Humans have been attracted to cats’ bewitching powers for millennia. In Ancient Egypt, 1,500 years before Christ, cats were not only companions but afforded almost godly status. In a more practical sense, cats have proved extremely useful to live alongside us in their superb ability to control potential plague-spreading rodent populations, whether on ships, in cities or on farms.
Independent yet companionable, aloof yet cuddly, cats remain an exceptionally popular pet, earning some of the very best cat treats with their humorous quirks, their curiosity and their playfulness.
It’s no surprise that some cats have gone down in history. Artists, novelists and poets have used them as their muse, the heroes of their work. Explorers and the military have taken cats on the high seas. Some photogenic felines have made their owners millions of pounds. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous cats in the world, both real and imaginary.
32 most famous cats
A stray cat from the streets of Paris who was the first cat to have travelled in space, and the only one to have survived the mission. The black and white female cat (also known as C341) was selected out of 14 trained cats, and was launched into space in October 1963. She was in space for around five minutes before returning to Earth.
She was sadly euthanized two months later, but a statue was erected in 2019 at the International Space University Campus in Strasbourg.
2. Creme Puff
This mixed Tabby cat from Texas is written down in history as the oldest cat ever recorded. Creme Puff died at the age of 38 years and three days, and features in the Guinness World Records. Word goes that she enjoyed a diet of broccoli, eggs, coffee and red wine.
A fictional, but extremely famous cat, the protagonist of the eponymous strip cartoon created by Jim Davis. This lazy and cynical orange cat loves lasagna, and hates Mondays and any form of exercise.
4. Hank the Cat
People truly hold cats in extraordinarily high esteem, if you take the story of Hank the Cat, a Maine Coon that ran for Senate in Virginia in 2012, at face value. Despite his campaign being a joke, he finished third behind the two main (human) candidates, receiving some 9,000 votes.
5. Willow Biden
This adorable grey tabby cat, with green eyes, is the family pet of US president Joe Biden and First Lady Jill. This former farm cat is the first feline to live in the White House since George W Bush was at the helm. Willow is named after Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, Jill Biden’s home town.
The latest chief mouser at no 10 Downing Street, London. Larry is very much a cabinet office cat, rather than the prime minister’s family pet, as he has served five prime ministers so far, from David Cameron to Rishi Sunak.
He was initially a stray that ended up at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (where he now has a blue plaque denoting a famous “person” has lived there), before being adopted by Downing Street, and has proved excellent at rodent control.
The orange tabby stray who bonded with a homeless man, James Bowen. The cat was injured and the man was a recovering drug addict and together they gave each other a reason to fight for survival. This true story has been turned into both a book and a movie (in which Bob himself stars), A Streetcat Named Bob.
This internet sensation holds the Guinness World Record for the cat with the most followers on Instagram. Nala is a Siamese/Tabby mix with some 4.5m fans and her own merchandise, and has earned her owner, “Pookie” (Varisiri Mathachittiphan), over $100 million. Life hasn’t always been so glamorous however. The adorable cross-eyed Nala has risen to these dizzy heights from the lows as a sick stray before she was rescued in 2011.
9. Blofeld’s cat
A white, blue-eyed Persian cat belonging to the fictional Blofeld, a villain in several of the James Bond films. Although the cat features in multiple films, including his debut in From Russia with Love, Never Say Never Again and Thunderball, only once is he given a name – Solomon, in For Your Eyes Only. We are actually more likely to see the cat’s face than Blofeld himself, who is often pictured stroking him. Multiple cats have acted the role.
Blofeld’s cat was later parodied in the Austin Powers movies, in which Dr Evil’s cat is called Mr Bigglesworth and undergoes cryogenic freezing, with terrifying (albeit ridiculous) results.
10. Socks Clinton
A black and white stray cat with white socks who was adopted by the Clinton family in 1991 before he moved with them into the White House as “First Cat”, where he received personal mail. Apparently Socks didn’t get on with the Clintons’ dog Buddy, so when the presidential tenure ended, Socks stayed with one of Bill Clinton’s secretaries. He lived until the ripe old age of 20.
11. Cat in the Hat
The feline hero of a wacky 1957 children’s book by Dr Seuss. The Cat went on to become Dr Seuss’ signature creation, although he maintained he decided on a cat simply because of the prevalence of rhyming words. The tale of this anthropomorphic cat, who turns two kids‘ dreary rainy day into a few memorable hours of wild chaos, became a huge bestseller, an animated TV special in 1971 and a 2003 action film.
12. Mrs Norris
Fans of Harry Potter will know Hogwarts caretaker Argus Filch’s pet cat. She is described as having bulging yellow eyes, a scrawny body and dust-coloured fur, and is a superb tell-tale, alerting her master to any miscreant students.
Several Maine Coon cats played Mrs Norris in the films, despite the breed typically being large and non-scrawny. The production team also used animatronics for some of the stunts.
13. Unsinkable Sam
A British Royal Navy mascot, Unsinkable Sam – originally known as Oscar – was a ship’s cat on three battleships (Bismarck, HMS Cossack and HMS Ark Royal). All three ships – the first German, the second two British – were torpedoed, but remarkably the black and white cat managed to survive each one sinking, usually clinging to a board in the sea. Some of his story may be apocryphal, passed down through sailors’ Chinese whispers, but the cat known as Unsinkable Sam eventually retired to a seaman’s home in Belfast called the Home for Sailors, and his portrait hangs in the National Maritime Musesum in Greenwich.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Florida, is home to dozens of polydactyl cats – meaning they have six toes, which looks like a thumb on their paw. This menagerie stems from a ship’s cat named Snowball, who was given to the famous author in the 1930s (and renamed Snow White by Hemingway’s sons). This original cat was six-toed, and the museum residents are likely related as the polydactyl trait is an inherited gene (and not a breed). Polydactyl cats are sometimes called Hemingway cats thanks to his love for them.
The feline actor that starred alongside Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Orangey Minerva, to use his full name, won two PATSY (the Oscars for animals) awards for his outstanding acting abilities. He also acted in Rhubarb, The Diary of Anne Frank and The Incredible Shrinking Man.
However, this marmalade tabby wasn’t a terribly friendly cat, with a tendency to bite and scratch his co-stars, and sometimes he ran away – although he was gifted at sitting still for hours. A proper diva...
The British cabinet office has a habit of employing a cat at no 10 Downing Street. Wilberforce was adopted from a rescue organisation as an eight-week-old kitten in 1973. He went on to become chief mouser at the British prime minister’s HQ, serving under Edward Heath, Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and Margaret Thatcher, before going to live in Essex with a retired caretaker. He was named after the English abolitionist William Wilberforce.
17. Frankie, the Wimbledon champion’s cat
When Czech tennis player Markéta Vondroušová became the first unseeded player in the open era to win Wimbledon, so little was known about the new star that the media focus descended on her Sphynx cat, Frankie. The cat was left at home with Markéta’s husband while she played in London (although he did arrange a cat sitter so he could attend the final).
18. Orlando the Marmalade Cat
This fictitious ginger tabby is the eponymous hero of a series of 20th-century illustrated books written by Kathleen Hale. The series follows the adventures of Orlando and his family. Many other cats appear in these likeable books, including his fashion-conscious tabby wife Grace, and kids: Pansy (tortoiseshell), Blanche (white) and Tinkle (black).
Nedjem, which means “sweet”, is the first known cat to have its own name. The cat dates from the the 15th century BC, in the reign of Thutmose III, the sixth Pharaoh of Egypt. Nedjem is believed to have belonged to Puimre, an ancient Egyptian nobleman and priest, and is depicted on his tomb. Cats were closely associated with gods in those times, and there is evidence that they may have been given demi-god status.
The “First Cat” of New Zealand during the early tenure of prime minister Jacinda Ardern. Paddles was a ginger and white rescue cat, and had six toes (polydactyl). She famously made plaintive interruptions during Donald Trump’s congratulatory phone call after Ardern was made prime minister. Sadly, Paddles was run over by a car a few weeks later and died.
21. Casper the commuting cat
For several years up to 2010, Casper was a regular passenger on the bus in Plymouth, a port city on the south coast of England. He was a brown, black and white cat, and would ride solo around the city’s bus lines, becoming such a local celebrity that he appeared on the national news. Originally a stray, Casper was rehomed but retained his habit of disappearing – when he would queue up at the local bus stop, and hop on to his preferred seat, do a tour of the town and return home. He eventually had a biography penned, by his owner Susan Finden, called Casper the Commuting Cat. Sadly he met his end when he was hit by a taxi and killed.
22. Cheshire Cat
Lewis Carroll’s fictional cat from his 19th-century novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a whimsical, perplexing and philosophical – and famously grinning – feline, who at one point gradually disappears until all that is left is his signature grin. Although the Cheshire Cat is most commonly associated with this novel, the idea of “grinning like a Cheshire Cat” predates Lewis Carroll, appearing in several 18th-century texts.
23. Tabby and Dixie
Cats have long been a favored pet in the White House, but it was Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) who first brought felines into the famous presidential home. He was given two kittens, Tabby and Dixie, from his secretary of state William Seward, and apparently fed them from the table during formal dinners. Besides these two, Lincoln also rescued strays.
He would play with his cats as a form of stress relief, and talk about them for hours. Lincoln famously once said: “Dixie is smarter than my whole cabinet. And furthermore, she doesn’t talk back."
24. Grumpy Cat (Tardar Sauce)
Tardar Sauce, who died aged seven in 2019, came to be nicknamed Grumpy Cat due to her appearance. She had a permanently grumpy face, due to an underbite and feline dwarfism, but rapidly became an internet sensation when a photo was posted of her on Reddit as a five-month-old kitten in 2012. She was worth millions of dollars.
She went on to become an internet meme, hobnobbed with celebrities, guest-starred in TV shows and even had her own waxwork at Madame Tussauds, the first ever cat to be immortalised there.
25. Towser the Mouser
Towser, a beautiful long-haired tortoiseshell cat, was famous for her mouse-killing abilities. She is recorded as having exterminated 28,899 mice during a 24-year killing spree, a Guinness World Record. Towser lived at Glenturret Distillery in Scotland from 1963–1987. As distilleries store large amounts of grain (to make Scotch whisky), mice tend to be abundant, hence the need for a killing machine like Towser.
26. Simon the “Able Seacat”
Ship’s cat Simon was awarded multiple medals, including the PDSA’s Dickin medal. This is the highest award given to animals serving in the military and Simon is the only feline recipient. A phenomenal ratter, Able Seacat Simon served aboard the HMS Amethyst, which was involved in the Yangtse Incident in China in 1949, and survived injuries after the ship was shelled.
The antagonist of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical Cats, Macavity is an evil mastermind terrorising the Jellicle tribe. He is based on TS Eliot’s Macavity, a shrewd criminal and mystical con artist, from his 1939 poetry book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
Macavity is also known as “The Mystery Cat” and the “Hidden Paw”.
28. Sophie Smith
Sophie Smith, a rescue cat from California, holds the record for the longest fur on a cat – a staggering 25.68cm at its longest (on her tail). Sophie is probably less famous than the previous record holder, the Himalayan-Persian cat Colonel Meow, who was an internet sensation not only because of his fur, but due to his scowling face.
29. Mrs Chippy
The tiger-striped tabby accompanied the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton on his Antarctic expedition of 1914-1917 on the ship Endurance.
Unfortunately, when the Endurance ran into trouble, getting trapped in the ice and having to be destroyed, Shackleton ordered the euthanasia of Mrs Chippy and the sled dogs on board because they were unlikely to survive the ordeal and would take too much resource to keep alive.
And another thing: Mrs Chippy was actually a tomcat.
CC stands for Copy Cat or Carbon Copy, as this brown and white tabby was the first cloned pet, born in 2001.
CC was to all intents and purposes a normal feline, without cloning-related health problems and had a natural litter for four kittens (the first time a cloned pet had given birth).
CC lived until she was 18 years old, dying in 2020.
A female tortoiseshell cat who belonged to Freddie Mercury, the lead vocalist and pianist of the rock band Queen. Mercury adored cats, and had at least 10 during his life. Most were adopted from the welfare organisation the Blue Cross. But of all of his cats, he highlighted Delilah as “his favorite of all”. He wrote a song for her, and she appeared on the Queen album Innuendo.
Possibly the most glamorous cat of all. Choupette is a cream Birman cat with dazzling blue eyes who belonged to the fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld until his death in 2019. Choupette was given to Lagerfeld by the French model Baptiste Giabiconi.
The beautiful Choupette (translated from the French as “sweetie”) used to eat with her owner at table, had four grooming sessions a day and slept in discarded Chanel garments.
She is lucrative too. She made several million euros in car adverts and beauty campaigns, as well as starring on the cover of Vogue with Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen.
Since Lagerfeld’s death, the feline has lived in Paris with his former housekeeper, who runs Choupette’s Instagram page.
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Martha is an experienced journalist working in both print and digital media. She specializes in the canine, equine and rural sphere where she has covered a wide range of topics from cloning animals and the ingredients for a perfect yard dog, to helping owners find the best canine GPS trackers on the market. When she’s not busy writing about dogs and horses, she’ll be found either aboard a horse or looking after the menagerie of pets in her care.