It’s interesting to write lists like this, because often times you don’t remember certain characters or animals in the various novels and movies you’ve seen, and when it comes time to dig up those memories, you end up recalling next to nothing. I’ve seen very few films and read very few books in which cats have played a prominent enough role to be memorable. Even worse is trying to remember all the house cats that have played some significant role in SF/F–hence why this list will not limit itself to house cats.
The Baron (The Cat Returns / Neko no ongaeshi)
Most of you have probably never heard of The Cat Returns. It’s a Japanese animated movie that follows a young girl who is whisked away into a world of cats after saving the Prince of the cat world. She enlists the help of The Baron and Muta (another cat on this list) to help her get out of her obligations to marry the Prince–because, after all, she can’t marry a cat!
The Baron is played by Cary Elwes in the English subtitled version of the movie and the character of the Baron is simply amazing. He’s well-dressed, intelligent, and pretty much the best thing since sliced bread…in the cat world, that is.
A typical fat cat with an attitude, Muta is the strangely reliable, intensely grumpy sidekick of The Baron. As mean as he seems, he’s actually a big, lovable fur ball with enough of an attitude to take on anything thrown his way. He makes for a good sidekick, that’s for sure, and his comedic role in The Cat Returns makes him quite memorable–he’s the only cat I know who spends much of his time arguing with a talking crow.
How could anyone leave this creepy feline off a list like that? Whether you’ve seen Disney’s version of Lewis Carroll’s novel, have played American McGee’s twisted version, or read the book, the Cheshire Cat is one of the most memorable and fascinating characters in the history of children’s fantasy stories. I personally prefer American McGee’s version, an emaciated, skinless creature that helps you along your way in the equally as twisted world of Wonderland. But, the other versions certainly get the job done; it’s hard to compete with a cat that can make itself invisible!
Aslan (The Chronicles of Narnia)
If Mufasa is the definition of cool in the lion world, then Aslan is the definition of awesome. Not only can Aslan return from the dead, but he has god-like powers on top of being enormous and the harbinger of light and all that good stuff. Oh, and you can ride him if you’re a good person. I’ve love to ride a giant, friendly lion, wouldn’t you?
Bagheera (The Jungle Book)
Probably best remembered for Disney’s animated rendition of Kipling’s young adult novel, this panther acted as a father figure for young Mowgli. Smart and careful, Bagheera is everything a panther should be when turned into a talking cartoon.
Science fiction is relatively devoid of good cat companions or characters. I’m putting Jonesy on this list primarily because, despite being a relatively insignificant character, he’s still a pretty cool little cat, with an attitude. Not much else to say, though. Oh, he hisses a lot…especially at aliens…
Mufasa (The Lion King)
Would any list consisting of cats in fantasy be complete without mentioning Mufasa? I submit not. I left Simba off this list primarily because I’m never thought Simba was all that great. Mufasa, on the other hand, is amazing. Strong, lovable, and capable of returning from the dead as a talking cloud, Mufasa is the definition of cool in the lion world. Too bad he was back-stabbed by his brother (or half-brother).
Spot (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Most Star Trek fans know about this cat, but unfortunately a great majority of science fiction fans do not. Spot was Data’s cat and had a meaningful influence on him. In fact, their relationship became so important that the first tear Data ever shed was for Spot. This is made more profound by the fact that Data was never created with emotions; his process to “humanize” himself involved much trial and error with emotion programming, etc. Spot became, I would argue, a catalyst for his emotional maturity.
The Kzinti (Larry Niven’s Known Space series)
Sadly the only cat-like species I can think of from science fiction literature that I think deserves to be on this list. The Kzinti are a bloodthirsty race of giant, intelligent cats who, in Niven’s Known Space universe, engage in several wars with human beings, and other species. If you haven’t read the books, that’s okay, because all you need to know is that these critters were so awesome that they were actually included into the Star Trek extended universe. That’s right, these guys were invented outside of Star Trek, but then were brought into it and given a few spots through the various television series. That’s pretty cool in my book.
The Thundercats (The Thundercats)
I’m including them all on here. It would be wrong to split them up individual, and since I have the utmost respect for the Thundercats, while acknowledging that they are fictional and, thus, incapable of being upset with me for treating them as individuals, I have included them here as a group. If you don’t know who the Thundercats are, then you need to get out more. They’re, well, the Thundercats. What more do I need to say? Thunder…thunder…THUNDERCATS!
I need help…
And that ends this list. If you have any reservations about the items of this list, feel free to let me know in the comments. Suggestions always welcome; discussion and debates encouraged!