Let’s face it: dogs get the long end of the stick when it comes to Disney animals. Rarely is a dog the bad guy in a Disney animated film, while cats tend to be villainized hardcore. Take Si and Am from Lady and the Tramp, or Lucifer from Cinderella. “Cat” has become synonymous with “cold” and “mean,” while dogs (as awesome as they are – Lady and the Tramp is my personal favorite Disney movie, and it’s all about dogs!) are usually seen as friendly and heroic.
But luckily, Disney hasn’t shown total prejudice against cats! There are quite a few felines in the Disney-animated-film canon that buck the bad-kitty stereotype. The following is just a smattering of examples – and keep in mind this list doesn’t include live-action badasses like Sassy from Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, or Binx from Hocus Pocus.
Figaro from Pinocchio
Figaro the tuxedo kitten is to Cleo the fish what Jiminy Cricket is to Pinocchio: a more level-headed acquaintance. He’s a little bratty, but who can blame him? Geppetto is bringing a wooden puppet to life in his house, which is some straight-up Goosebumps shiz. If it wasn’t for Figaro, who knows what kind of (other) illegal shenanigans would happen in that house?
Rufus from The Rescuers
Rufus is one of the standout characters of The Rescuers, despite his limited screen time. He’s an elderly cat with glasses whose job is to catch mice at the Morningside Orphanage, but instead, he helps Bernard and the flawless Miss Bianca track down lost orphan Penny, who he has the cutest relationship with. His mustache and glasses just make him that much more likable.
Nala from The Lion King
Nala is the definition of a strong, powerful woman. While Simba immediately charges forward in everything he does as a child, Nala is there to (literally) pin him down and ask him what his actual plan is. This doesn’t change in adulthood, either: Nala continues to be the brains and strength behind both Scar’s pseudo kingdom, and Simba’s eventual harmonious one.
Marie from The Aristocats
Marie is one of the most popular Disney cats for two reasons: One, she’s cute as a button, with her white fur and pink bows. And two, she is the epitome of sass, taking no disrespect from anyone, including her brothers Toulouse and Berlioz. She follows her mother Duchess’ ladylike example, but has an edge that Thomas O’Malley can definitely be proud of.
Dinah from Alice in Wonderland
The Cheshire Cat gets all the cat attention in Alice in Wonderland, but honestly, he always annoyed me with his devil-may-care attitude and penchant for disappearing whenever he felt like it. Dinah, on the other hand, knows what’s up. Alice’s non-Wonderland pet is the master of the cat side-eye, and serves as the audience’s conscience while also being super adorable.
Tigger from The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Tigger is probably the most widely favorited Winnie the Pooh character, for good reason. He’s the optimism that carries the others through when they’re having a blustery day, when Heffalumps and Woozles show up, or when Eeyore loses his tail. He doesn’t take negativity for an answer, so truly, we could all use a Tigger in our lives. If only he wasn’t the only one.
Oliver from Oliver & Company
Fun fact: Did you know Oliver was voiced by a preteen Joey Lawrence? Yes, THAT Joey Lawrence. Oliver might be the cat on this list who shows the most growth in his film. He is found as an orphan, and raised on the streets of NYC by dogs, only to then be adopted by a little girl named Jenny. He also learns to dance and sing, and is pretty laid-back for a street cat.
Rajah from Aladdin
Princess Jasmine’s pet tiger Rajah always has her back – particularly when it comes to scaring away suitors that don’t deserve her time or attention (so pretty much everyone). He doesn’t even warm up to Aladdin right away, proving that Jasmine has nothing to worry about even when her bumbling dad isn’t paying attention…which, admittedly, is basically all the time.