In the world of real things cats win—at least by the numbers. According to the Humane Society, the US has 86 million purrfect domestic kitties but only 78 million tail waggin‘ doggies. But in the world of fictional characters (books, cartoons, movies, etc.) the situation isn’t just reversed, it’s tipped over onto its adorable, swivel-eared head. Sure, you can find examples of beloved dog and cat characters aplenty, but keep trying to name them, and you’ll run out of cat characters long before you run out of the Fido’s of fictiondom, the Cujo’s of crime, or the Lassie’s of late night.
On Wikipedia’s pages about fictional animal characters, the cat and dog lists are broken down into literature, comics, film, and television. The cat list offers 26, including Garfield, the Cheshire Cat, the Cat in the Hat, Puss in Boots, Sylvester the Cat, Tom & Jerry, The Aristocats, and the cats in Stuart Little and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. But hold onto your leashes, folks, because the dog list has 285, including such well-bred notables as Scooby Doo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Martha from Martha Speaks, Hank the Cowdog, Underdog, Einstein, Timbuktu, Snowy from Tintin, 101 Dalmations, Bolt, Old Yeller, Snoopy, Marmaduke, Toto, the Beverly Hills Chihuahua and on and on and on and (Down, boy!) on!
But if there are so many cat lovers on this planet (and as evidence I present to you the internet), why aren’t cats at least equally reflected in our most beloved forms of entertainment? I suspect there are two main reasons:
- Dogs love cars and walks and travel. They are at their happiest when they are on an adventure with you. Cats not so much. If you are featuring a cat in your book or movie, for the most part it will need to take place inside a house or within a relatively small geographical area. That’s limiting for an author.
- While cats experience emotions just as intensely as dogs, they don’t express them as obviously. A cat’s emotional signs are subtle, but it’s easy to “read” the emotions of a dog – their eyes, mouth, eyebrows, tails, sounds—pretty much their entire being expresses how they are feeling. Dogs are SO expressive it feels as if they are talking to us, which probably explains the plethora of talking dog characters in books and movies.
Actually, talking dogs is something I’m a bit of an expert on because, while I am technically (full disclosure) a cat person, my award winning humorous fiction series, Kibble Talk, features a talking dog. Readers also get to hear what a cat has to say, but the main focus is on Dinky, an enormous and cantankerous Great Dane. I love hearing from readers that they are never able to look at their dog quite the same way again after reading my books!