Five Emotional and Existential Narratives About Cats

What is it about cats that make people fall so obsessively in love with them? They’re cute, unpredictable enough to make for perfect meme fodder, and sensitive to human emotions, but I have another theory. A study conducted by Samuel Gosling with the University of Austin, Texas found that, compared to dog owners, cat owners are generally more artistic, intellectually curious, and emotional. So, perhaps cat owners are more easily able to see themselves in their furry companions and learn what it means to be human through the eyes of a cat.

All that said, is it really a surprise that cat lovers also make fantastic storytellers? If you’re still not convinced that cats can help us cope with our existential crises, indulge in these heartwarming and sometimes bittersweet stories that delve into the intricate lives of cats:

1. The Cat Who Saved Books

Here at Brink, we’re all about promoting literacy and the importance of storytelling as a force that can change the world. So, this quirky yet emotional novel, The Cat Who Saved Books, was practically a mandatory pick for this list.

The Cat Who Saved Books, by cat-fanatic author Sosuke Natsukawa, is a touching story that begins with the death of Rintaro’s grandfather. One day, while Rintaro is looking after the bookstore his grandfather left behind, a cantankerous cat named Tiger the Tabby enlists him on a mystical adventure to save abused and neglected books from their owners. Along the way, Rintaro learns how to process his grief and rely on his friends for support.

If you love Studio Ghibli films as much as I do, you’ll also be enchanted with the inspiring whimsy of The Cat Who Saved Books. True cat lovers will find the Tiger the Tabby’s grumpiness charming and familiar, and true bibliophiles will feel inspired to dust off all the books from their endless “to be read” shelf and start reading!

2. “My Cat is Sad”

“My Cat is Sad” is a tear-jerking poem featuring a glimpse inside the mind of a loving cat. This poem had a bit of a viral moment, which caught poet Spencer Madsen by complete surprise. 

Written in free verse in a style similar to prose, the true heart in this poem is in Madsen’s ability to imagine your average household cat as an alienated yet child-like being who longs to be with and like their human family members. I’d be lying if I said this poem didn’t convince me to give the cats I know little bits of human food every now and then to make them feel loved (as a consequence, my mom’s cat now occupies an empty chair at the table whenever anyone sits down to eat a meal). 

So, if I’ve convinced you to read this poem, make sure to read it when you have enough time to give your cat plenty of pets and treats after.

3. A Man and His Cat

We love comics here at F(r)iction, so it should come as no surprise that A Man and His Cat comes highly recommended! Originally published as a webcomic, this story is now available in physical form, and has since inspired a children’s picture book, a live action TV Drama, and a mobile puzzle game. 

A Man and His Cat is a heartwarming Japanese manga series following a widower who adopts the oldest cat at a pet store—an important reminder to us all that senior and disabled cats deserve love, too. 

Future volumes of this comic feature charming vignettes of the daily life of Kanda Fuyuki (the man) and Fukumaru (his cat). One of the cutest moments features Kanda thinking of a suitable name for his new cat. He eventually settles on “Fukumaru,” which roughly translates to “joy” or “blessing,” showing just how much happiness Fukumaru the cat has brought to the elderly man’s lonely life.

In other words, if this heartwarming story doesn’t make you want to run to your nearest shelter to adopt the most overlooked cat, then what will?

4. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is the most recent installment in Dreamworks’s Puss in Boots series. To be completely honest, I was somewhat hesitant to watch a “children’s movie,” but after hearing the stellar reviews, I caved. Plus, who doesn’t like indulging in a little nostalgia once in a while?

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish follows the titular swordscat on an adventure to restore his eight lost lives by finding the legendary Wishing Star. Viewers are treated to a humorous montage of how Puss in Boots lost each of his previous lives in a fashion true to both the character and cats in general. Plus, in his search for the Wishing Star, Puss in Boots must confront what has to be the most compelling villain in a contemporary children’s movie: Death. As the unsettling big bad wolf emphatically says: “And I don’t mean it metaphorically or rhetorically or poetically or theoretically or any other fancy way. I’M DEATH. STRAIGHT UP!”

4. Stray

Who says video games can’t be a powerful vehicle for storytelling? Stray is an adventure video game about a cat who must find his way back home to his feline family after falling into a dystopian cyber-city with robot inhabitants. In this world, humans have long gone extinct due to an unnamed plague (something we surely don’t need to take as a warning…right?).

What I found most exciting in the days leading up to Stray’s release is that you play as one of the most adorable and intelligent cats ever! If that selling point alone isn’t enough to make you purchase this game immediately, you can also make him meow, take a nap, scratch furniture, and rub against the legs of humanoid robots! Also, I cried at least five times. 

With all that said, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Stray has a 10/10 rating on Steam. My only critique is that this game is far too short; I could play as a heroic cat exploring a cyberpunk city every day for the rest of my life!

If you’re looking to add more cat-themed works to your “to be read/watched” list, some honorable mentions for this list include Cat Poems, A Whisker Away, and I Am a Cat. Exploring these diverse narratives reveals not only what it might feel like to live as a cat, but also shines a light on the very human struggle to find meaning and companionship.