It is a truth universally acknowledged that the Internet loves cats. Online we share cat photos, cat videos, and cat memes; we forged our own cat language, and have even created our own stratosphere of cat stars, including such feline celebrities as Maru, Lil’ Bub, and Grumpy Cat. However, the Internet is not the only cat-obsessed medium: the whims, eccentricities and foibles of cats have been captured between the pages of books for years. Typically cats don’t star in just any book, either: most of the most memorable cat characters seem to star in stories with a touch of magic or the fantastic.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever owned (been owned by?) or loved a cat. While a Golden Retriever seems very firmly of this world, there is something slightly unearthly or fantastical about cats. Even after they’ve fallen off a balcony, done the Moonwalk, or engaged in some other silly behavior, there is something about their watchful stares and imperious attitudes that imbues cats with a certain supernatural mystery. Their dignity is very durable; we romanticize cats, and that is never more clear than when looking at the cat stories we tell.
With such a wealth of literary kitties to choose from, I had a hard time narrowing down this list, but here they are: the 11 coolest cats in literature.
Aslan, The Chronicles of Narnia
Why he’s cool: Aslan the talking lion has more titles than human Prince George: he is the King of Beasts, son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea, and lord of Narnia. Arguably the most powerful cat in literature, Aslan is both a benevolent leader and a fearsome warrior. The cowardly lion he ain't!
Why he’s cool: Every cat thinks he's more than just a cat, but in Mogget’s case, it’s true: small, white, and furry, this seemingly cute kitty is actually an unpredictable and ruthless Free Magic spirit bound into cat form by the collar he wears. However, centuries of life as a cat have definitely given Mogget a characteristically feline set of contradictions: he is at turns helpful and vague, friendly and wild.
Kirjava, The Subtle Knife
Why she’s cool: Like Mogget, Kirjava is technically not just a cat: she is Will Parry’s dæmon. But unlike other dæmons, Kirjava has the ability to be far away from Will and goes on a long journey without him. When she settles in the shape of a large cat, her coat is described as “lustrous and rich, with a thousand different glints and shades … To see the meaning of the word subtlety, you only had to look at her fur.” Special powers, and a gorgeous coat described by the definition of subtlety? Kirjava is like the Gwenyth Paltrow of cats — totally aspirational.
Mr. Mistoffelees, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
Why he’s cool: T.S. Elliot gave us a host of charming, quirky cats to choose from (and Andrew Lloyd Webber gave them songs), but Mr. Mistoffelees is the most well-known, and for good reason. Not content to be just a sorcerer’s familiar, Mr. Mistoffelees is a Conjurer himself, taking typical cat behavior — making noises from unseen corners of the house, causing household objects to disappear, and having kittens — and transforming it into pure magic.
Buttercup, The Hunger Games
Why she’s cool: Because, despite their mutual antipathy, Buttercup is just like our hero, Katniss: they’re both scrappy survivors with prickly, standoffish attitudes and serious soft spots for Prim.
The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat
Why he’s cool: Yes he’s mischievous, destructive, and willful, and yes, he totally disregards rules and authority, but hey — at least this cat actually cleans up after himself (unlike some real-life cats I could name)!
Lying Cat, Saga
Why she’s cool: I already said that Lying Cat’s ability to tell when people are lying was one of the best reasons to read Saga, and it’s also why she belongs on this list! Unlike most spoiled house cats, Lying Cat is less of a pet and more of a business partner to assassin-with-a-heart-of-gold, The Will. And unlike most house cats, she is more than willing to share her bed with someone in need. Awww, who’s a good kitty!
Cheshire Cat, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Why he’s cool: Like Kirjava, the Cheshire cat is pure aspiration. Smug, all-knowing, and ambiguous, with an inscrutable grin? Come on, that’s the cat all cats think they are.
Mrs. Norris, the Harry Potter series
Why she’s cool: Frankly, I think Mrs. Norris gets a raw deal: She is despised by the Hogwarts kids, but this yellow-eyed kitty is actually quite a good and loyal companion and is a helpmate to her human, Mr. Filch, acting as his eyes and ears throughout the castle. And let’s be real: If you spent your life surrounded by masses of raucous kids whose amateur spells were constantly backfiring, and you ended up temporarily Petrified, you would probably be pretty crabby, too.
Crookshanks, the Harry Potter series
Why she’s cool: It figures that a series about witches and wizards would have more than one awesome cat to choose from. Like her fellow Hogwarts feline, Crookshanks isn’t widely beloved, but she is deeply loyal to her person and is also an extremely intelligent animal. Crookshanks is the only one who knows that something is just not right with Ron’s pet rat Scabbers (aka the transfigured Peter Pettigew). You can’t fool a cat!
Puss in Boots, various fairy tales starting from The Facetious Nights of Straparola
Why he's cool: Aside from having great taste in footwear, this cat is a real go-getter. The sole inheritance endowed to a miller’s third son, Puss in Boots promises to make the man’s fortune — and delivers! Through a combination of quick wits and smooth charm, Puss lands his penniless and low-born master a marriage to a princess. What has your cat done for you lately?
Images: bibliothekarin/flickr; Giphy; Wikimedia Commons (2); Warner Brothers (2); Lionsgate (1); Walt Disney (1); Image Comics (1)