The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) Talking Cats

From left: Binx the cat, Bombalina the cat, Catra the cat person, and Mae the cat person.
From left: Binx the cat, Bombalina the cat, Catra the cat person, and Mae the cat person.
Image: Disney, Universal Pictures, Netflix, Infinite Fall

Cats are mysterious creatures, and we often wish we could know what they’re saying every time they meow, hiss, or calmly walk away. Well, what if you could? Talking cats are a surprisingly robust part of sci-fi and fantasy storytelling—probably because we’re so damn eager to know what these creatures really think of us. We’re looking at the best and worst talking cats in modern movies, shows, comic books, and video games. Meow.

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Best Cats

It’s Thackery, yes that’s a real name.
It’s Thackery, yes that’s a real name.
Image: Disney
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Thackery Binx (Hocus Pocus)

This human-turned-feline has been around for hundreds of years, guarding the Sanderson sisters’ house to keep the witches at bay. Once Max the virgin screws things up, it’s up to Binx to help stop the sisters and save the town of Salem from their wrath. What’s great about Binx is his attitude, which is every definition of “catty.” He might be the victim of a curse who yearns only for death so he can be reunited with his sister, but that doesn’t stop him from amping up the Sass-o-Meter every time Max the virgin does something stupid.

Now here’s a cat who can take you places.
Now here’s a cat who can take you places.
Image: Studio Ghibli

Baron (The Cat Returns)

Studio Ghibli knows how to deliver in the talking cat department. For example, there’s Jiji, the adorable witch’s familiar in Kiki’s Delivery Service. But I’ve got to give props to Baron, the cat statue from Whisper of the Heart that comes to life in The Cat Returns to help save a young woman from having to marry the prince of the Cat Kingdom. He’s suave and sophisticated, and he’ll do anything to protect the animals and people he cares about. Plus, that tophat.

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Truer words...
Truer words...
Image: Image Comics
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Lying Cat (Saga)

You don’t have to say much to make a powerful statement. Saga’s Lying Cat can only say one word, but it’s the only one that matters. Don’t you dare try to lie to the Lying Cat. It’ll catch you.

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Too cool for school.
Too cool for school.
Image: ABC

Salem Saberhagen (Sabrina the Teenage Witch)

Salem Saberhagen is such a cool cat, he’s got his own last name. This furry friend was a former warlock cursed to spend 100 years as a witch’s familiar, as penance for trying to take over the world. Nowadays, he spends his time helping Sabrina Spellman do her homework, gets into wacky shenanigans with her friends, and occasionally tries to take over the world. What can I say: You can’t teach an old cat new tricks.

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Gumball uses the internet, just like us!
Gumball uses the internet, just like us!
Image: Cartoon Network
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Gumball Watterson (The Amazing World of Gumball)

Gumball Watterson, the star of The Amazing World of Gumball, might be a little egotistical at times, but inside he’s all heart. He’s a kind, optimistic kid who yearns to see the best in people—even when he’s trying to get a leg up on them in one of his latest schemes.

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Here’s 2020 in a nutshell.
Here’s 2020 in a nutshell.
Image: Infinite Fall

Mae (Night in the Woods)

On the other end, we’ve got Mae. She’s the protagonist of Night in the Woods, a video game that deals with issues like mental illness, strained relationships, and the myth of the American Dream. Mae drops out of college (for reasons explained in the game) and returns to her small town. She tries to readjust to “normal life” as a townie, while plagued by strange nightmares that suggest she’s destined for something great and terrible. What’s unique about Mae is how relatable her struggles are, even when she’s being a genuinely terrible person to her friends and family.

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Evil Incarnate never looked so good.
Evil Incarnate never looked so good.
Image: Disney XD

Mirage (Aladdin: The Animated Series)

Mirage is the Egyptian cat goddess of the Aladdin animated show, who shows up occasionally to torment Aladdin and Jasmine for... reasons. It’s never quite clear what her motivations are for trying to take over Agrabah, other than the fact that she’s supposedly Evil Incarnate. All I care about is that she’s a hot cat person who likes to mess with the “good guys” and does a pretty damn good job of it. Most of the time.

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Suave cat.
Suave cat.
Image: Disney

Shere Khan (The Jungle Book)

Mirage isn’t alone: There are plenty of sexy cat villains in the Disney pantheon (it’s almost like they assume we have a “type” or something). Scar from The Lion King definitely stands out, but I’m going with Shere Khan for this list because he’s just so damn cool. He can instantly walk into a room and know what’s what, playing Mowgli for a fool at every opportunity because why the hell not?

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Don’t let those fluffy ears-within-ears fool you.
Don’t let those fluffy ears-within-ears fool you.
Image: Shaft
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Kyubey (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)

Magical Girl shows often feature a cat familiar who’s there to help the girls on their path to becoming part of the next generation of heroes. But what if the magical cat has its own agenda? Meet Kyubey, the otherworldly feline from Puella Magi Madoka Magica—an anime that subverts the traditional Magical Girl trope, turning it into something dark, sinister, and terrifying. Kyubey is introduced as just another kind-hearted familiar who’s there to train the girls to fight evil witches. But as the show goes on, it becomes clear that Kyubey has a deeper connection to the problem it’s tasking Magical Girls to solve.

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Now there’s a cat who knows what she wants.
Now there’s a cat who knows what she wants.
Image: Netflix

Catra (She-Ra and the Princesses of Power)

Of course I’m going to include Catra. What do you take me for, a monster? This antihero has one of the best arcs in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, struggling with her identity in the shadow of her secret love Adora and choosing to instead push everyone away to keep herself safe. She ends up as close to rock bottom as one can get, and comes out of it a stronger and more self-assured (cat) person—one who recognizes the power of love above everything else.

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Worst Cats

That’s the face of a cat desperate for help.
That’s the face of a cat desperate for help.
Image: Rapid Heart Pictures
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Duffy (A Talking Cat?!)

I’ve got to be honest: This cat is the reason I wanted to make this list in the first place. A Talking Cat?! is a bizarre film from David DeCoteau, filmed almost entirely in his own house. It’s about a cat named Duffy (voiced by Eric Roberts in what might be one of the laziest voiceover performances of all time) who has the ability to speak to humans to give them advice—but only once. It doesn’t help that the real cat who plays Duffy always looks confused and eager to be free of this cinematic nightmare.

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Ugh.
Ugh.
Image: Universal Pictures

The Cat in the Hat (The Cat in the Hat)

I don’t need to say anything about this human-sized shitbag that isn’t already explained in the image.

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This magical cat needs a lesson in manners.
This magical cat needs a lesson in manners.
Image: Toei Animation

Luna (Sailor Moon)

Luna is probably the most famous Magical Girl familiar, but she’s also one of the worst. She’s rude and annoying, and always seems to arrive at the moment she’s least wanted. She even fat shames Usagi at one point during the show when the titular Sailor Moon was feeling insecure about her weight. Bad kitty.

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The age of Capitalist Cats is doomed.
The age of Capitalist Cats is doomed.
Image: Disney

The Aristocats (The Aristocats)

I don’t care if they know their scales, down with the Bourgeoisie.

They look as confused as this movie makes me feel.
They look as confused as this movie makes me feel.
Image: Universal Pictures
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All the Cats (Cats)

There are some cats that are worse than other cats in Cats. There’s the Rebel Wilson cat, as well as the James Corden cat. But no cat is safe from the wrath that is Cats. Even Andrew Lloyd Webber thinks they suck.

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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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