Created By: rick777 on December 23, 2010 Last Edited By: rick777 on December 28, 2010
Troped

Convenient Decoy Cat

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Trope
Needs More Examples, Rolling Updates

It often happens that during a Chase Scene, the protagonist hides behind a garbage can, empty container or another large object hoping that the bad guys won't notice their presence. During this critical stage, the hiding protagonist usually makes a noise that attracts the bad guys. Everything seems to be doomed until...

A small animal - almost always a cat, but it can also be a mouse, squirrel, raccoon, bird, etc. - appears just next to him and distracts the bad guys, who then completely dismiss the spot where the hero was, and move on. Hurray! Our heroes are saved!

The subversion is when the hero mimics a cat to cover up for his noise (see Nobody Here But Us Birds). The inversion is when the animal gives away the hero's position (see So Much for Stealth).

Not to be confused with Cat Scare (used in suspense or horror movies).
Related to It's Probably Nothing and Nobody Here But Us Birds. Subtrope of escape trope.
Can overlap with Blind Alley.

Examples

Anime and Manga
  • The first episode of Innocent Venus has a cat serving as decoy. Partly justified because the hero was actually wearing an infrared invisibility cloak, making him immune to the enemy's heat detection camera.
  • A variation in Dragon Ball Z: Krillin, Gohan and Dende are trying to hide from Vegeta, who just learned to detect ki. When he sensed Dende's small ki, a dolphin jumps off the water, leading him to think that was the ki he sensed and leave.
  • In Ninja Scroll, when a group of ninja fail to kill their target (who turns out to be an undead monster), the team leader uses a cat as a Ninja Log to avoid some projectiles and escape.
  • In the first episode of Toumei Shoujo Ea the boy and the invisible girl are hiding from the Men In Black in a pile of very clean garbage bags. The MIBs pass the pile by, then turn back and fire! But it's only a kitten.

Film
  • in the James Bond movie Dr. No, Honey Rider and Quarrel are hiding underwater in a river with Dr. No's guards searching for them using German Shepherds. The dogs are clearly on the protagonists' scent, the guards draw nearer and then...a flock of birds bursts out of cover, the guards figure that they're what the dogs were after, and leave.

Western Animation
  • Batman: Year One has one of these scenes.
  • Captain Scarlet (inverted): In the opening titles, the viewpoint character stalking Scarlet startles a cat which fatally alerts Scarlet to his presence.
Community Feedback Replies: 26
  • December 24, 2010
    troacctid
    Cat Scare

    Well, a variant, but I'm pretty sure it still falls under Cat Scare. The Playing With page can back me up here.
  • December 24, 2010
    Arivne
    Cat Scare is about something (usually a cat) suddenly appearing during a tense situation and scaring the protagonist (and usually the audience as well). This is about a cat (or other creature) appearing and distracting the bad guys away from a hiding protagonist. They're related in some ways, but they're different tropes.

    A common element in this trope is that the hiding protagonist does something (e.g. making a noise, knocking something over) that attracts the bad guys, but when they see the cat they think it did it and decide to move on.

    Film
    • Dr No. James Bond, Honey Rider and Quarrel are hiding underwater in a river with Dr. No's guards searching for them using German Shepherds. The dogs are clearly on the protagonists' scent, the guards draw nearer and then...a flock of birds bursts out of cover, the guards figure that they're what the dogs were after, and leave.
  • December 24, 2010
    TheChainMan
    A variation in Dragon Ball Z: Krillin, Gohan and Dende are trying to hide from Dodoria, but he can sense Dende's small ki. Then a dolphin jumps off the water, leading Dodoria to think that was the ki he sensed and leave.
  • December 24, 2010
    AceNoctali
    ^ It's not from Dodoria they were hiding, but Vegeta, who at that time just learned to sense ki and thus wasn't fully used to the technique. That's what saved them, because if he had a scouter (as he lamented during this very scene), he would have easilt detected Dende.
  • December 24, 2010
    Mozgwsloiku
    In Ninja Scroll (oav if I remember correctly) when a group of ninja fail to kill their target (who turns out to be an undead monster) the team leader uses a cat as a Ninja Log to avoid some projectiles and escape.
  • December 24, 2010
    henke37
    TLOZ Wind Walker: The sneaking scene where Link pretends to be a cat.
  • December 24, 2010
    troacctid
    The description is written from a protagonist point of view, but the trope covers any kind of cat scare, not just when the hero is the one getting fooled. Tropes Are Flexible after all.

    You can feel free to tweak the description to merge this in...I don't think it needs to be split.
  • December 25, 2010
    rick777
    There's a difference in logic: When the cat is diverting the bad guys away from the hero, the cat doesn't JUMP at them, much less scare them: The cat just runs away from the bad guys, usually with a harmless meow. Besides, this is an escape trope, not a scare trope. Comments?
  • December 25, 2010
    troacctid
    I can see your point of view, and maybe it's a Lumper Vs Splitter thing, but I still prefer the Lumper solution in this case. It's not really important whether anyone is scared, per se, more that they're expecting something other than a cat and it turns out to be a cat.

    Although I'm looking at some of the examples in Cat Scare and there might be grounds for a split between "The cat was a decoy and there's really someone there" and "It really was just a cat".
  • December 25, 2010
    WackyMeetsPractical
    Could this trope be expanded so that it's just not cats, and renamed to Convenient Distraction or Convenient Decoy, since the focus shouldn't be on the scare, but on the fact that the bad guy's attention is taken away from the hero, giving the hero a chance to escape in a way that wasn't planned or initiated by the hero. Certainly, if there were a hero's version, the hero would be the one chasing the villain, but ends up losing the villain, and instead, finds a cat in a trash can.

    I think if we were to define a major difference between this trope and Cat Scare would be it's narrative purpose. Where Cat Scare is meant to create suspense or a cheap scare, this trope has a deeper impact on the plot, since it actually allows the good guys to escape pursuit.

    I know that I've Seen It A Million Times.
  • December 26, 2010
    rick777
    I think I'll rename it to Convenient Decoy Critter to differentiate it from when the hero uses something (i.e. rock) as decoy.
  • December 26, 2010
    SilentReverence
    Did it have to be renamed from Cat? That a trope is called from a cat doesn't mean it applies only to cats. The important point is that an animal happens to function as decoy. Let's not lose that.
  • December 26, 2010
    rick777
    The reason for the renaming is the apparent conflict between this and Cat Scare. Perhaps we should have a poll. Still, I'll expand the description.
  • December 26, 2010
    rick777
    How about this? "Convenient Coverup Cat". Convenient Decoy Cat will be a redirect. Votes?
  • December 26, 2010
    troacctid
    @WackyMeetsPractical, sure, I find that distinction acceptable.

    I like "decoy" or "distraction" better than "coverup".
  • December 26, 2010
    dotchan
  • December 26, 2010
    rick777
    OK, Convenient Decoy Cat it is. If no further objections (or examples) are found, I'll launch this tomorrow. By the way guys, I need an image! Volunteers?
  • December 27, 2010
    SilentReverence
    Convenient Coverup Cat has the advantage of the Added Alliterative Appeal, and Decoy has the problem that it suggests intention. Cat Scare is a senseless scare (ie.: it only serves to alleviate tension); it is definitively not this trope.
  • December 27, 2010
    rick777
    I'm still torn between Coverup and Decoy. But if the Decoy suggests intention, the "Convenient" part dilutes it. Is there a specific place for polls so that we can resolve it?
  • December 27, 2010
    randomsurfer
    In the first episode of Toumei Shoujo Ea the boy and the invisible girl are hiding from the Men In Black in a pile of very clean garbage bags. The MIBs pass the pile by, then turn back and fire! But it's only a kitten.
  • December 27, 2010
    flyingferret
    Batman: Year One has one of these scenes. I 've been thinking of this as False Cat Scare.
  • December 27, 2010
    LeeM
    There's a variation in the opening titles of the original Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons, where the viewpoint character stalking Scarlet startles a cat which fatally alerts Scarlet to his presence.
  • December 27, 2010
    SilentReverence
    @rick777: maybe not needed, as you are right -- the convenient dilutes the decoy. Still, if you want to have a place to ask, the forum's Trope Repair Shop is the place for it.
  • December 27, 2010
    troacctid
    "Coverup" has a pretty different meaning. I would associate it more with conspiracies than decoys. Added Alliterative Appeal isn't as important as clarity.
  • December 27, 2010
    SomeGuy
    I say go the "how this usually comes up" route and make call the trope something along the lines of Oh Its Just A Cat.
  • December 28, 2010
    rick777
    @SomeGuy: The "Oh It's just a cat" could be confused with Cat Scare. But thanks. I decided on the final title: Convenient Decoy Cat. Launching.
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