From poetry to fantasy to literary classics, felines are familiar denizens of literature.
Cats have a long cherished presence in literature; from ancient India’s “Mahabharata” and “Ramayana” (circa 5th/4th century BCE) to great classics from the 20th and 21st centuries. Bookshelves around the world contain stories and poems about cats in a range of genres, including mystery (e.g., “The Cat Who….” series by Lillian Jackson Braun), science fiction (e.g., Robert Heinlein’s “The Cat Who Walls Through Walls”), fantasy (e.g., “Tailchaser’s Song” by Tad Williams), poetry (e.g., T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” which was the basis for the musical Cats), satire (e.g., Mikhail Bulgahov’s “The Master and Margarita”), horror (e.g., Pet Cemetary by Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft’s The Cats of Ulthar) and children (e.g., Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” and the French fairytale “Puss in Boots”).
Among the ones I remember best is a short story by Edgar Allen Poe called “The Black Cat.” You shouldn’t be surprised that it’s not a happy tale (pun intended). The story’s narrator has a black cat named Pluto. When the alcoholic narrator begins abusing the poor cat, the cat vows vengeance—and gets it when the narrator accidently kills his wife and walls her behind bricks to hide his deed. The narrator is caught when police hear sounds behind the wall and discover his wife’s body along with the cat, whom the narrator accidentally entombed as well.
One of my all-time favorite fictional cats is the mysterious and frequently disappearing Cheshire Cat in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” The vexing feline reminds Alice that the entire world is crazy—including her. He evades execution when he disappears while on the Queen of Hearts chopping block (prompting a brisk debate between the Queen of Hearts and her executioner about whether something without a body can indeed be beheaded.) And don’t forget that Alice had a cat, Dinah, in the “real” world, too.
A few more of my favorite fictional cats can be found in:
- The Hunger Games trilogy: Buttercup is a scrappy ginger who is hated by heroine Katniss, but beloved by Primrose, her young sister. The feisty feline is quick to hiss at our heroine, but also keeps troops entertained by chasing a beam from a flashlight as they wait out an attack.
- The Harry Potter series: Cats are common as “familiars” and pets for aspiring wizards. Crookshanks, who first appears in the third book is Hermione’s favored flat-faced cat who befriends Sirius Black; and Mrs. Norris is a red-eyed, standoffish tortie of Hogwarts’ caretaker, Argus Filch. Together, the tattle-tale cat and her caretaker patrol the halls of Hogwarts seeking out students who skip class or sneak out at night.
- “The Last Battle” (final book in “The Chronicles of Narnia” series): Ginger, a talking cat who tells lies, he is a member of the ruling triumvirate and relishes the opportunity to create civil discord. After he and his cohorts lose the battle, Aslan, the book’s lion hero, silences Ginger by removing his ability to talk and bans him from entering Aslan’s Country.
Cats can also be found in plenty of nonfiction books, too. In “Homer’s Odyssey,” a blind, little black cat finds his home with Gwen Cooper, who discovers her home is best used as loving retreat for blind cats. And in “Making the Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat,” Dr. David Dosa tells the story of a nursing home’s a cat who seemingly knows when patients are nearing the end and how Oscar helped him learn to listen.
The international sensation, “A Street Cat Named Bob” is the story of arguably the most famous busker cat in England who is credited for helping his owner overcome a heroin addiction and move up from the ranks of street musician to bestselling author. The duo has several other books out now and a movie scheduled for release in November 2016.
The last book on my list is the New York Times bestseller “Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat That Changed the World,” which tells the true story about the power of love between species. It’s an inspiring, heroic tale that begins in tragedy when Dewey, a tiny, helpless kitten, was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library in Spencer, Iowa. Only a few weeks old, he was taken in by library director Vicki Myron, a single mother with her own tragedies. For the next 19 years, this kitten who suffered through frostbite, abandonment and starvation, made his home in the library, offering comfort and inspiration to all who needed it most.
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is a fulltime freelance writer, bestselling author and founder of PetsWeekly.com. She resides in the deserts of the Southwest with a few dogs, several cats and a very understanding husband.