5 Famous Cats in Literature
Cats make frequent literary appearances as fascinating, thought-provoking, and sometimes sneaky characters. From early nursery rhymes to contemporary tales, cats are omnipresent stars and sidekicks. To celebrate Adopt-a-Cat month in June, here are five famous cats that feature prominently in some much-loved books.
The Cat in the Hat
One of the best-known title characters in children’s literature, readers can easily identify the Cat in the Hat by his elongated body, striped hat, and red bow tie. In Dr. Seuss’s story, the Cat is notorious for pushing boundaries and questioning the limits of his young charges while their parents are away. As a children’s book, “The Cat in the Hat” tests readers’ limits as well as their reading skills. Though this story is provocative, it’s also a reading primer that’s one of the best-selling children’s books of all time.
Puss in Boots
Puss in Boots, a classic fairy tale and now an animated movie, has its roots in a 16th-century fable by Italian author Giovanni Francesco Straparola. A 17th-century version of the story appeared in the first version of Mother Goose tales, making “Puss in Boots” one of the first nursery rhymes. Its basic premise focuses on the well-dressed cat prompting trickery and deceit to ensure riches and success for his undeserving master. The original story’s emphasis on lying to get ahead has been adapted and downright ignored in later adaptations of the tale.
The Cheshire Cat
The Cheshire Cat, who appears in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” is best known for his distinctive smile. In the story, this character can appear and disappear as he pleases, dissolving into nothing but a mischievous grin once he’s had his say. This motif also appears in a carving in a 16th-century English church, believed to be the inspiration for Carroll’s character. Though the cat has a knack for volunteering sage advice amidst confusion, he offers puzzling chatter and mystical sayings almost as often. Nevertheless, the Cheshire Cat represents a pleasantly sane character in a bizarre world.
This feline character in the “Harry Potter” series has a supporting role as the pet of Argus Filch, the unpopular caretaker of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. A true sidekick, Mrs. Norris is known to have a strong connection with Filch, and even looks like him, with a scrawny build, yellow eyes, and gray fur. Mrs. Norris acts as an excellent spy and even a tattletale at times, alerting her master to unusual events on the school grounds. Throughout the series, the title character and his classmates survive narrow escapes from the sneaky cat, whom they believe can see them even when they’re wearing an invisibility cloak.
A big cat in the contemporary novel “Life of Pi,” Richard Parker co-stars as the Bengal tiger who accompanies the title character throughout the story. The tiger’s name is somewhat of an inside joke, as it appears to be the result of improperly completed paperwork. Despite the mismatch, the name sticks as the story develops. Though the two characters aren’t friends at the beginning of the novel, they learn to coexist with one another after surviving a sunken ship and a series of struggles on a lifeboat. At the end of hundreds of days stranded at sea, Pi and Richard Parker develop a friendship, lending a happy ending to this unique story.
Throughout literature, cats serve as trusted companions and sneaky adversaries. Consider adopting one of your own, and create your unique adventure together. What famous character would be your cat’s namesake?