Literature / Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

A collection of cat poems written by T. S. Eliot. They were largely written for his godchildren, and are thus rather more whimsical and cheerful than his more famous poetry. Nonetheless, it does contain Eliot's gift for allusions and sharp observations. The first edition, published by Faber and Faber, also featured his own illustrations. Other versions included illustrations by Edward Gorey.

Eliot's poems describe a number of curious and most singular cats, all of whom encompass common (if exaggerated) aspects of feline behaviour. Unlike its more famous adaptation, the musical Cats, the poems have little connection with one another, and there is no overarching storyline.

This book provides examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Gus the Theatre Cat's proudest achievement was playing a character called "Firefrorfiddle, the Fiend of the Fell."
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: The second name of a cat should be like this.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: When Growltiger kicked the bucket.
  • Beyond the Impossible: When people say Macavity's wickedness knows no bounds, they mean it:
    Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity
    He's broken every human law. He breaks the law of gravity.
  • Captain Ersatz: Macavity is obviously meant to be an allusion to Moriarty. (There's also a smidgen of Col. Sebastian Moran, who is outwardly respectable - but they say he cheats at cards.)
  • Carnivore Confusion: Jennyanydots teaches mice and cockroaches. Presumably, she's fed by her human owners.
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted - like humans, there are mean cats and nice cats.
  • The Chessmaster: Macavity's behind every crime.
  • Cool Teacher: Jennyanydots.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Macavity.
    They say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known,
    (I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
    Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
    Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime.
  • Ear Notch: Growltiger's description states, in pertinent part, "One ear was somewhat missing, no need to tell you why...."
  • Formally Named Pet: Mr. Mistoffelees.
  • I Have Many Names: "Each cat must have three different names." An everyday one, a more dignified one, and one only the cat knows.
  • I Know Your True Name: The cat's third name should be only known to him or herself.
  • Mega Neko: Bustopher Jones as the fat kind, and the Great Rumpuscat as the huge and scary type.
  • Outlaw Couple: Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Macavity's poem contains several to the Sherlock Holmes canon. The description of Macavity's appearance echoes the description of Moriarty in "The Final Problem", and the list of his crimes includes references to several of Holmes's cases.
    • Amongst the many Smoky Gentlemen's Clubs where Bustopher Jones gets fed is the Drones.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": The Rum Tum Tugger
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Gus, the Theatre Cat.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Implied by the crowning achievement of Mr. Mistoffelees, The Original Conjuring Cat:
    And not long ago this phenomenal Cat
    Produced seven kittens right out of a hat!