The Cat and the Human Imagination

Feline Images from Bast to Garfield
Katharine M. Rogers
An intelligent, amusing, and affectionate look at cats in history, literature, and art


The Cat and the Human Imagination is a fascinating historical survey of the changing cultural attitudes towards cats and the myriad ways that they have been depicted in literature and art. Feline images have permeated civilization since the time of the ancient Egyptians, and during this time the status of the cat has changed dramatically. The book examines the changing images—fertility goddess, sly little predator, agent of Satan, avenging witness, aristocrat, friend, spirit of the home, bloodthirsty killer, seductive female--and relates them to the contexts in which they arose. It also analyzes how human attitudes towards cats seem to have evolved in parallel with attitudes towards animals, towards authority, and towards gender.

Western literature and visual art have reflected this change, developing from bare sketches to richly varied expressions of feline personality and human interaction with cats. Katharine M. Rogers seeks out the cats who make appearances in an impressive range of literary and artistic works, providing the first critical look at the symbolic functioning of cat characters in Poe's "The Black Cat," Dickens's Bleak House, and Zola's Therese Raquin, among other literary works. The historical and artistic range covered is impressive, creating a rich compendium that is the ideal book for the cat lover seeking a refreshingly substantial and scholarly work about this fascinating animal.

Katharine M. Rogers is Professor Emerita of English, City University of New York. Her previous books include Feminism in Eighteenth-Century England and Frances Burney: The World of "Female Difficulties."

Praise / Awards

  • "This book is a classic—something every cat-loving intellectual will have to own. (No one, of course, ever really owns a cat—but everyone should own this book.) It's the kind of book you want to quote from at the vet's, or cocktail parties, or whenever you get the urge to convert a dog lover to the true faith."
    —Emily Toth, Louisiana State University
  • "Scholarly but never stuffy, Rogers presents a fascinating parade of cats in art and literature, with many surprises for cat lovers who think they know their cat history. . . . . The author cites from classical literature, folklore, and popular culture in an endless stream of interesting excerpts and stories, peppered with her own dry wit. A wonderful resource for writers and researchers."
    Bloomsbury Review
  • ". . . fascinating reading for all cat lovers wishing to have a serious and well-documented account of the progress of the cat through history. They will welcome Rogers's book. . . ."
  • ". . . sheer catnip for the intellectual feline lover."
    New York Times Book Review
  • "Even people who think they know everything there is to know about cats should find fresh and often intriguing data in Katharine M. Rogers' book The Cat and the Human Imagination: Feline Images from Bast to Garfield."
    —Herbert Kupperberg, Parade

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 232pp.
  • 1 drawing, 18 photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08750-1

Add to Cart
  • $23.95 U.S.