Team Buttercup: The Great Cats of YA Fiction

In honor of Buttercup Everdeen, that magnificent cat who had the balls to hiss at Katniss and the resilience to survive the District 12 firebombing – but, in true cat fashion, still can’t resist a good game of flashlight chase – I have here a list of my favorite kitty companions in young adult and children’s literature.

These cats prove that the best sidekick to accompany a young character on his or her fictional journey is graceful, intelligent, tough, irritable, unmanageable, independent, and loyal – felines, through and through.

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Angus, Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Angus the Scottish Wildcat is often just another hilarious complication in Georgia Nicholson’s life, but despite his violent poodle-attacking, knicker-shredding, philandering antics, he remains a beloved member of her family. The Nicholson clan isn’t exactly sane on the best of days, so Angus fits right in (plus he’s the only force on earth that can pacify Georgia’s mad little sister, Libby).

Faithful, In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

What’s the best gift for a teenaged girl who has dedicated herself to a lonely, dangerous life’s ambition? A kitten! A telepathic kitten from a goddess, no less. Faithful is Alanna’s best friend and confidante as she struggles to become the first female knight in her country’s history. They compliment each other perfectly, from matching purple eyes and a shared loathing of the cold and wet, to their steadfast courage and, you know, faithfulness.

Mrs. Norris, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Argus Filch, Hogwarts’s resident janitor and mean old squib who can’t perform a lick of magic, has a loyal friend and cohort in a cat named Mrs. Norris. By prowling the halls and spying on the students, she makes the perfect partner in mischief detection while Filch is busy cleaning up after Peeves. I admire her dedication to a life of constant crotchetiness.

Mogget, Sabriel by Garth Nix

He’s smug, condescending, and transforms into an evil being of unknown origin if his bespelled collar is removed, but when faced with a pack of deadly gore crows swarming in for the kill (or any of the other horrors that abound in the corrupted Old Kingdom), Sabriel is glad to have a kickass cat like Mogget yowling in defiance by her side.

The Cheshire Cat, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The Cheshire Cat may be mad, but its humor is delightful and its grin is legendary:

“‘I wish you wouldn’t keep appearing and vanishing so suddenly: you make one quite giddy.’

‘All right,’ said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.

‘Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice; ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!'”

Bagheera, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Mowgli was lovingly raised by a pack of wolves and taught the Law of the Jungle from a lazy bear named Baloo, but it was the black panther Bagheera, having been born in captivity and knowing more about man than any other beast in the jungle, who offers Mowgli the most important advice of his life – kill that prick Shere Khan with fire, kid!

The Cowardly Lion, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Cowardice is not actually this big cat’s problem, and he definitely doesn’t need that dose of liquid courage the Wizard gives him at the end. It’s a crippling case of low self esteem that makes the Cowardly Lion doubt his ability to live up to the title of King of the Beasts. Despite his confidence issues, he spends the entire book defending his friends with one courageous act after another.

Taggle, Plain Kate by Erin Bow

A young girl, orphaned and suspected of witchcraft by her superstitious neighbors, sells her shadow to a stranger in exchange for her heart’s wish – the ability for her pet cat to speak so she won’t be so lonely. Is your heart breaking yet? Taggle and Kate stick together through every ordeal in this beautifully written, really goddamn sad book.

Crookshanks, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

With an ugly mug and a taste for violence, Crookshanks wasn’t always the most popular pet at Hogwarts. Then Scabbers the rat was unmasked as a skeevy minion of Voldemort, and everyone kicked themselves for not letting Crookshanks murder the creep a long time ago and saving the wizarding world a boatload of trouble. For his intuitiveness, persistence, rugged charm, friendship with fugitive Sirius Black, and awesome name, Crookshanks is by far the greatest cat in young adult literature. As Sirius says, “This cat isn’t mad…He’s the most intelligent of his kind I’ve ever met.”

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