For the Love of Cats: Felines in YA Fiction

Last month I wrote about canines in YA literature. This month I want to give equal time to the felines. Firstly because I had the joy of growing up in a household of cats. Secondly, there are dastardly cat gangs out there which watch our every move, and I don’t want to get on their bad side. Or so goes the familiar negative image of cats in some popular lore. However, anyone who has actually shared their life with cats knows that this is not at all the reality. Each cat, like each dog, has its own characteristics, whether affectionate or independent, forgiving or wary. With that in mind, in the following list I’ve tried to include fiction titles which I feel are well-suited to teens and which include feline characters in a variety of roles and with a variety of personalities.

blacksadBlacksad (Blacksad series) by Juan Díaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

The Spanish Canales and Guarnido originally created their Eisner Award-winning detective noir graphic novel series for French readers, but the setting is early 1950s U.S. This first volume collects the first three issues, which include a murder mystery and stories concerning the effects of white supremacy on individuals and the Red Scare. Private Investigator John Blacksad is an unforgettable feline. Lucia Cedeira Serantes, in her summer 2005 Young Adult Library Services article “¿Es un Pájaro? ¿Es un Avión?.…Spanish Comics for American Libraries” mentions two of the issues in this volume as being among the best in graphic novels and comics from Spain. (Adult Graphic Novel)

Book of Night with Moon (Feline Wizards trilogy) by Diane Duane

This is the first novel in a series which combines science fantasy, adventure, horror and even humor. There is a secret civilization of cats in Manhattan complete with its own language, a glossary of which is included in the novel. When the world is threatened with invasion by monsters from the “Downside”, four cats – Rhiow, Saash, Urruah and Arhu — seek out the wizard responsible for the dire situation. The cats make interesting observations about the differences between human and feline culture. (Adult Fiction)

curiosity_killsWhat Curiosity Kills (Turning series) by Helen Ellis

At the start of this new series, sixteen-year-old Mary from Alabama has been adopted into a New York family. Life is filled with the usual teenage ups and downs, until a bigger issue surfaces when she starts purring and craving rodents. She learns that she is a feline shape-shifter, and becomes part of a citywide war between domestic and stray cats. A mix of urban fantasy, realism and romance. (Older Teen Fiction)

Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2003 Best Books for Young Adults, 2005 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)

Left to her own devices by her preoccupied parents, young Coraline opens a door in her house, only to discover that it leads into an alternate world. In this world, it becomes increasingly clear that Coraline’s “other mother”, with her black button eyes and creepy ways, wants to imprison Coraline forever. A talking cat with no name acts as Caroline’s mentor, helping her make her way out of this frightening situation. (Intermediate Fiction and Graphic Novel)

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass (2006 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2004 Schneider Family Book Award for Middle School Level)

Thirteen-year-old Mia has synesthesia, a rare condition in which various sounds, letters, numbers and words cause her to see colors. When school becomes increasingly frustrating, she begins to distance herself from it and gravitate toward the world of her fellow synesthetes. It is the illness and death of her dear cat Mango that wakes Mia up and helps her begin to start repairing some relationships that she had let go. (Younger Teen Fiction)

amazing_mauriceThe Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Discworld series) by Terry Pratchett (2002 Best Books for Young Adults, one of the nine titles for which Pratchett won the 2011 Margaret A. Edwards Award)

Maurice is a smooth-talking cat who convinces a group of rats and a young human musician to pull off pied-piper scams with him. All is going quite well until the group comes upon the village of Bad Blintz, in which evil rats are putting diabolical plans into motion. It’s up to Maurice and his gang to save the day. Fantasy, lots of humor and a few scary moments. (Younger Teen Fiction)

Additional Suggestions:

Unfamiliar Magic by R. C. Alexander (Younger Teen Fiction)

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Adult Fiction)

Varjak Paw (Varjak Paw series) by S. F. Said (Intermediate Fiction)

Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams (Adult Fiction)


Please add your own favorite feline YA fiction to this list!

– Anna Dalin, currently listening to Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott

9 thoughts on “For the Love of Cats: Felines in YA Fiction”

  1. WHITE CAT by Holly Black
    The Cat Who … series by Lilian Jackson Braun (Adult, but teens like)

  2. Great list…cats are awesome. My favourite YA cat is Taggle from Plain Kate by Erin Bow. Possibly more MG than YA, but with cross-over appeal.

  3. Last Free Cat by Jon Blake
    Because being on the run from the law with a cat, when all cats are supposed to be controlled by 1 corporation = Awesomeness

  4. Wow, everyone, thank you so much for collaborating on this list and adding so many wonderful titles! I’ve got some reading to do now!

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