Top Ten Tuesday: Best Cats

This blog is about TOP CATS – so if you’re allergic, I’m really sorry, take a pill now.

Our cat died suddenly this summer.  We buried him in the back garden and I didn’t think the kids would be able to face getting another.  They had named him Jiji, which often needed an explanation as he was a boy and if you aren’t familiar with the Miyazaki film KIKI’s MESSENGER SERVICE you might reasonably be confused.

Now just a few months later, we find ourselves with not one but two new cats – the latest is called Kiki, in memory of the cat she never met.  (The other was perversely named Spartacus by the RSPCA even though she is a she, but don’t worry the Cat Protection people renamed her and frankly that was enough names, and so it stuck).  So cats have been on my mind…

And there are just a few more to mention, well, ten to be precise, but they don’t all have names.

1. To begin at the beginning, although Lewis Carroll never would have, there is the Cheshire Cat in ALICE IN WONDERLAND.   It can be cryptic and annoying but when it all but disappears leaving only a mischievous grin behind, all is forgiven.  As Alice says, she’s often seen a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat.  Prrr genius.

Cat12. Speaking of which, Behemoth from Bulgakov’s THE MASTER & MARGARITA is an extraordinary creation – a giant demonic black cat who accompanies Professor Woland (aka Satan) on his visit to a chaotic and
paralytically corrupt Moscow during Stalin’s reign.  He has a weakness for bad jokes, guns, vodka and chess and is 100% depraved and wicked.  But he still graces quite a few of the book covers…

behemoth3. Kipling’s cat in the JUST SO story is the cat who walks alone: “He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.”  I’d like to think that this isn’t true of the cats I have known, and fed, but I reckon it probably is…

4. I can’t possibly leave out Crookshanks.  Hermione would be livid.  He may be a bit haughty and not too handsome (bog brush tail and bandy legs as well as flattened face) but he more than compensates with his fiendish intelligence.  He’s the one who really can smell a rat.  (I wonder what my cats know that I don’t…)

5. I have never read Ian Fleming so I am embarrassed to say that I don’t know if Blofeld’s cat is actually in the James Bond books or just a screen writer’s invention, but the fluffy feline in the films is mesmerising – a white blue eyed Turkish Angora that purrs (and concurs) as the evil genius does his fiendish power-mad thing.  Fleming based Blofeld on his neighbour in Hampstead so perhaps the cat used to dig up his dahlias?  Does this mean that cats don’t have any principles as far as choosing an owner is concerned?

6. Yann Martel’s LIFE OF PI introduces an extraordinary cat – actually a Bengal tiger – called, by some clerical error, Richard Parker.  Pi (short for Piscine Molitor, and any hero named after a swimming pool gets my vote) is travelling with his family from India to Canada with all the animals from their zoo when they are shipwrecked.  He loses everyone but survives for 227 days alongside the tiger whom he manages to tame to the point of co-existence, or does he?  The book won the Man Booker of course and it was one of the most popular winners ever – not because its central character was a cat perhaps but because it’s a magical piece of storytelling (and also a dazzling film which really does work in 3D).

tiger7. I have read a bit of Baudelaire, and in LES FLEURS DU MAL he is drawn again and again to the image of the cat.  He is adoring but wary.  Cats are mysterious, profound, inspiring … to be loved, and worshipped.  But he also talks in mesmerising verse about that cat gaze, profound and cold, which any cat-owner knows, hypnotic but just on the edge of deadly.  The cat for him is deeply sensual, seraphic, soothing and sphinx-like (not haring around the kitchen chasing a silver ball….)  Well, dignity is in the eye of the beholder.

8. OLD POSSUM’S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS is a fantastic way to stumble into poetry and particularly into T S Eliot, and Macavity (the mystery cat) is the best loved of them all.  He’s a fiendishly clever ginger tom – an arch criminal: ‘a master thief… the hidden paw… the bafflement of Scotland Yard… the Napoleon of Crime…’  But Eliot was unsure about his creation – “I have done a new cat, modelled on the late Professor Moriarty, but he doesn’t seem very popular; too sophisticated perhaps.”  How wrong can you get?

9. I wonder if the  the Hanna Barbera cartoon series TOP CAT might be a New York ‘translation’ of OLD POSSUM – perhaps not.  It’s about a band of dodgy alley cats lead by the eponymous TC (who has a Sargent Bilko accent).  The gang comprises Billy the Ball (small and cuddly – Ernie Wise?), Brains (not), Chooch (the tall one – Eric Morcambe?), Fancy (dapper lady’s man) and Spook (the Dude).  They are usually up to no good – trying to make money on hair-brained illegal scams and are constantly hounded by a hapless cop, Officer Dibble, who is trying to get them off his patch.  I’m not sure that TC quite has Macavity’s IQ, nor his ability to disappear before he’s rumbled.  If only…

Topcat10. And finally back to Jiji in Studio Ghibli’s KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE.  He’s gorgeous – pure black with slightly crossed eyes, purple ears and a red ribbon around his neck.  I have to confess that I found his American (dubbed) voice slightly grating and it seems that he has a quite different character in the Japanese and in the dubbed versions of the animation.  In the original he is shy, cute and on the modest side whereas in the dubbed he has become a bit cocky, a wise cracking and sarcastic companion.  I don’t understand Japanese… but our cat was clearly named after the Japanese version.kikis-delivery-service-posterOh, but there’s one good thing about the American dubbing – when he meets his future mate, Jiji utters the immortal line: “Hello Kitty”.

R.I.P. sweet Jiji.

I could go on…

and on…

but who are your top cats?