Cartoon critics Phil Witte and Rex Hesner look behind gags to debate what makes a cartoon tick. This week our intrepid critics take a look at our feline friends.
Cats are lazy, crazy, demanding, and undependable. Yet, many of us love cats. Perhaps it is their air of mystery and indifference to us—qualities we associate with those we yearn for, but are beyond our reach—that draw us to cats.
Their often perplexing natures are a rich source for cartoons. Cats have a penchant for enthusiastically pursuing useless and peculiar activities. In this Leo Cullum cartoon, the cat as executive makes his priorities clear:
Why cats are mesmerized by random objects is also the subject of this wordless cartoon by Tom Toro, featuring felines taking in a flick:
Cute they may be, but cats also have a cruel streak, especially when torturing poor little mice for amusement. The eternal struggle between cats and mice has been examined by many a cartoonist. Sam Gross, who has drawn dozens of cat cartoons, captures that struggle in a simple, poignant scene:
In animated cartoons for kids, the mouse often outwits the cat, but cartoons for an adult audience usually take a more realistic and cynical approach. In another Leo Cullum cartoon, the cat tries to seduce the mouse into entering a doomed relationship:
Small birds may fare even worse at the claws and fangs of felines. Billions are reportedly killed worldwide yearly by domestic cats. That sad fact is brought home in this ominous, caption-less cartoon, again by Sam Gross:
No animal is linked more closely to cats than the dog, in many ways their polar opposite. Dogs are loving, affectionate companions, who will do almost anything for their masters. Any dog can learn to beg, and Jack Ziegler plays on a dog’s willingness to debase himself even to a cat. Maybe this fat cat will throw the dog a bone.
Of course, the most important relationship of all is between cats and their owners. Sam Gross again got it right with a cartoon that highlights our desire for feline companionship and our pet’s expectations that all needs will be met the moment he (presumably) walks in the door.
And when they do finally find their way home, they sometimes arrive with little presents for us:
Some owners will go to great lengths to please their pets, as Amy Hwang points out:
While some pet owners swoon over their cats, tabbies take a more detached and perhaps healthier approach. The world seen through their eyes is, one may say, cat-centric. David Borchart expresses this well in his fine cartoon.
Yes, cats are pretty much useless. Mick Stevens plays against type in this delightful cartoon:
Even when they are not present, cats are often on owners’ minds, sometimes to the point of obsession. They were certainly on our minds in compiling this collection of cat cartoons, and so we decided to include a bonus cartoon by Phil Witte, who is not only the co-author of Anatomy of a Cartoon but a cartoonist in his own right.