Something that has been annoying be about books, especially horror books, for a while now.
Why in the world do authors think it’s okay to do horrible things to cats!?
The first time I noticed this and really catalogued it was back in 2017 when I was reading Anna Dressed in Blood. Throughout the entire book there’s this lovely cat that has been helping protect the family in his own sweet, loyal, kitty cat way. Then right there at the end, the demon eats the cat. And we know this, because Kendare Blake described the cat’s tail hanging limply out of the demon’s mouth.
Three years later, and the scene has stuck with me more than the rest of the book. The description, while not overly gory, actually made me sick to my stomach.
I love cats. I love both my little fluff balls with every fiber of my being, and the descriptions I sometimes read of cats being tortured… No. I cannot. I will not.
Killing cats is often used at a plot device to show how terrible a person is, to show their sociopathic tendencies as a setup for later crimes. In Misery, you see this in ‘Misery’s Child’, and Annie poisons a cat. In Allegedly, Ms. Reba’s white cat is brutally murdered and again… the descriptions of the scene and the body… they’re sickening. Both these books have a lot more to unpack beside cat killings, but I believe they should be acknowledged, too.
I know many people perceive cats as aloof and standoffish and incapable of love, but… that’s absolutely not true. Authors wouldn’t dare use a dog as a plot device in this way because they are our beloved pets and friends. It would be heartbreaking. Traumatic even.
Guess what! Cats are many peoples’ beloved pets and friends as well.
There’s also patterns of using already dead cats as… props? In Blood Will Out, the science class dissects cats. The MC believed teacher went around collecting stray cats to use in class and she was a vicious murderer. Not only is this totally not okay, but it’s not even realistic – I don’t know of anyone who dissected a cat in high school. I walked out on the frog dissection, and was forced under duress to endure a pig fetus dissection in college. If there were cats, I would have thrown up. And cried. And thrown up again.
And in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? The stiffened carcasses of dead cats are trophies that the characters barter over. They are apparently the greatest of a young boy’s treasures. … … … There’s just so much wrong to unpack there, I’m not even going to start.
Again and again I see cats pop up in this way – rarely as fluffy lovable companions, but as cold creatures ripe for sacrifice to further the story. Tortured and maimed, run over, and discarded. It happens in Feed, it happens in First Test. It happens across all genres, though horror is more common. There are so many more examples than I have here.
In witchy books, they pop up often as offering. In The Diviners, a cat is killed to read its intestines. And while I know Libba Bray made this choice because that’s a traditional folklorish way of divining the future… I don’t have to like it.
Just like dogs, cats are loving, sweet companions for so many of us, and if you wouldn’t write that scene with a dog, please don’t write it with a cat. I don’t need graphic descriptions of animal murders to further the story. Nobody does.
Have you even been thrown off by a cat-killing in a book you were otherwise enjoying? Every time something like that happens in books or movies, I have to go find my fluff balls and cuddle them. Tell me all about the unpleasant surprises you’ve found while reading in the comments!