Tom and Jerry poster.

Cats as Cartoon Characters

While real cat stars are scarce, plenty of cartoon cats have earned a place in movie history. The prototype was Felix the Cat, an odd little character that became famous in silent animated films of the 1920s and remains popular in comic books and on television.

Felix was followed by the clownish black-and-white Sylvester featured in Looney Tunes, a series of short cartoons produced by the Warner Brothers studio between the 1930s and the late 1960s. Sylvester, characterized by billowing side-whiskers and a spluttering lisp, wastes much energy trying to catch the canary Tweety Pie.

Equally hapless is Tom, the cat forever outwitted by Jerry the mouse in countless episodes of Tom and Jerry from 1940 to the 2000s. Probably the most famous cartoon cats of all are the wicked Siamese pair in Lady and the Tramp (1955). In their big scene, they casually trash a sitting-room, leaving the spaniel Lady to take the blame.

Strictly for adult audiences with its overtly political and sexual content, the hugely successful Fritz the Cat (1972) is a much darker cartoon comedy about a free-living New York feline. Puss in Boots (2011) is a modern reimagining of the old fairy tale in which the swashbuckling cat encounters other storybook characters such as Humpty Dumpty and Jack of beanstalk fame.