Cats were anthropomorphized long before TV was around. Yet there’s something magical about watching cartoon cats in action, perhaps because we’re seeing what all cats could be if not constricted by the bounds of reality. So many of us have fond memories of watching cartoon kitties on television, either garnering laughs or inspiring us in ways we can’t put words to.
Watching videos of cats has long been a stress reliever, with people enjoying all kinds of cat entertainment. The way that animation is used now promotes the ability to learn new knowledge and understand specific content, from young children to adults. There are almost too many cartoons with curious cats to count, but we went ahead and tried to do it anyway!
Whether you’re looking for classic cartoons, cartoons for adults, or cartoons for kids, check out the list of our favorite cats on TV.
Cats in classic cartoons
Garfield, “Garfield and Friends”
The lazy, lasagna-loving orange tabby tops our list of TV cartoon cats. Always charming in print, Garfield really comes to life (as it were, since he is often napping) in the 1988 animated series featuring adventures with Odie, Jon, and more. Garfield is one of the easiest cats to recognize, surviving decades in the hearts of viewers.
Scratchy and Snowball(s), “The Simpsons”
It’s a tad unfair to include both (all?) of the Simpsons cats in one entry since they represent such different characters: Scratchy the black cat is kind but endlessly tortured by Itchy the mouse, while Snowball is an ongoing family pet of various, ahem, identities.
Tom Cat, “The Tom and Jerry Show”
The grey and white “tomcat” is the titular character of this classic cartoon. While not especially talkative, he is very vocal about his dislike for Jerry Mouse. More often than not, his trap-setting antics spectacularly backfire—much to the amusement of Jerry.
Sylvester the Cat, The “Looney Tunes” Universe
The sworn enemies of cats: If it isn’t a mouse, it’s a bird! We all know the line: “I tawt I taw a puddy tat… I did, I did!” And, of course, Sylvester’s famous catchphrase, “Sufferin' succotash!"
Sylvester, the tuxedo cat, has died more times than any other cartoon character on the Looney Tunes, usually while chasing escape artist Tweety.
Felix, “Felix the Cat”
Felix the cat first showed up in the silent film era. In the 1950s, Felix became a TV star. He’s the oldest of the cartoon cats on our list and perhaps the cleverest: His secret bag of tricks helps him through many dangerous adventures, where he always has the last laugh.
Top Cat, “Top Cat”
This 1960s animated series features an ensemble of streetwise felines, including the titular Top Cat. The clever yellow tabby is loyal to his gang but isn’t opposed to pulling a fast one on them as he does on Officer Dibble, the local beat cop.
The Pink Panther, “The Pink Panther Show”
The cat with pink fur starred in a series of animated shorts from the late 1960s to the late 70s. This heroic, morally-minded cat has the manners of an English aristocrat and a lack of patience for humans and gadgets. Even so, he makes the best of the situation.
Cats in kids’ cartoons
The ThunderCats, “ThunderCats”
Okay, so these TV cartoon cats aren’t really cats—they’re basically cat-human-alien hybrids. The ThunderCats are forced to flee their homeland for a planet called Third Earth. The amazing cat names alone make it worth checking out: Lion-O, Panthro, Jaga, Tygra, Cheetara, and more.
Conjoined cat and dog siblings? Woof. These brothers must navigate life attached to one another, hatching schemes along the way. Cat is the clever one (can’t say we’re surprised) who longs for fame and fortune. Unfortunately, Dog often forces things off track.
Angelica’s Persian cat, Fluffy, looks and acts just like her human mom. (We’ll let you decide if that’s a good or bad thing.) Fluffy is the rival of Tommy’s dog Spike, often wreaking havoc only to blame it on the dog.
Cringer/Battle Cat, “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe”
Cringer, Prince Adam’s lazy feline companion, has an alter ego just like his human dad: He transforms into Battle Cat, He-Man’s huge, fearless mount. Like any cat forced into servitude, Cringer hates turning into Battle Cat—but he does it for his human.
Stimpy, “The Ren & Stimpy Show”
The antidote to “CatDog,” this Manx cat and Chihuahua team, leaves us grappling with the idea that the cat could be the dimwitted one. Stimpy is a slow but good-natured cat, while Ren is, well, insane. Together, they face odd adventures—often with a sprinkle of adult humor thrown in.
Puss in Boots, “Shrek”
Even though he started off as a villain in the “Shrek” franchise, he soon became one of Shrek’s closest companions. He’s best known for his adorable, big kitty eyes that he gives to people in order to sway them into a distraction. With his hat beneath his chin, it’s hard to think anything but “Aww!”
In a true fairy tale story, he’s now the main character: Puss in Boots even has his own spin-off series that showcases just how suave and feisty he truly is.
Meowth is one of Japan’s most famous cartoon cats, being a part of the Pokémon franchise since 1997. He is one of Team Rocket’s team mascots and chases Ash and his friends with other Team Rocket members.
Meowth is special because he gained the ability to speak, unlike other Pokémon in the franchise.
Duchess, “The Aristocats”
Disney’s biggest characters might be Mickey and Minnie Mouse, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love cats!
Though maybe not the most popular of Disney’s movies, “The Aristocats” still has a large following, especially Duchess herself. Known for her lush-looking coat and dainty appearance, there was a rise in the name Duchess for cats after the movie came out.
The story follows her and her kittens (Berlioz, Marie, Toulouse) as they go on a journey after being abandoned, meeting friends along the way.
Cheshire Cat, “Alice in Wonderland”
This smiling cat may or may not have freaked you out a bit as a child, with his ability to appear and disappear, only leaving behind a wide and alluring smile. The animated version from Disney truly brought to life the mysterious nature that is the Cheshire cat.
Before we leave the House of Mouse, we want to give a quick shout-out to other cats of the Happiest Land on Earth. The tuxedo cat Figaro from “Pinocchio” charmed audiences in 1940 and later played Minnie Mouse’s cat in a handful of cartoon shorts.
Next, the housecats we love wouldn’t be here today without their big cat ancestors. In the animated world, that might be Simba of “The Lion King.” Or perhaps that would be Tigger from “Winnie the Pooh.”
Cats in adult cartoons
Mr. Kitty, “South Park”
Eric Cartman’s pet cat makes an appearance in a variety of “South Park” episodes. Most of the show’s content is a little too “adult” to describe here—suffice it to say Mr. Kitty takes after her owner by succeeding in stunts like getting a massive group of cats to snort catnip.
Talking Cat, “Rick and Morty”
A recent season of everyone’s favorite sci-fi cartoon features Talking Cat, voiced by Matthew Broderick. The grey tabby’s existence is shrouded in mystery, especially the fact that he can talk. All we know is, for some reason, he needs to get to Florida.
Princess Carolyn, “Bojack Horseman”
Bojack’s agent and occasional girlfriend, Princess Carolyn, is a pink Persian to whom many of us can relate. Throughout the series, she struggles to find a balance between work, starting a family, and pleasing just about everyone but herself. We believe in you, Princess Carolyn!
Thubanian Leader, “Futurama”
Before “Rick and Morty,” there was “Futuruma.” The best cat cameo in this sci-fi adult cartoon is the leader of Thuban 9, the homeworld to a race of super-intelligent cats. This adorable white cat uses people as puppets and can summon a space saucer by meowing. We approve!
Mr. Business, “Bob’s Burgers”
For adults and kids alike, “Bob’s Burgers” offers the best of both worlds. This show’s kitty cameo comes in the form of Mr. Business, one of Aunt Gayle’s cats. Whether he’s a cat-dragon in a “Game of Thrones” mashup or proving difficult to train for a commercial, Mr. Business is all fun.
Luna and Artemis, “Sailor Moon”
Both Luna and Artemis serve as companions to the Sailor Scouts, helping them during battles and trying to solve everyday problems. Luna is arguably more popular as she is the titular character’s familiar, which means she helps to guide Sailor Moon on every journey.
Other famous cats in popular culture
Here’s the thing. Not every famous cartoon cat is actually in a cartoon. There are some famous cats that aren’t necessarily in their own shows or making many appearances on regular television but are still portrayed in the cartoon style.
Here are a few of them that might stick out to you:
Hello Kitty is likely the one cat (maybe even more so than Garfield) that everyone can recognize. She is the central character in the franchise Sanrio and appears on a variety of products, like backpacks, t-shirts, notepads, and more.
While she eventually did get her own series, it wasn’t how her fame started out. She’s considered one of the most iconic stars of the kawaii Japanese subculture and has made her way into the hearts of people all across the world.
We should note that the studio doesn’t consider this cat character to be a cat. In an interview with the LA Times, Sanrio said that Hello Kitty is actually a human girl. The public was divided on this matter, so we’ll let you be the judge.
“The Cat in The Hat” by Dr. Seuss
Though he made his own “live-action” appearance eventually, The Cat in The Hat rose to fame as one of Dr. Seuss's most iconic books. “The Cat in The Hat” is about a cat wearing a hat and entertaining two children as their mother is away at work or running errands. He gets the children into crazy situations, usually making a mess of their nice home, before cleaning it all up with a crazy machine.
Tony the Tiger, Frosted Flakes Mascot
Another famous cartoon-style cat that you can’t forget is Tony the Tiger. This cat is a grrrreat example of how a well-designed character can stick around for decades if done right.
Not only does Tony the Tiger represent Frosted Flakes, but he is often seen in other Kellogg's products. Originally debuting in 1952, he was up against three other possible mascots for the top spot. He ended up winning the contest and came out as the new face of Kellogg's.
Live-action cat stars
Okay, we know this post is covering cartoon cats. But we couldn’t help mentioning a few of our favorite live-action cats gracing the small screen.
Best sitcom cat: Salem from “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”
Everyone’s favorite talking black cat makes his appearance from episode one of this quirky 90s sitcom, although superfans know he originally appeared in the preceding comic book. Salem is played by four cats and puppeteers throughout the series. One thing that doesn’t change: He’s a refreshing furry presence in a household of witches.
(Honorable mention goes to Bandit/Garbage on “The Office” and Larry on “Modern Family.”)
Best cat(s) in an adult comedy show: Miscellaneous cats from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”
There’s no one best TV cat cameo in particular on “IASIP”—just all of them in general. From Dennis’s junkyard cat named Jack Bauer and Dee’s cat trapped in the wall to the infamous “kitten mittens” commercial and a clowder of alley cats whose meowing tortures Charlie and Frank at night, felines make some hilarious appearances in this adult comedy.
Best cat in teen TV shows: Salem from “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”
Yes, more Salem! Alas, Salem does not talk in Netflix’s dark retelling of the teenage witch Sabrina. He does serve as her faithful familiar on many dark adventures. Salem is played by five cats. We love the white spot on his chest, a likeness to the Celtic fairy cat called the Cat Sìth.
Best TV cat in sci-fi & fantasy: Spot from “Star Trek”
Spot is Data’s female cat, at times played by an orange tabby and other times played by an Abyssinian. She lived with Data while he served aboard the USS Enterprise-D and -E. Data even wrote a poem about the cat, which he called “Ode to Spot.” Time to step it up, cat parents!
(Honorable mention goes to Ser Pounce on “Game of Thrones.”)
Best cat on a TV drama: Siamese cats from “Perry Mason”
Siamese cats factor prominently in several “Perry Mason” episodes. In some cases, the cat even helps defense lawyer Perry Mason solve the murder mystery at hand. In one particular episode, it’s the tracked paw prints of the Siamese cat named Monkey that ends up helping the pieces fall into place!
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