection to cats, especially in films such as Catwoman (Halle Berry) and Batman Returns (Michelle Pfeiffer). She’s also been played in movies and TV a bunch of other times, including Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt on TV, and most forgettably, Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. Zoe Kravitz performance in the recent movie The Batman is probably the version who hews closest to the modern comic book protrayal (I really like Michelle Pfeiffer, but she doesn’t really have much to do specifically with the comic book character).
But one way or another, Catwoman is one of the most important figures in the ongoing story of Batman, thanks to the highly complex relationship the two often share. Of Batman’s enemies, only the Joker has greater cultural impact, and of his love-interests, I don’t think anyone else comes close.
Lightyear, the Toy Story sort of-spinoff, was a fun movie to watch, but not a very memorable. I saw it in the theatres only a few months ago and I have to say that it is quickly receding from my memory, and that it’s most enduring impact is that it kind of makes me want to watch Toy Story 2 again. But one of the better parts of the film was Sox, the robot therapy-cat that Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear is provided with in order to help him cope with the strange turns that his life has taken. Voiced by Pixar creative Peter Sohn, Sox is one of the brightest spots in the movie, thanks to his deadpan personality and habit of speaking cat noises (eg. “Meow”) as regular dialogue, rather than animal sound effects.
Sox might have made it onto my favorite fictional A.I’s list (see here) if I had seen the movie before I wrote it.
12. The Cat in the Hat
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, and related works
The Cat in the Hat is of course the famous creation of Dr. Seuss, who appears in the eponymous book from 1957, and its sequel a year later. In the story, the Cat is a mischievous figure who appears on a rainy day when two siblings (Sally and her brother, who narrates the story) are bored and alone at home. The Cat starts entertaining the children with various tricks and games, but everything goes wrong and the house is thrown in chaos. When the Cat invites his two identical helpers, Thing One and Thing Two, it only gets worse. But, we see that the Cat is also a decent sort of fellow when he makes sure to clean up his mess. He slips away before the parents come home, leaving them none the wiser.
In the sequel, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, we discover that the Cat has another cat living inside his hat called Little Cat A, and that Little Cat A has a cat inside his hat called Little Cat B…and so on all the way down to Little Cat Z!
The Cat in the Hat was written by Dr. Seuss as a response to what was seen as insipid and unimaginative reading primers that were prevalent at the time. This story is not my favorite of his works, but it is certainly the most iconic, with the character being even used as something of a logo to identify the writer’s books.
11. Dr. T’Ana
Star Trek: Lower Decks
The Caitian race has been part of Star Trek since the animated series of the 1970s, when Lt. M’Ress was introduced to the world of Star Trek. I am only now going through that series, so I am more familiar with the more recent animated comedy, Star Trek Lower Decks. One of the regular characters there is Dr. T’Ana, a crotchety chief medical officer of the USS Cerritos, who is definitely cast in the image of the classic series’ Dr. McCoy and Next Generation‘s Dr. Pulaski, but amped up to the extreme degree that is a bit typical for Lower Decks.
Voiced memorably by Gillian Vigman, T’Ana is a funny character with a difficult personality, but who is still committed and competent at her job. She is also revealed to be a in an intense romantic relationship with security officer Shaxs, which brought out another side to the character.
10. Unitary Authority of Warrington (formerly Cheshire) Cat
Alice in Wonderland / Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series
The Cheshire Cat is of course a famous character from Alice in Wonderland, although it turns out that cursory research reveals the concept predates Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel. Both prior to the novel and during it, the Cheshire Cat is associated with its grin. In Carroll’s version, the grin remains even after the Cat itself has mysteriously faded from view. The Cat has been adapted in lots of movies and other media, and was voiced in the original Disney film by Sterling Holloway.
Although of course I’m familiar with the Alice in Wonderland character, my real interest in the Cheshire Cat comes from the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde. These novels are about a detective who helps to solve crimes within the world of books. In the so-called BookWorld, every book that exists is stored in the “Great Library”, the head librarian for which is the Cheshire Cat. He appears from time to time to offer random comments or advice to Thursday Next as she pursues her quarry.
Except he’s not called the Cheshire Cat. Due to the adjustments in county divisions, he’s now known as the Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat, or the UA of W Cat. (“Unitary Authority” is a UK term for a local government body which forms a single tier of administration, apparently). The Cat is also known as “Archibald” to his mother.
9-8. Faron / World War II
Two characters, both very minor, but from the same franchise, make their way into this entry–they are Faron and World War II from Peanuts, Charles Schulz’s newspaper strip that ran continuously from 1950-2000. We’re all familiar with the strip’s major characters, like Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus and Lucy, but casual fans may be completely unfamiliar with Schulz’s two cat characters.
Faron was Frieda’s cat, who appeared a number of times back in 1961. Usually, Faron was depicted as hanging loosely from Frieda’s arms, who was often trying to find someone else to look after her while she had some errand to do. There wasn’t much to the character, but I thought the image of this limp blanket of an animal was hilarious. It turns out that Faron also appeared sitting independently, looking at Snoopy. It was a strange looking thing (the image at top)–apparently Schulz stopped using Faron at least in part because he didn’t like the way he drew cats.
World War II, on the other hand, was the name of the vicious, aggressive cat next door. Like the wind, we never saw this cat with clarity, but we definitely saw its effects! These effects were usually a scratched up, beaten character, or a smashed-up splintered doghouse.
Cats were not a big part of Peanuts, but when they appeared they were pretty memorable.
7. Sergeant Tibbs
One Hundred and One Dalmations
There have been a lot of cats in Disney films over the years, and Sgt. Tibbs is pretty from the best known. But he’s one my favorites–more than the Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp, or O’Malley the alley cat in The Aristocats or Lucifer in Cinderella. Sergeant Tibbs is a tabby cat who works with the Colonel (a sheep-dog) and the Captain (a horse) on an English farm as a sort of military unit.
Voiced originally by David Frankham, Tibbs is brave, humble and level-headed. After hearing through the twilight bark of the trouble that Pongo and Perdita are in, it’s Sgt. Tibbs who sneaks into Cruella de Vil’s home to find out if the endangered animals are on hand, and its Tibbs who is instrumental in the escape of not only Perdita’s litter, but a grand total of 99 puppies!
DC Comics – Supergirl, Legion of Super-Heroes
Supergirl’s super-powered cat is definitely my favorite member of the Legion of Super-Pets. Created by the great Otto Binder and Jim Mooney back in 1960, Streaky was an ordinary cat who gained powers when exposed to “X-Kryptonite”, including flight, super-strength and various vision powers. For several years in comic book time, Streaky fought crime sporadically alongside Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
It was also revealed in 1962 (in a story by Jerry Siegel and Jim Mooney) that Streaky had an identical 30th century descendant named Whizzy. To my knowledge, Whizzy only ever appeared once.
Different versions of Streaky have shown up over the years but my favorite has to be from the 2009 mini-series Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade by Landry Walker and Eric Jones, where briefly travels in space and gains the form of a sabre-toothed tiger.
Bucky is a strange and rough looking Siamese cat that features in the daily comic strip Get Fuzzy, that ran from 1999 – 2019 (at least), written and drawn by cartoonist Darby Conley. Bucky is a self-absorbed, over-confident and easily confused. Much of Get Fuzzy’s humor comes from Bucky’s torture of his “family”–owner Rob and fellow pet Satchel (a dog). Rarely does the abuse that he doles out come from outright malice–more likely it is either just selfishness or perhaps just good intentions gone wrong.
Either way, I find the strip to be hilarious, and Bucky is easily my favorite newspaper strip cat, beating out the other better known possibilities such as Garfield, Heathcliff and Bill the Cat.
4. The Cat
This is the entry on this list that I have most recently become familiar with, thanks to my daughter recently wanting to watch the movie Coraline. The movie is about a young girl who discovers a doorway to an alternate dimension, where she finds a creepy alternate version of her family who have buttons sewn over their eyes. As Coraline faces a pretty terrifying ordeal, she finds an ally in the Cat, an apparently ordinary black cat who seems to be the only character other than Coraline who can freely travel between the worlds. In one of the movie’s climactic moments, Coraline actually gets the drop on her enemy by throwing the cat at her head!
In the alternate dimension, the Cat can speak aloud, where he is performed by Keith David (known to me from Community). The film, directed by Henry Selick, is based on a novella by Neil Gaiman that I have not read, but from what I can tell the unnamed Cat plays a pretty similar role in the source material as he does in the film adaptation.
3. The Cat
The British science fiction comedy series Red Dwarf took place (mostly) in the distant future–three million years from now, when descendants of a pregnant cat that had been brought on board a deep space mining vessel had evolved into humanoids. This was mainly scene with the Cat, a particular member of this species played by Danny John-Jules. The Cat was vain, self-important and constantly grooming himself or worrying about fashion. Danny John-Jules brought his experience as a dancer to his portrayal, with the cat often sashaying or spinning his way in and out of scenes. His utter self-absorption, along with his basic “dumbness,” made for a pretty funny character.
The Cat also appeared in two brief attempts to bring Red Dwarf to America. In one, the character was played by Terry Farrell, better known as Jadzia Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
2. The Cat (Samantha)
Infinity Train was an animated series created by Owen Dennis, about an extra-dimensional, endlessly long train in which each car contained its own expansive environment. Different denizens inhabited the cars, and seemed to exist to either help or hinder various characters from the regular world who found themselves on the train, who were engaged in various quests to improve themselves as people, usually so they could return home.
One such character who was more ambiguous than most was the Cat, a self-serving con artist of a character who also could have moments of sincerity and vulnerability. The Cat is a mysterious figure, somewhat akin to the Cheshire Cat or the Cat in Coraline–a figure in an odd world who seems semi-magical, and offers a blend of riddles and advice to those who are traveling through (or are lost). She clearly knows more than most denizens of the train, and has been shown to have an unusually long life.
The Cat has the distinction of being the only Infinity Train character to have appeared in all four seasons (“Books”) of the series.Book Three of Infinity Train reveals more about her backstory, including her friendship with young traveler Simon Laurent which ultimately leads to tragedy. We also find out that the Cat’s real name is Samantha. Apparently, before that fans had taken to calling her “Kate Mulgrowl” after actress Kate Mulgrew (Janeway on Star Trek Voyager) who voices her.
Still my favorite fictional cat not played by a real cat, Sylvester debuted in his official form in 1945 in an animated short called Life with Features by Friz Freleng. He was not at all the first animated cat (Felix the Cat debuted back in 1919!) and maybe not the most famous (Tom from Tom and Jerry possibly?) but he was the one that made the biggest impression on me, with his boisterous and obsessive personality that was both easy to laugh at and easy to feel sorry for. Actually, all the Looney Tunes characters made a bigger impression on me than any of the other classic animation production companies–those guys had a sense of humor and a flair for imbuing their stars with physicality that resonated with me, and Sylvester was no exception.
Occasionally, Sylvester was a long-suffering good guy who has paired with Porky Pig, but most famously he was portrayed as obsessed with eating the bird Tweety Pie (their pairing began only two years after his debut in 1947). Starting in 1950, he had also had a series of stories alongside his son, Junior, in which he would invariably mistake a baby kangaroo for a giant mouse, and then go on to suffer the “shameful” defeats that would come in a battle between such animals. He is probably the fourth most iconic of all their characters (after Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig) and the fact that his cartoons were so funny and that he was a cat (my favorite animal) made him easy for me to be a fan of.