The cat is on the floor, looking up at me and yelling as I type this. My original plan was for a piece on ‘Pets In Space’, but she’s threatened to vomit on my bed, under the covers, if I don’t focus solely on cats. Why? Because cats are better than dogs. I am typing this of my own free will. Please send salmon.
In all seriousness though, even dog lovers have to admit that cats would make better pets aboard a space craft: they don’t require as much food as any but the smallest dogs, unlike many dog breeds they don’t need a lot of space to run around, and they’re great at catching the rodents chewing on the cables of the life-support system.
Now, with that debate settled, let’s look at some of the best cats in space across literature, comics, film, and video games.
The Kilrathi from Wing Commander
Wing Commander is a series of classic, well-regarded space combat games, and one, well, poorly-regarded film. For comparison, 1994’s Wing Commander III featured Full Motion Video cutscenes with a cast that included Mark Hamill, Malcom McDowell, and John Rhys-Davies, while 1999’s Wing Commander film starred… Freddie Prinze Jr.
But we’re not here to talk about humans and their command of wings, we’re here to talk about cats. With Wing Commander we aren’t talking about cuddly-yet-vicious pets, no, we’re talking about the Kilrathi – a sentient race of glorious, bipedal cat people!
Just look at all that majesty! These warriors are 2 metres tall, with teeth and claws to match, and are far stronger – and fluffier – than humans. At this stage, I’m not sure if they poop in a box, but they sure as heck can develop interstellar travel, build a galaxy-spanning empire, and go to war against those pesky shaved apes (that’s us, BTW).
Lying Cat from Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Saga is a fantastic science fiction comic written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples. It’s big, bold, colourful, weird, and well worth your time. Amongst Saga’s cast of characters is The Will, a freelance bounty hunter, with a sidekick cat – appropriately called Lying Cat – who can tell when a person is lying and isn’t shy about calling them out on it. While The Will makes good use of Lying Cat’s ability, half the fun of their interactions is when he’s caught out bluffing by his own pet.
Lying Cat is a unique and entertaining character in a comic full of great characters. Not only that, but some people, for some strange reason, say that Lying Cat is a perfect mascot for politics in 2017. 11/10, would scratch chin and tell truths.
Spot from Star Trek: The Next Generation
In Star Trek: TNG the crew of the Enterprise was a varied bunch. As well as the expected vanilla humans, you’ve also got Worf the Klingon, Deanna Troi the half-human, half-Betazoid counsellor, the android Data, and most importantly of all, Data’s pet cat Spot – the heroic feline who saved the crew from a devolution virus (sort of), and (kinda) taught Data how to feel. Beyond that though, I just find it heartening to know that far in the future, when mankind has joined a utopian Federation of alien races, people will still struggle with getting their cats to behave… and that cats will be just as fussy about their food as they are now.
Aineko from Accelerando by Charles Stross
Accelerando, by Charles Stross, is idea-dense, weird, brilliant, and encompasses so much about technology, politics, business, transhumanism and the future of humanity, whilst still telling a compelling story about family. Not only that, but Stross offers the ebook for free on his website.
I might be cheating somewhat with this entry, because Aineko isn’t a cat in the strictest sense, but rather, a cat-like robot… But if I can include sentient cat aliens in this list, then cat robots are fair game too.
Now, a robocat could be interesting enough on its own, but Stross doesn’t stop there. Hell, with the sheer creative madness on display in Accelerando, I don’t think Stross could have stopped there if he wanted to. See, whilst Aineko might start off as little more than a consumer-grade product, hacks and upgrades see the catbot growing increasingly more intelligent, eventually [SPOILER WARNING] becoming a sort of digital cat god. And really, isn’t godhood what every cat wants, nay, deserves?
I can’t remember if Aineko technically goes into space, but, like, when you’re a being of pure information what even is space, maaaan?
Jones from Alien
One of these creatures is an apex predator with razor-sharp claws and a complete disregard for humanity. The other is a xenomorph. The titular alien from the 1979 film Alien is a horrifying and agile parasitic beast with a tough carapace, a blade for a tail and acid for blood, which is born by literally tearing through a person’s ribcage… and yet it still wasn’t able to kill a cat. Why? Because cats are the best. Don’t @ me.
Even if you haven’t seen the film, I’m sure you can imagine that things don’t go well for the crew of the Nostromo when they cross paths with the xenomorph. But the alien critter didn’t count on the grit of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), or the survivability of your average house (ship?) cat. While Jones the cat might not be of much use to Ripley in outmaneuvering and [38 YEAR-OLD SPOILER WARNING] eventually dispatching the alien, just the fact that the cat survived one of the most terrifying and tense massacres in the history of science fiction cinema makes Jones the Official BEST CAT IN SPACE (Which Is Really A Real Award)™
- Red Dwarf – The Cat: Honestly, I always thought he was some sort of greaser vampire.
- Samurai Pizza Cats: They’re samurai cats in super-armour who fight evil, break through the fourth wall, AND make pizza – what’s not to love? Sadly, they spend most of their time on the ground… because in space, no one can smell you cooking pizza.
Top image: Paul Galdone’s cover art for Space Cat by Ruthven Todd (1952)
This article was originally published in May 2017.
Corey J. White is a writer of science fiction, horror, magical realism, and LIES. He really thinks the best space cat is Seven from his debut book, Killing Gravity, but obviously he’s biased. Its sequel, Void Black Shadow, publishes March 2018. Find him at coreyjwhite.com and on Twitter at @cjwhite.