Cartoon cats run the gamut in terms of size, shape, and personality. But they all have two things in common. They all love lasagne, and they all hate Mondays. All of them. Even if it’s never mentioned, revealed, or patently obvious that such a thing would be completely ludicrous — it’s written into the DNA of every animated feline character. It’s the law (Krazy v. Nermal, 1962). Some of the most iconic cartoon figures have been feline in origin. And then some of them are Heathcliff. Here are our favorite cartoon cats.
Though the animated versions (at least the ones I’ve encountered) have been lame, there’s no denying that George Herriman’s character is one of the most magical, perplexing, spontaneous creations ever. He/she (it’s never clear) was certainly special enough to me that in my younger years, I considered getting a Krazy Kat tattoo. Even though Krazy is a century old, the cartoon cat probably makes as much sense today as it did then.
I much prefer the clunky Saturday morning cartoon version rather than the Bill Murray-voiced CGI movie reboot. There was something about the world-weary tone of actor Lorenzo Music that summed up life and cats perfectly — though it was a shame Garfield was never as mean in the cartoons as he was in the newspaper comic strips.
This occasionally dead, noncommunicative (apart from the odd “Ack!'”) feline lover and icon is the anti-Garfield. He gets extra points for being the frontman and lead electric tongue in heavy metal combo Billy and the Boingers (previously Deathtongue). In his time, despite the perpetual catatonic state, he was a televangelist, a cult leader, and beau of both Socks the Cat and Princess Diana. And Bill was used to make fun of Donald Trump way back in the late 1980s. God, I miss Bloom County.
Yes, I’m including big cartoon cats on this list, although Hobbes’ tigerness wasn’t called into action very often. In fact, he was an inert stuffed toy for long periods, which I always thought was terribly sad. Calvin and Hobbes continually made me tense as a young reader. I completely loved it, but I was always waiting for some sadness or tragedy to occur, especially toward the end. I had a troubled childhood.
My heart always sank a little when it was cartoon time and the smarmy French sex pest that was Pepe appeared. Really, is there that much discarded white paint and apparatus scattered around Paris to apply it perfectly onto the hindquarters of a cat? Though I did enjoy the French version of kitty speak (“Le miaow,” “Le purr,” etc.). And the hopping. I quite enjoyed the hopping.
Surely the only cartoon to originate as a spinoff from a live-action comedy film and named after a diamond that wasn’t even a vital part of the plot. I always felt it was a little unkind that the theme song referred to him as a “rinky-dink” panther. He was never rinky-dink. Slightly sinister, to be sure, but “rinky-dink” seems a little cruel. Why belittle your main character in his own theme song? I think the sinister aspect might have come from the music, which always scared me as a kid, as did the rare occasions when the panther spoke. Again, I had a troubled childhood.
He almost didn’t make the list due to the annoyance caused by the theme song (at least in the U.K.), which repeated the words “Top Cat” about fourteen times in a row — after which a title card appeared that read “Boss Cat.” Boss Cat? What’s that? Top Cat is a delightful, hilarious pun on “top dog.” Boss Cat is nothing. Today, could you even get away with ripping off a famous TV character (in this case, Sergeant Bilko) and making a cartoon out of it? Happier, more innocent times.
Could Stimpy (full name Stimpson J. Cat) be the stupidest cartoon cat of all time? Possibly even the stupidest cartoon character ever? Tongue-lolling, butt-obsessed, and addicted to kitty litter, Stimpy and his brainless behavior drove faithless companion Ren into paroxysms of vein-engorging madness. Of all the kitties on the list, Stimpy probably resembles the nature and intelligence of an actual cat the closest. Kidding!
Kids these days don’t get the joys of Tom and Jerry in their full, uncensored, smoking, drinking, and vaguely racist glory. Instead they get the Simpsons’ Itchy and Scratchy, which appears to be a grotesque exaggeration of the originals, until you actually see the originals and realize they are slightly toned down. Scratchy beat out the Simpsons’ real pet cat Snowball II, which Matt Groening described as “probably the most ugly cartoon cat ever.”
The real-life Itchy. Well, when I say real-life ÔÇª you know what I mean. Did any animated kitty suffer as many indignities as Tom at the hands of Jerry, the demonic and slightly smug mouse? Jerry. Isn’t that a weird name for a mouse? Who calls a mouse “Jerry”? Isn’t it more the name of a failed car salesman or a weird older neighbor you never speak to and who you think might be stealing your lawn ornaments? As this and every other cartoon testifies: Never trust a Jerry.
Did we miss any of your favorite cartoon cats? Let us know in the comments!