Ever since the making of films began, felines have quite often played a part in them and more often than not, never even being given any recognition. They nonchalantly walk across the scene, or are situated preening in the distance and sometimes even on the lap of an actor. They’re like living props. As such they offer a touch of serenity to the film, if even only in the subconsciousness of the viewer.
Cats have appeared in literally hundreds of films over the years. Most of them have only had cameo appearances lasting seconds or even minutes. However, a few have had noticeable parts and have even received acknowledgement for them. While some had simply memorable appearances, others actually had starring roles.
What is unusual is that many of these cat actors, even when they have a very integral part in the movie, are never given credit in their real name. The cat trainers are listed, but not the actual cat. It makes you wonder because there would be no movie without them. In a way it’s racist- human race against animal race
Dogs have certainly been a far more popular animal as a cinema subject because they are much easier to train and work with. That is why kudos must be given to the directors who have dared to chose felines for their movies, especially given the challenge in working with them!
I thought it would be interesting to bring to light just a small sample of some of the movies that have aired through the years with cats having a more or less prominent part.
FALLING CAT (1894)
This is an 1894 short film produced and directed by Étienne-Jules Marey, a French scientist who was conducting an experiment in physics. It was the third film that came out in the 19th century filmed in a public park, Bois de Boulogne, and released in France. It is believed to be the first motion picture in history to show a live feline. The film consists solely of a cat which was dropped by its handler from a height of a few feet in order to see if it always landed on its feet. It consisted of just a few frames.
Click on this link to see it:
THE SICK KITTEN (1901)
The Sick Kitten was made in 1901 – six years after the birth of cinema. It is one of the earliest films depicting a feline.
The premise is simple: two children play doctors with their kitten and feed it from a bottle labeled ‘Fisik’. It licks away at the ‘medicine’ which appears to be milk while its mother is wondering what is going on. Within seconds, the kitty is cured and the young duo congratulate themselves with a triumphant handshake and a bow to the audience.
The film was made by pioneer G.A. Smith, in Brighton (England) who was one of the earliest to identify the disarming screen presence of the domesticated cat.
It can be seen with this link:
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
When Scott Carey begins inexplicably shrinking, he becomes a pretty tempting plaything for ‘Butch’, the family cat. Who can forget the scene where Scott opens the doll house door to the now-enormous, hissing predator who sees a mouse-sized thing it wants to catch—and eat.
‘Butch’ was played by ‘Orangey’, a versatile cat actor.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Pity the poor feline actor who had to get soaked for one of the most famous film endings of all time.
After Holly declares to Paul that she won’t belong to anyone and nobody belongs to her, she shoves Cat out of the cab into the pouring rain to prove her point. The wet cat gives her a mournful look, which is enough for Paul to go running after it and, thankfully, Holly quickly follows. She finds Cat taking shelter in a box and kisses him and then kisses Paul as Moon River plays over the drenched threesome.
‘Cat’ was played by ‘Orangey’ who won the PATSY Awards (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year, the animal version of an Oscar) for his appearances in both Rhubarb and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the only cat so far to win more than once.
Harry and Tonto (1974)
Art Carney won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a retiree who makes a cross country trip with his best friend, Tonto.
Harry walking Tonto on a leash was inspired by director Paul Mazursky’s mother, who had a Manx cat that she used to walk in the Village. When Art Carney won a Best Actor Oscar for the film, Mazursky said he thought the cat should have won, as well.
In fact, Tonto, played by a cat named “Avon Long”, won the 1975 PATSY (Performing Animal Top Star of the Year) Awards for his role in the film, the equivalent of the Oscar for animal actors.
After Sam is killed, he tries to warn his wife Molly that she’s in danger. He realizes that their tabby, Floyd, can still sense him, so when his killer breaks into their apartment, Sam screams at Floyd. The cat jumps at the killer, scaring him off, and saving the day.
(The cat actor is nowhere to be found credited.)
Hocus Pocus (1993)
‘Thackery Binx’, the talking cat helps defeat the wicked Sanderson sisters in this Disney favorite. He began life as a regular boy back in the 17th century, but was turned into a black cat by Winifred. Since then, he guards against the three witches’ return every Halloween. When they’re accidentally brought back, he makes it his mission to send them packing, even if it means the end of his own immortality.
Eight real-life black cats were used to play ‘Blinx’. They were ‘Stimpy’, ‘Felix’, ‘Mad Cat’, ‘Clyde’, ‘Killer’, ‘Rio’, ‘Tom-Cat’, and ‘ ‘Fraidy Cat’.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Since Dr. Evil is a parody of Bond villain Blofeld, he naturally has his own cat. Mr. Bigglesworth is at first a fluffy kitty like in the Bond films, but after surviving cryogenic freezing has become a hairless Sphynx.
The Sphynx who played Mr. Bigglesworth reportedly ruined several takes because he was always falling asleep in the actor’s lap.
The Sphynx cat who played Mr. Bigglesworth is named ‘Ted Nude-Gent’. Young Mr. Bigglesworth was played by a Sphynx kitten named ‘Mel Gibskin’.
Harry Potter Series (2004-2009)
Mrs. Norris, the mean-spirited cat of Argus Filch, Hogwarts’ equally unpleasant caretaker, was no favorite of the students. In the books, she’s described as having bulging yellow, lamp-like eyes, a scrawny, skeletal body and dust-colored fur.
In the film three Maine Coons played the part, the most prominent being ‘Pebbles’ along with ‘Maximus’ and ‘Cornilius’.
‘Crookshanks’, Hermione Granger’s cat, was played by two Persians, ‘Crackerjack’ and ‘Pumpkin’.
THE HUNGER GAMES (2012-215)
Hunger Games fans were outraged when a black-and-white tuxedo cat was cast to play the Everdeens’ yellow-ish tabby in the first movie! The mistake was rectified in Catching Fire, with a new cat actor playing Buttercup in all his ginger glory. It was a Maine Coon named “Orion”.
Two cats played Buttercup in the films depicting its various moods. “John” portrayed Buttercup as a warrior while “Orion” played Buttercup when more mellow and loving scenes were required.
Buttercup as a whole won the American Humane Association’s 7th Annual Pawscar Award for Best Repurring Cat Performance.
The Lego Ninjago Movie
A cute kitty named Meowthra wreaks kaiju-like havoc in NINJAGO city while trying to to catch a red laser. It’s all a villain’s horrible plot. Now how can the giant kitty be stopped?
Meowthra was actually played by two kitties and some CGI was required, but other than that, the kitty action is all real.
Meowthra was played by two cats ‘Pearl’ and ‘Ruby’.
This is a film adaption of the book with the same name by the author Maurice Genevoix. It is also known as A Cat’s Life. The movie will be released on April 5 in Europe. It’s opening date in the US has not yet been announced, but it’s a well-worthy film to keep a watch out for.
It tells the story of Rroû, a kitten living in Paris as a house cat. Clémance, his ten year old owner, brings him to their country home for the Summer. There he roams the woods and, befriending a white kitten, learns to adapt and survive in the woods finding his inner feline self. When the time arrives to return to the city he must make a decision that will affect the rest of his life – go with Clémance or stay in the wilds.
The above mentioned films are but a drop in the bucket whereas cats appear portraying minute to magnificent parts. In case they wetted your curiosity and have set you into wondering, here is a link that will help satisfy your musings. Though not complete, it lists a goodly amount of films that portray a cat. How many have you seen?