Owning a cat is an amazing experience. They will provide you with companionship, love, and, given a proper laser pointer, hours of entertainment. Many people all around the world are proud cat owners. They can be simple pets, emotional support animals, or even can perform services such as rodent control on a farm. Cats come in all shapes and sizes. However, they all have descended from a single breed known as Felis sylvestris lybica – the African Wildcat. Over the course of many years, each distinct breed of cat – such as the Siamese, Sphynx, Russian Blue, or Maine Coon – has developed certain traits either due to environmental factors or through intentional breeding by humans. There is a lot that one can learn about cats. Whether you are a cat owner already, are considering adopting a new feline, or just have an interest in these wonderful animals, you may want to learn more about them. One of the best ways to do so is through educational films such as documentaries. If you want to learn more about cats, check out these Twenty Cat Documentaries You Need to See.
The Private Life of a Cat
This is a rather old documentary short that might be better described as an experimental film. It was released in 1944 after creators Alexander Hammid and Maya Deren completed this intimate study of the feline life cycle. The Private Life of a Cat follows a female cat and her litter of kittens. It also shows the process of maturation.
The Private Life of a Cat is shot exclusively from a cat’s eye level. It is also a silent film and was shot on black-and-white film. The coolest thing about this documentary is that it does not feature a single human. Instead, the female cat gives birth to and raises her litter entirely on her own (as it would be in nature). This film was also quite well-received by the documentary ratings company Top Documentary Films, who called it “beautifully photographed and executed”.
The Wonderful World of Cats
The Wonderful World of Cats is a longer documentary that goes into detail about the popularity of domestic cats. It attempts to trace how “one of nature’s most efficient killers” (i.e., a cat) ended up being the companion animals that we know them as today. The film will comprehensively evaluate the natural and human causes of the evolution of the modern domestic feline. This film also examines the dangerous predatory cousins of the modern cat – namely, cheetahs, tigers, and lions. It draws parallels between the behavior of a housecat and that of a wild big cat. Overall, The Wonderful World of Cats is a fascinating documentary. Plus, it is available in its entirety for free from the company that produced it.
CATS – Choosing, Caring and Training
This film isn’t strictly a documentary. However, the expert testimony and solid information that CATS – Choosing, Caring, and Training provides is quite valuable for any cat owner, regardless of experience. It will help you to learn more about how to properly care for a cat. The general idea behind this film is to provide comprehensive instruction on every aspect of owning and caring for a cat. Some of the topics that the film covers are emergency preparedness, behavior modification, and health care needs. It also touches on nutrition and training. CATS – Choosing, Caring, and Training is geared towards the beginning cat owner. Despite this, it is a great film for anyone to watch who wishes to be the best cat owner they can be.
A Cat’s Life
This relatively obscure documentary follows the lives of a small group of cats – well, three cats and three kittens. It is a very short film that only comes in at about 20 minutes long. Very few people have actually seen this film due to its relative rarity. However, it is still worth a watch. A Cat’s Life was directed, written, and produced by Jonathon ‘The Impaler’ Sharkey – a professional wrestler, presidential and gubernatorial candidate, and self-proclaimed vampire. The cats in the film are also all Sharkey’s cats. Though A Cat’s Life has received mixed reviews, it is worth checking out if only to enjoy a documentary made by such an eccentric individual.
Some people own an excessive number of cats. Though they are often ridiculed and called “crazy cat ladies”, the true story behind these feline enthusiasts is rarely fully explored. Instead of ascribing to the pattern of stereotyping, you might want to check out Cat Ladies – especially if you know a feline collector or think you might be one yourself. The documentary focuses on portraying the women who have a lot of cats in an honest and objective way. These ladies’ self-worth and lives are permanently linked with their feline companions. After all, they are responsible for their cats and kittens. In a lot of cases, they may not have control over their lives or feel valued. But when it comes to their cats, they are the center of the world.
Pussies Galore: Love Me, Love My Cats
Pussies Galore: Love Me, Love My Cats was originally a TV special released in the United Kingdom. It follows a few feline enthusiasts – who are actually self-described “crazy cat people” – as they go about their daily lives. It explores their relationships and interactions with their feline companions. This film is a great documentary for getting a good look into the world of those people who own a lot of cats. This film is quite interesting because it covers subjects that aren’t often covered in other documentaries. For example, Pussies Galore: Love Me, Love My Cats shot on-site in a cat sanctuary that has literally thousands of cats. Another cool location that this documentary brought some awareness to is a café that allows cats to hang out inside and interact with their customers. This is definitely a good watch for someone who would like to learn something new about “crazy cat person” life in the United Kingdom.
The Secret Life of Cats
This National Geographic documentary stands apart from the usual fare offered by the production company. Instead of being a dense and fact-heavy affair, The Secret Life of Cats is meant to be a lighthearted look at what a cat does when its owners aren’t looking. Narrated, written, and directed by Allison Argo, this documentary is easy to watch and quite entertaining. The Secret Life of Cats mainly focuses on how domesticated felines interfere with the natural order. The film also uses its platform to advance the notion that all cats should be fixed in order to avoid overpopulation or increasing numbers of feral cats. The film also visits locations all over the world – including Australia and New Zealand – keeping the subject matter fresh and interesting.
Best Friend Forgotten
Best Friend Forgotten is a 2004 documentary that is hosted by David Duchovny of X-Files. While the film is not strictly about cats, but rather is about pets as a whole, it does feature a cat named Oreo in one of the lead roles. The documentary focuses on the issue of pet overpopulation and how the problem can be mitigated in the 21st century. This film touches on some controversial topics in an objective and fair way. For instance, there is a section on euthanasia for unwanted pets – a common practice in high-volume shelters. This is placed in stark contrast with the ‘no-kill’ movement. Each is examined fairly and the documentary draws a strong conclusion. Other topics in Best Friend Forgotten include candid interviews about pet overpopulation and what can be done to prevent it, as well as its societal costs.
The Lion in Your Living Room
This comprehensive documentary takes a closer look at housecats, comparing them to lions, tigers, and other big cats. The Lion in Your Living Room’s cinematography makes use of graceful motions that look even better while they are slowed down. Plus, extreme close-ups on the cat as they do what they do offer some improved insight on the physical functions of one’s feline. The Lion in Your Living Room also takes a look at where cats go when they leave the house. It uses some of the latest technology to discover where your cat ends up going when they leave. One of the cats they followed even ended up having a whole other family (of the same distance) that lived across a lake. However, he would always return to his first family at night – so they never knew that he was essentially leading a double life.
The Story of Cats
PBS offers a two-part documentary called The Story of Cats for any viewers who are curious about how wildcats (dangerous predators) began to assimilate themselves into human society. There are significant portions of the show devoted to how modern felines had to overcome their rivals (canines) and become the animals of choice for humans who needed protection from rodents. The Story of Cats is primarily focused on the evolution and history of the modern housecat (especially in the second episode). It goes over a significant portion of the domesticated breeds that are out there today and explains how the traits they were birthed with came about. It also provides evidence and examples of the continuing changing nature of the common housecat regardless of breed.
It Usually Ends Well
This Swedish documentary tells the tale of one lady and her pregnant cat. It was written, produced, directed, and stars author Beate Grimsrud in the main role. It Usually Ends Well (a loose translation of the original title) can be somewhat hard to track down. However, if you do manage to find a copy of the original be sure that it is the version with English subtitles, as the original film is in Swedish. It Usually Ends Well is a unique documentary because it is less about the storyline itself and more about the metaphysical concepts it helps to convey. On the surface, it is simply about a woman whose cat goes missing mere days before it is due to have kittens. However, when you dig deeper into the meaning of the film, it is about love, loss, and personal identity – themes rarely explored in any other documentary.
The Standard of Perfection: Show Cats
Cat shows are an old tradition and a great way to show pride in your purebred pedigree feline. In The Standard of Perfection: Show Cats, the director of the film – Mark Lewis – lets the viewer get an up-close and personal look at the behind-the-scenes action of the International Cat Show in Houston. This film seeks to show how intensely the participants prepare for these shows – humans and cats alike. The ‘Standard of Perfection’ refers to a guideline that the judges at the show use to award prizes, points, and other accolades at cat shows. In the documentary this is no different as the judges have sworn to not let the fact that they are being filmed affect their judgment. So, when viewers meet some of the winning cats and competitors they will know that the sense of pride they display is quite real.
The Ultimate Guide: House Cats
The Ultimate Guide: House Cats is another mid-length documentary that seeks to address the position of the domesticated feline in contemporary society. This comprehensive film will go over the popularity of housecats and what it is about them that makes humans love them so much. It will also examine the origins of the contemporary housecat and may make a hypothesis about the most recent common ancestor between all domestic felines. Besides merely examining how and why cats became so popular, The Ultimate Guide: House Cats will also talk about some of their most important features. For example, the film discusses the nimbleness of a housecat and how they can sprint at speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour. Another key trait discussed in the film is their innate and powerful sense of touch. This documentary is truly comprehensive and will go over several more traits as well as other important information about housecats.
Science of Cats
Another documentary from National Geographic is also worth a watch if you like to learn about cats. Science of Cats examines how the cat – over 600 million of which live in households across many continents – has become the most popular pet on the face of the planet. It also goes deep into the history of cats, explaining practices observed as early as ancient Egypt (the mummification of housecats). Science of Cats seeks to explain one thing in particular – how humans and felines started to live together and work as a team. It opens up with a powerful statement about how cats are the only animals to domesticate themselves. What the film seeks to do is provide the viewer with a better understanding of exactly how and why this happened and how it continues to affect human-feline relationships today.
This BBC film seeks to explain the divide between those who love cats and those who can’t stand them. This is an especially-relevant conflict in modern times as their numbers have grown incredibly quickly – up to ten million cats live in the United Kingdom alone. While this is great for those who like cats, others see it as an epidemic. Cat Wars has the ambitious goal of explaining why some people like cats and some people don’t. Throughout the course of the documentary, a few interviews with people on both sides of the fence are also included. For example, one of the women interviewed for the show is named Silvana. She is definitely a cat lover as she owns more than 50 cats – and tells the viewers exactly why in Cat Wars.
Cats: Caressing the Tiger
This is another mid-length documentary that has a very wide scope. Cats: Caressing the Tiger will delve deep into the history of the housecat and explain how that led to them becoming America’s favorite pet in the late 20th century (this film was released in 1991). It will go over everything from ancient Egyptian cat worship to their contemporary roles as support animals for elderly and autistic individuals. Cats: Caressing the Tiger also shows that cats are still quite similar to their bigger cousins (such as panthers, tigers, and bobcats). Despite their affectionate and loving behavior, they are still dangerous predators to small animals such as rodents. The film will go into the science behind some cat behaviors as well – so if you want to learn about what makes a cat purr or how they can jump so high, this film will be perfect for you and your significant other.
Kedi is a unique documentary about the street cats of Istanbul. It focuses on seven individual cats, following them as they lead their daily lives in the city. Each of the cats has their own distinct personality and method of interacting with the vibrant population of this ancient city. The documentary explores how the changing city might soon lose its place for the stray domestic cats that call it home. This film gives a perspective on life from the view of these street cats. It is a fascinating documentary that serves to profile not only the cats themselves but the city as a whole. Kedi is perfect viewing material for someone who has an interest in human-cat interactions, especially as related to domestic strays. The subject matter of this film has not been replicated or is even comparable to any other documentary so far.
Winky: A Feral Cat
This short documentary offers a compelling and original viewpoint on the widespread problem of feline overpopulation. It follows a feral cat named Winky who hails from southeastern Pennsylvania. This documentary short is a heartbreaking and poignant tale that makes the problem of feral cats seem all too real. Winky: A Feral Cat also serves to educate the viewers on methods to reduce local feral populations. The main technique discussed in the documentary is trap-neuter-return (TNR). This is discussed in the film by a cat rescue group as well as a veterinarian. They prove that the technique works to keep the homeless cat population in check by preventing breeding between cats that live on the streets.
Jo Brand’s Cats & Kittens
This documentary television series, hosted by English comedian Jo Brand, is a compelling look at how the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) functions in the United Kingdom. She follows their team as they rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome felines from all walks of life. This documentary series is a welcome change from the usual fare, offering a more lighthearted take on cats and kittens. Jo Brand’s Cats & Kittens has featured cats that were in all sorts of situations. For example, one episode showed how the RSPCA rescued a kitten who had fallen four stories and another that found itself stuck up a chimney. Many other crazy situations must be mitigated by Jo Brand and the RSPCA – making this one of the more interesting documentary series out there about cats.
All About Cats
The final documentary on our list is a highly-informative and entertaining film called All About Cats. Its host brings a lot of humor to the show while still retaining the important cat information that it promises. The documentary goes in depth about many aspects of felines. The most distinct focus that All About Cats has is on the internal anatomy of a cat. It uses plain language to explain some tough scientific concepts (such as the way a cat’s eye works). It also touches on the history of cats as well as a few training methods. All-in-all, this documentary provides some of the best information available on cats and should definitely be placed on your viewing list.