Cats in Books: Our Top Fictional Felines
Why are we talking about cats in books on a writing blog? Because it’s World Cat Day! So many stories are full of cat companions or even as protagonists themselves, so we’ve put together a list of our favourites. The only thing second to real life cats are the ones in books.
Neil Gaiman once wrote that “anyone who believes what a cat tells him deserves all he gets.”
Now, we’ve nothing against dogs, but there is certainly something to be said for our feline friends. Anyone who has ever owned a cat -or has had the good fortune to befriend one- knows what a four-legged paradox they are.
So without further ado, here are some of our favourite fictional felines!
1. Mogget – the Abhorsen Series, by Garth Nix
Of all the cats I’ve read, I’ve never been able to ‘hear’ them any quite as clearly as Mogget. Dry, sarcastic, helpful when he needs to but apathetic at best, he is the ultimate talking cat. When Sabriel, the novel’s protagonist, is suddenly thrust into a role she’s woefully underprepared for, the familial guide is there in the form of a fluffy white cat.
Although he looks adorable and his paws are always spotless, there’s an interesting twist to this animal companion; Mogget’s feline form is really the prison of a vindictive, horribly aggressive spirit who would stop at nothing to enact a centuries-old revenge…
2. Dinah – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
When I think of cats in books, the most famous cat that comes to mind is from Carroll’s work, a grinning mad-cat we’re all familiar with. However, I’ve always been particularly fond of Alice’s own pet, Dinah.
This classic story begins so vividly with Alice’s fall into Wonderland, but one of her first thoughts is of her own kitty – even as she’s falling down, down, down the rabbit hole, she’s wishing for her feline companion. She even imagines saying to her ‘there’s no mice in the air, I’m afraid, but you might catch a bat, and that’s very like a mouse’.
Dinah makes her way to our top list because of her wonderful friendship with her human. Cats get a bad reputation for their aloofness, but we can see straight away just how much affection Alice has for her kitten.
3. The Cat – Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
We’ve had an apathetic cat and an affectionate cat, but The Cat from Gaiman’s Coraline manages to capture the otherworldly wildness of cats in books.
When Coraline ventures from her own dimension to the creepy realm of the ‘Other World’, the only ‘Real World’ inhabitant who can follow her is a slinky black feline. Coraline soon discovers he can talk, but that he doesn’t even need a name because cats know how to hold themselves together, unlike people.
Although he is mostly sarcastic and unhelpful at first, the Cat soon becomes an invaluable mentor and a firm ally in her escape; even though he’s decidedly catlike, he still wants to help.
4. Crookshanks – The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling
Even in a series filled with magic and spells, nothing gets past this cat! It took an entire book to figure out that Ron’s rat, Scabbers, wasn’t all he seemed, but Crookshanks saw through him in an instant.
Crookshanks gets a particularly special mention; everyone who has a cat that isn’t particularly pretty knows what it’s like when your friends make fun of your beloved pet. Only Hermione is able to see past his unconventional appearance, and the book describes how he’s:
‘definitely a bit bow-legged and its face looked grumpy and oddly squashed, as though it had run headlong into a brick wall’.
5. Mog - Mog Series, by Judith Kerr
What I love about Judith Kerr’s classic stories is that even in their simplicity, we can see so much emotion in this fat grey cat.
Despite being wrestled by a baby or frightened up to the roof, Mog still maintains an air of dignity that is instantly recognisable to any reader. She loves her family very much, and showing an animal as an integral member of any home is especially heart-warming in a children’s story.
She’s funny, sweet and so believable.
6. Greebo – the Discworld Series, by Terry Pratchett
Where Mog is cute, Terry Pratchett’s monstrous cat is certainly not!
Definitely not fit for a bedtime story, Greebo is all the evidence a dog-lover needs to hate cats; he’s murderous, foul-tempered, aggressive and borderline insane.
He’s a dastardly beast, but his human, Granny Ogg, insists he’s nothing more than a harmless kitten, despite the fact that he’s even managed to eat vampires…
7. Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats – T.S. Eliot (illustrated version pub. 2009 by Axel Scheffler)
This entry might be a bit of a cheat, but no list of Cats in Books could be complete without it. This wonderfully whimsical collection of poetry was written by T.S. Eliot to his young godchildren, but it also formed the basis for the musical Cats.
Eliot brilliantly captures the dichotomy of feline-hood; his cats are sweet, wily, sneaky, and there is a distinctive sense of wildness that any cat owner will instantly recognise. Each cat has its own personality (not to mention a spectacular name), but one of our favourites is Mr. Mistoffelees, a small and mysterious black cat with a penchant for sleight of hand:
‘He can pick any card from a pack,
He’s equally cunning with dice;
He’s always deceiving you into believing
That he’s only hunting for mice.’
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