It’s well known that the UK is a nation of animal lovers, and when you look back at the TV shows of our youth that should come as no surprise: featuring ninja turtles, musketeer dogs and vampire ducks, 80s TV was packed with anthropomorphic animals. Yet, when you stop and think about it, there were a surprisingly large number of TV shows in which cats played a major role.
So sit back, relax and transport yourself back to your childhood as you remember the following 12 fantastic, furry felines. Deal with it, dog people!
12. Henry’s Cat
We’ve been racking our brains trying to remember the name of the cat in Henry’s Cat, until we came to the (perhaps rather obvious) conclusion that the memorable yellow feline didn’t even have a name! All we know is that he was owned by someone named Henry – even though Henry himself failed to make an appearance in the show even once.
The original series first hit screens all the way back in 1983, with legendary British animator Bob Godfrey directing every episode as well as providing all the voices.
The red-maned leader of the ThunderCats always thrilled us with his powerful physique, acrobatic prowess and all-powerful Sword of Omens. Even now, the mere sight of Lion-O makes us want to cry “Thunder – Thunder – ThunderCats! Ho!” whilst wishing that our plastic Sword of Omens toys gave us ‘sight beyond sight.’
Sure, we loved the whole alien big cat ensemble of ThunderCats, but there’s no question that the real hero of the show was Lion-O.
The heartwarming show informed us that the pink and white striped cat was “a saggy, old cloth cat, baggy, and a bit loose at the seams,” but that didn’t stop us from loving him with all our hearts. Produced in 1974, Bagpuss remained a children’s TV staple in the 80s, and was just right for settling us down for a nap.
Remarkably, only 13 episodes of Bagpuss were ever made, but this didn’t stop it from being voted the best children’s TV show ever in 1999. As for the original Bagpuss himself, he now lives in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.
9. Top Cat
Another show that wasn’t made in the 80s yet remained essential viewing at the time was the 1961 Hanna-Barbera cartoon Top Cat. His incredibly catchy theme tune described Top Cat himself as being effectual, intellectual and lots more words that we didn’t (and, if we’re honest, still don’t) understand.
It all seemed harmless fun at the time, but looking back there was something a bit suspicious about old TC and his band of subservient lackies constantly running afoul of the law. Was he a harmless alley cat, or a gangster…?
8. Cringer / Battle Cat
If you were aged under ten in the 80s, chances are He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was your very favourite TV show. As such, the most powerful man in the universe’s trusty feline sidekick must be a clear contender for best 80s TV cat.
Whether he was the scaredy-cat Cringer or the fearless, armor-clad Battle Cat, who wouldn’t have loved to own a pet every bit as mighty?
We all remember those timeless words of the unbearably cute little bird, Tweety Pie: “I t’aught I t’aw a puddy tat!”, quickly followed with “I did! I did t’aw a puddy tat!” And the ‘tat’ in question was of course Sylvester, surely the most bad-tempered tuxedo cat ever to grace the screen.
Fun fact: in the original 1947 Merrie Melodies cartoon which introduced Sylvester and Tweety, the cat was originally called Tom. Of course, this had to change going forward, as a certain other animated feline was already using that same name…
You can forget the computer-generated Aslan that featured in the 2005 film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, because we prefer our wise and powerful Lion to be real and tangible, like the large and realistic puppet of the BBC series.
This 1988 six-part adaptation of CS Lewis’ classic children’s book wowed us as youngsters, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when our beloved Aslan died… even though we knew he’d be back.
Running for a total of 86 episodes from 1984 to 1988, Heathcliff was based on a popular comic strip created by George Gately in 1973. The show packed in more purr per pound with the inclusion of back-up characters the Catillac Cats.
Heathcliff’s adventures were always fun to watch, although it was hard not to be reminded of a certain other ginger cartoon cat who was popular at the time (we’ll come back to that one soon).
4. M.A.D. Cat
After arch-villain needs a pet cat, and the nemesis of Inspector Gadget was no exception. Named after M.A.D., the organization run by his owner, M.A.D. Cat is the evil pet of the mysterious, perpetually unseen and terrifyingly gravel-throated Dr Claw.
M.A.D. Cat, who it has been confirmed is female, also appeared in the 1999 Matthew Broderick-starring live-action film as a white Persian feline.
Mention that you love lasagne and hate Mondays, and Garfield will soon be mentioned. Originally created by cartoonist Jim Davis in 1976, the lazy and cynical cat became a cultural icon with a slew of merchandising including cuddly toys and one of the most iconic phones ever made.
Garfield still holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s most syndicated comic strip, having appeared in over two and a half thousand newspapers and magazines. Even so, we most fondly remember him from 80s cartoon series Garfield and Friends.
Probably our favourite member of the lost mining spaceship Red Dwarf, Cat was played brilliantly by Danny John-Jules. The off-the-wall sci-fi sitcom posited that, after the ship drifted in space for over three million years, a pet cat aboard the ship eventually evolved into that walking, talking feline.
Noted for his high-pitched voice, snappy dress sense and extreme vanity, Cat has remained a recurring character in Red Dwarf through its run of twelve seasons and one TV movie.
Perhaps giving a bad name to the rest of the felines on this list, due to him constantly failing to capture his nemesis Jerry the mouse, Tom is nonetheless one of our very favourite animated felines.
Tom and Jerry has been revived and rebooted countless times (remember that terrible 1992 movie in which they could talk?), but you can’t beat the original cartoons of the 40s, 50s and 60s which were still aired regularly on TV in our youth.