We cat lovers are thrilled when cats are featured on our favorite television shows. It’s great fun to see what kind of trouble our often-pesky friends can stir up, particularly when they prove that they are capable of much more than we thought. Cats have been on the tube since shows began airing. Whether they are in a heroic role, an “annoying” but funny role, or just plain sitting around the house, often times they can make a tremendous impact on the programs we are watching.
Here are twenty amazing cats who’ve surprised us with their great acting skills.
1. Spot from Star Trek: The Next Generation, belonged to DATA the android
When DATA determines that he wants to have a pet, he chooses an orange tabby cat and names him Spot. Data is seeking what it means to be a human, and he uses his computer brain to analyze what Spot is thinking and why Spot does what he does. Obviously, DATA has much to accomplish when discerning the curious nature of cats. DATA compares Spot to canines when explaining how Spot should be cared for when DATA is under observation for some irregularities in his own behavior. SPOT turns out to be a girl cat, who has a litter of kittens, and this also complicates DATA’s yearning for understanding cat and human reactions to them. DATA struggles with his emotion chip, and believes he has his emotions under control until he discovers Spot after the ship crashes. DATA cries when Spot is found, and he wonders if the chip is malfunctioning. Counselor Troy says that she believes the chip is functioning perfectly. Brent Spiner’s amazing portrayal of DATA’s exploration into human emotions concerning Spot rank high in the world of Star Trek. Parallel to Spock’s exploration of his human and Vulcan emotions, Spiner carried on the tradition within the Star Trek universe of explaining what it means to be human in a world filled with technology.
2. Toonces the Driving Cat on Saturday Night Live: “Driver’s Test”
Toonces could drive a car, but he couldn’t drive it very well. He was a popular character on Saturday Night Live, where Steve Martin and Victoria Jackson played his owners. Martin played Lyle and Victoria played Brenda. Lyle and Brenda were the Clarks. Dana Carvey took over the role of Lyle after the first sketch. The Clarks were always excited that Toonces could drive their car, and always horrified when Toonces was not very skilled. Always after the fact, when it was far too late, the Clarks would see that Toonces always drove the car over a cliff. The running joke was that the Clarks would always respond with the same punch line, “See, I told you he could drive….just not very well!”
The fictional black and white tabby cat caused plenty of chuckles during his appearances. He was portrayed by a combination of a real cat and a cat puppet. Someone inside the car would yell for Toonces to “look out”, the Toonces puppet would generally scream, and the car would go over the cliff; and sometimes even explode on its way down. The puppet cat was made in three parts to facilitate puppetry. The head and torso was designed to look like a short-haired, gray and white tabby stripe cat. There were also two separate paws which simulated Toonces using the car’s steering wheel. The recurring comedy sketch was so very popular that Toonces was featured in his own half-hour special on NBC in 1992.
3. Salem Saberhagen in Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Salem Saberhagen was the very vocal talking cat who was once a young warlock. He’d been sentenced to 100 years as a cat, because he dreamed of being Emperor of Earth, and dominating the world. His punishment was spending a long life as a cat. The live action cat, Salem, was based on the character from Archie Comics. In the original comics Salem was black and white, and when Filmation created an animated version, Salem was orange. In the newest version, Salem became a black cat with yellow eyes. Salem lived with Sabrina’s aunts. Salem’s character was required to speak, and he was voiced by voice actor Nik Balay, who was also a writer for the show. Salem was portrayed by a combination of live black cats and a group of talented puppeteers. Salem’s first appearance on the show was when Sabrina got up for the day and brought him downstairs with her. There were four cats who portrayed the live action version of Salem throughout the show’s run. Trainer Mark Watters brought Salem, Elvis, Witch and Lucy to play the part, and each cat was given the work they did best while filming.
4. Little Boy Cat in Psych: “9 Lives”
Shawn identified an orange calico cat as the witness in an apparent suicide case. He spotted the cat on the sofa, and decided that he was willing to wait for the cat to finish its bath. He did, however, want to talk to the cat. The feline was featured throughout the episode as Little Boy Cat, though many fans have speculated that it was a girl (due to the calico coloring which is more common in females). Shawn carried the cat around with him as proof that his witness would give him information about the suicide. Shawn even pretended that the cat channeled the dead so that Shawn could communicate with the suicide victim. Little Boy Cat ultimately saved the day by jumping onto the exposed murderer’s shoulder, saving police officer Buzz McNab from the murderer’s threats.
5. Isis in Star Trek: The Original Series: “Assignment: Earth”
In this episode, Victoria Vetri played a stunning black-haired woman who transforms into a black cat. Vetri, a.k.a. Angela Dorian, was the 1968 Playboy Playmate of the Year. The black-haired woman is seen only briefly at the end of this episode, but she is the human version of Isis, the sleek and mysterious black cat which is seen throughout the episode. Agent Gary Seven and Isis are accidently beamed aboard the Enterprise. Isis and Agent Seven are visiting Earth, but Captain Kirk isn’t certain if Seven is there to do good or evil. Complicating the story is that secretary Roberta Lincoln, played by Teri Garr, notices there is something strange about Isis. Seven keeps the cat nearby him, and Roberta can’t put her finger on their relationship. She’s also attracted to Seven, it seems. Isis reveals her true selves at the episode’s end. Star Trek trivia notes that three black cats portrayed Isis, and Barbara Babcock did meowing voice-overs for Isis.
6. Henrietta in Gomer Pyle USMC: “Cat Overboard”
He’s not supposed to have animals on base. But Gomer loves the cat, who keeps coming back to him. The cat reminds him of his cat at home, so he calls her Henrietta. The Sgt. announces that the Pyle will need to leave the cat at home because they are all shipping out on a Marine vessel. No cats allowed. But, the pretty orange stripped tabby has other ideas, and so does Pyle. Animal love Pyle smuggles the cat aboard the vessel, and before the episode ends, pregnant Henrietta delivers a litter of precious little kittens on board the ship!
7. Dr. Robert Oppenheimer in The Big Bang Theory: “The Zazzy Substitution”
Sheldon becomes upset when he and Amy break up. He turns up with Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, a beautiful black and white tuxedo cat. Sheldon is taking the cat with him everywhere…the cafeteria and even the bathroom. He’s not only adopted Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, but he’s collected 25 cats and given them all names. The apartment is filled with cats named after The Manhattan Project, except for Zazzles, who Sheldon names differently because the cat is so chubby. Sheldon says he now has a “clouder” of cats…the correct name for a group of them.
Leonard worries over Sheldon and calls in Sheldon’s mother, Mrs. Cooper, to try to help him. She says there is nothing Sheldon can do that will surprise him. But, upon entering the bedroom, she first notices the smell, and then reacts to all the “cute Jewish names” Sheldon has given them. She says Leonard should have called sooner.
8. Lord Tubbington in Glee
The cast dishes on Lord Tubbington, whose real name is Aragon. Apparently Lord Tubbington is a diva cat. The truth about Lord Tubbington is that he has no boundaries. Whenever the cast has to shoot a scene with him, Aragon will have an idea of his own for blocking. He’s a cat with attitude, and he often will reach out a fat paw to scratch someone. Aragon is a huge, huge striped tabby cat, who often gets what he wants based on his sheer size. Never has a fat stomach been bared so proudly. On Britney’s new talk show, Fondue for Two, Lord Tubbington shares the fondue, because he’s on Atkins.
9. Ser Pounce in Game of Thrones
When Margery visits Prince Tommen in his bedroom during the night, Ser Pounce makes his momentary appearance. Ser Pounce is Tommen’s cat, but barely makes more than a cameo during the series. Ser Pounce appears to be a Main Coon, who leaps onto Prince Tommen’s bed. Ser Pounce has a rich meow, but Tommen tells Margery that Jeffrey threatened to skin Ser Pounce alive and add him to Tommen’s food. Viewers often wonder what happened to Ser Pounce after this intimate moment with Tommen and Margery.
10. Clap Clap Kitty Cat the 3rd in Reba: “The Cat’s Meow”
When this black and white tuxedo cat comes home with Kyra, Barbra Jean discovers her cat allergies. She takes the cat to Van to hide it. The cat is given the dubious name of Clap Clap Kitty Cat the 3rd by Barbra Jean, and the kitty gets acting scenes with the show’s regulars. She finally makes a dash through Reba’s kitchen to escape from the wacky household.
11. Sam in Hawaii Five-O: “King Kamehameha Blues”
This episode is filled with this pure white cat’s shenanigans. Sam the cat has a blue eye and a yellow eye. Sam is an important part of a student prank to steal King Kamehameha’s cloak from the Bishop Museum. The students decide to break in and use Sam as their feline thief. They lower Sam into the museum on a makeshift harness. They lower Sam from the museum’s roof bypassing the alarm over a skylight, which is opened to lower the cat. Eddie, played by Randall Duk Kim, is responsible for staging the test run with Sam. The students need to find out how quickly the police will arrive once a break-in is discovered. The students have spread catnip on the cloak to entice Sam to it. But Sam sets off a floor alarm near the cloak and runs to hide. Kono finds Sam when the Five-O team arrives. McGarrett tells Danno to “take him downtown and book him for trespassing. Read him his rights and give him some milk and catnip.” Two cat actors portrayed Sam, because later scenes show a white cat with two blue eyes.
12. Sherman in Cosby: “That Darn Cat”
“Hey! Ho! Look out! There’s a cat!” Sherman the cat is supposed to stay upstairs because Hilton (Cosby) is allergic to cats. Erica promises the keep the cat upstairs. Hilton is sleeping on the sofa, but Sherman escapes and finds him there. Before long, Sherman has the run of the house and finds that the sofa is his favorite place. Sherman snoops everywhere. He even hangs around Hilton as much as he can, just because cats stay closest to the people who dislike them the most! Sherman’s bad behavior is essential to a crucial plot twist, and humor reigns.
13. Mustard in Lassie: “The Cat Who Came to Dinner”
It’s a rainy, stormy night when Mustard comes to dinner with the Martin family. Lassie discovers the stray orange marmalade cat and Timmy opens the door to discover Mustard outside in the rain and soaked with mud. They decide to bring Mustard inside. Lassie and Mustard take to each other and once Mustard has a bath, his beautiful fur coat is obvious. Mustard has a sprained paw, so he gets to spend the night. He’s part of the family activities in no time, as they care for his hurt paw and nurse him to health with Lassie’s help. Unfortunately, Mustard is a big con artist, too! Lassie is the first to discover Mustard’s secret side, of course, and the plot thickens from there.
14. The Dick Van Dyke Show: “Gesundheit, Darling”
The show starts with Rob sneezing during a friendly card game. Jerry says its psychosomatic, and that Rob is angry about something. Jerry thinks Rob is angry with Laura. Rob says his nose is just itching, and it started when he went into Rich’s room to give him a drink of water. Conversational hijinks about angry sneezing continue along with Rob’s sneezing. He even sneezes in his sleep. Rob can’t figure out what’s making him sneeze, so he visits a doctor for allergy testing. Turns out he’s allergic to pet dander and rag weed. The doctor assumes there’s something in his house that’s making him sneeze, unless he’s allergic to Laura. Turns out that Freddie and Richie are having a club together, a cute little kitten is the new member! Though the kitty makes its appearance at the episode’s end, the entire show is hilarious, as Rob sneezes his way through it. When the kitten comes in to prove Rob’s allergy, he is the most adorable little tuxedo kitten with pure white paws- a wonderful ball of fur.
15. Lucky in A.L.F.
When A.L.F. crash lands into the Tanner’s garage, they find the furry Alien Life Form inside. Throughout the series, there was a running joke about Alf’s favorite meal. He liked to eat cats, and the Tanner family had a wonderful Maine Coon whose name happened to be Lucky. Lucky was included in the main theme song for the show, and he was featured evading Alf many times during the series run.
16. Rusty in Mission: Impossible: “The Seal”
In this Mission: Impossible classic comic episode, Orangey portrays Rusty the IMF agent cat. The cat is trained to fetch with dog-like skill in order to steal an ancient jade seal which must be returned to its country of origin. Orangey was a marmalade tabby cat who was trained for many different roles in film and on television during the 1950s and 60s. His owner was Frank Inn, the American cinematic animal trainer best known for his work on the Benji series. Orangey was credited under various names throughout his career. He is famous for working with Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, portraying “Cat”. He often ran away from filming, but he also could work long hours at a time. He would scratch and bite his fellow actors, earning him the nickname of “the world’s meanest cat”.
17. Debby in House M.D. : “Here Kitty”
Debby was a nursing home cat. She was shorthaired cat with a thick coat of gray fur. Debbie was in a news story because of claims that Debbie could predict when someone was going to die. She would supposedly pick the next person in line, and curl up by them to sleep. With patients dying after Debby made her choice, news traveled fast. House was determined to discover Debbie’s failures. Eventually, he realized that Debbie would curl up on warm blankets. Debbie the Death Cat was just trying to stay warm.
18. Ling Ling in Bewitched
Ling Ling is played by the beautiful actress Greta Chi. Actually, the actress has been magically transformed from a Siamese cat when Samantha attempts to help Darrin find the perfect model for one of his ad campaigns. Though Ling Ling is seen as a human at the beginning of the episode, her cat behaviors increase through the episode. Samantha gives her a bowl of milk which she starts to drink, just before Samantha transforms her back into a luxurious Siamese cat.
19. Stanley in Alfred Hitchcock Presents: “Miss Paisley’s Cat”
Stanley the striped tabby is just an alley cat, but Miss Paisley adores him. He turns up in her apartment unexpectedly, and he’s scruffy. Miss Paisley calls him ugly, but it’s apparent that she’s pleased to have company. She invites him to stay for dinner, and decides to keep him against the rules. Stanley quickly becomes the center of a murder mystery…his own. Stanley was portrayed by Orangey (the same cat who played agent Rusty from Mission: Impossible), but he was uncredited for his role as Stanley.
20. Mon Su in Perry Mason: “The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat”
In “The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat” the beautiful Siamese is seen in the early part of the episode. The cat, Mon Su, is owned by James Hing, the caretaker played by Benson Fong. Hing cares for wealthy Mr. Baxter, who creates a scheme to test his grandchildren’s motives concerning his money. When Hing’s patient, Mr. Baxter dies in a fire, the arson squad investigates the fire. When Baxter’s will is read to his family, Baxter bequeaths $3.5 million dollars to the caretaker, and $1 to each of his three grandchildren. Hing asks Perry Mason to represent him in the subsequent murder investigation. Hing claims that Baxter is alive and set up a fake murder scene. The presence of the cat is related to the original novel by Erle Stanley Gardner, also a criminal lawyer and author. In the original story, the cat was given a place to live along with the caretaker, which angered the family members even more. A nod is given to the cat’s importance in the television adaptation by Hing’s loving companionship with the Siamese.
Three of Perry Mason’s TV episodes featured a cat:
- The Case of the Careless Kitten (featuring Monkey, the Siamese cat)
- The Case of the Silent Partner (featuring Monkey, the Siamese cat)
- The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat (featuring Mon Su, most likely Monkey, the Siamese cat)