The view of cats as evil led to incredible cruelties toward them. During witch hunts, cats were burned together with their mistresses. At the same times, there is evidence of cats being put into walls of newly built houses to bring luck.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the cat’s reputation was exculpated, and cats became popular pets in upper- and middle-class families, which is, among other things, reflected in numerous nursery rhymes, fables, cartoons, children’s stories and picturebooks. Cats became benign and often sweet characters, adapted to children’s and family reading. Most of modern cat stories are picturebooks portraying anthropomorphic cats, representing humans. The shape is, just as in George and Martha books, arbitrary and interchangeable. It is hardly worth mentioning the abundant felines rubbing against their owners’ feet or purring on their laps, merely to create an atmosphere. In hundreds of books, a child gets a kitten for pet. Occasionally, a black cat may prompt, most often erroneously, that its owner is a witch.Maria Nikolajeva, Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers
Cats have their own subplot in our storybook app Midnight Feast.
CATS VERSUS DOGS
Rudyard Kipling’s etiologic story ‘The Cat who Walked by Himself’ (from Just So Stories, 1902) depicts the nature of cats as unreliable and independent as opposed to dogs as man’s true friends. The cat is, in his own words, “…not a friend…not a servant,” he is “the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to him.” The bargain between the cat and the humans, according to this story, includes the cats’ obligation to keep the house free from mice, to be nice to babies just as long as do not pull his tail too hard. For this, the Cat is allowed to be inside the house when he pleases, sit by the fire, and “drink the warm white milk three times a day for always and always and always.”Maria Nikolajeva, Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers
STORIES ABOUT FELINE COMMUNITIES
- Forest: Journey from the Wild by Sonya Hartnett (2001)
- Varjak Paw by S. F. Said (2003)
- Warrior Cats series by Erin Hunter (starting 2003)
FOXES ARE SLY BUT CATS ARE OUTWITTED
In James Joyce’s The Cat and the Devil (1957), the cat seemingly plays a minor role. Yet on closer consideration, the story appears a parodic play with the Faust myth, where a cat rather than a woman is presented as sacrificial; besides the cat’s action is not voluntary and therefore less sublime. The Devil claims “the first person who crosses the bridge”, but, as in many folktales, he is outwitted. Had he said “the first human being”, the Lord Mayor woudl have to offer him one of his subjects. Instead, the cunning man sends a cat across the bridge, which presumably makes no difference, as cats are supposed to have no souls and thus have nothing to fear from the Devil. In the 1980 edition of the book, illustrated by Roger Blachon, the last doublespread shows the cat joyfully playing with the tip of the Devil’s tail, much to the latter’s annoyance. Yet the story certainly accentuates the association between the Devil and the cat, even though Blachon chooses to depict the cat white rather than black.Maria Nikolajeva, Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers
MORE ON CATS
- Meet the delusional breeders behind the world’s crossbreed cats, from Jezebel
- Catwoman with every fictional cat ever, from The Mary Sue
- Book Reviews: Cat Tales from Reading Today Online
- Why Cats Are Ousting Dogs In Literature from The Telegraph
- Something they don’t tell you about pet ownership, from Persephone Magazine
- List of Literary Cats at Wikipedia
- “Your Affectionate Pussy”: Hilarious and Charming 19th Century Animal Books from Studies In Crap
- Cats Improve Everything, Including Famous Paintings from The Mary Sue
- 10 Excellent Bookstore Cats from Mental Floss
- Why Do Cats Run The Internet? A Scientific Explanation from Perry Stein.
- A Herringbone Newsboy Cap Made Just for Cats from Laughing Squid
- 10 Excellent Bookstore Cats from Mental Floss
- Tumblr Blog – Cat Scientists of the 1960s with, you guessed it, pictures of scientists with cats for heads. I suppose this is a far better use of time than, I don’t know, joining the Men’s Rights subreddit, for instance.
- Even in the 1870s, people were obsessed with ridiculous photos of cats, from io9
- Cats in Clothes from BF
- Famous And Fabulous Library Cats from Flavorwire
- Literary Pet Names: Feline Edition from Book Riot
- Cats leave their mark on centuries of books from The Guardian
- Literary Pets: The Cats, Dogs, and Birds Famous Authors Loved from Brain Pickings
- More pictures of cats, somehow adjacent to books from Buzz Feed
- If you’d like to read a short story for free, here’s The Man Who Disliked Cats by P.G. Wodehouse online.
- How Humans Created Cats: Following the invention of agriculture, one thing led to another, and ta da: the world’s most popular pet, from The Atlantic