Every time a vehicle crashes, trash cans fall over, something blows up, or any chaos occurs off-screen, after the sounds of breaking glass and other Stock Sound Effects, we hear some poor cat yowl in startlement and/or pain. Just like the poor Wilhelm fellow of Stock Scream fame, this unfortunate feline is everywhere, attracting disaster and voicing its unhappiness even in areas where a cat couldn't or wouldn't be present. Maybe A Wizard Did It?
Very much an Undead Horse Trope.
It's okay to be amused by the thought of a discomforted kitty, of course, because Cats Are Mean. (And they've got nine lives, so they can probably afford to spare a few). Might very well have to do with The Cat Came Back, considering it sounds like the same cat each and every time. Avoids Offscreen Inertia by occurring out of the audience's line of sight, no matter how tortured that poor cat may sound.
Compare with Kick the Dog, which on rare occasion overlaps. Should not be confused with That Poor Car, which is an entirely different trope. Also not to be confused with the movie That Darn Cat.
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There's an ad for Barclays Bank that has a man chasing a pallet of gold bars on a tilting floor. They keep sliding away. At the end of the advert, with the help of Our Product, the bars slide downhill towards him and there's a crash as they collide offscreen. Then a yowling cat (out of nowhere) slides past too.
There's an ad for a Louisiana lawyer called Patrick Daniel that uses blue screen effects to make it look like he's driving a car that's falling apart. He throws the steering wheel off screen and we hear a cat yowl.
Koodo had a radio commercial where El Tabador tries to fly. He crashes and, upon hearing the cat sounds, points out that his neighbor owns a lot of cats.
Anime and Manga
In the first episode of Midori Days, a cat gets hit in a blind panic by a character not once, but twice, in front of the same house. By the end of the episode, the cat is on a roof covered in bandages.
The same cat gets hit at least once per episode, during the entire series. He still gets a very happy ending, though.
Shows up in the Digital World when Jou briefly skids offscreen in Episode 11.
Probably a cat-like In-Training/Baby II stage digimon.
In an example of "why was there a cat there?", when the Fine Arts Club has to get supplies from the adjacent storeroom, after the crashing and screaming we hear the cat... in a sealed-off, unused art room.
A Sailor Moon episode had a variant: when Usagi decides to ditch her diet, her cat Luna taunts her by drawing a picture of her looking puffed up like a pig and telling her this is how she'll look a year from now if she keeps stuffing herself that way. As the "camera" tilts up away from Usagi's bedroom from outside the house, we hear her yell "Luna!!!" and hear Luna yowling in terror.
Possible reference in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey: the "evil robot usses", while landing the time machine, intentionally aim for a cat on the ground below. The cat escapes.
They do it again later, this time in a stolen hot rod — and miss again.
Borderline Lampshade Hanging in the comedy FilmBaby's Day Out. One of the criminals says as their van speeds through an alley, "I think we hit a cat."
Shrek 2: When the "Happily Ever After" potion takes effect on Shrek and he faints, we hear a cat screaming... presumably because Shrek landed on Puss-In-Boots when he passed out. Look closely that the following scene, and you can see Puss pulling his hat out from under Shrek.
Possibly related: The B-MovieCurse of the Queerwolf uses accidental dog deaths as a Running Gag.
In the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, Dave elicits one of these when he throws his music equipment into the yard. Unnervingly, he proceeds to throw the rest of his equipment in the same general direction.
Hot Shots!! uses a small dog that somehow constantly manages to be sat on no matter where people are. He gets lucky at the end of the movie when two slabs of beef are dropped on him.
Dark variant in the Daredevil movie, where a woman screaming offscreen after Bullseye misses his mark is used for this same effect.
Variant: in Kung Fu Panda during the final battle, after twirling Tai Lung around by his tail for several minutes, Po forces him to bite down on it. We then receive the on-screen sound-effect of a piteous, kitten-like mew. Rather demeaning for the proud warrior, but that was probably the point.
Borat contains a fantastic version of this; it's established early on that Borat inexplicably has a chicken with him on his trip. Toward the end, in despair, he drops his one piece of luggage on the ground. Cue a loud buckaw sound.
In Kung Fu Hustle: After the three kung fu masters spar, one of them falls off a balcony onto a cat. The Musical Assassins also cut a cat in half off screen (in silhouette), but it's silent.
Muppet Treasure Island, on the other hand, has a completely justified version of this, when Blind Pew is leaving the Benbow Inn after delivering the Black Spot to Billy Bones. As he leaves, he crashes into what are presumably rubbish bins, which topple, followed by the cat's yowl, and Blind Pew's exclamation "Out of my way, you stupid cat!" There is no reason a cat wouldn't be hanging around in trash outside an Inn, and Pew is...well, a blind fiend.
I believe they prefer "visually challenged fiend."
In A Kid in King Arthur's Court, a pathetic attempt at archery sends an arrow flying offscreen. Cue stock cat sound effect.
In The Mask when the eponymous character tosses away a Tommy gun he's just been firing.
The movie Postal has the main character using a cat as a silencer for his handgun. Thankfully, miraculously, and hilariously, the cat is totally unharmed afterwards.
In the original movie version of The Fly, a cat is the initial test subject for the teleporter. It does not rematerialize, but we hear its pitiful meow for a moment. (In the original story, it turns up again — sort of — in a rather disconcerting way.)
In The Remake, there was a deleted scene where a cat gets fused with a baboon.
Inverted in The Boondock Saints when a gun discharges by accident when Rocco bangs his fists on the table to make a point, and ends up splattering his girlfriend's cat all over the wall.
In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Arthur and Bedevere pass someone swinging something furry against a post, that makes a "RROWRR!" sound with every hit. In the Lego version of this scene included on the DVD, the cat is replaced by a parrot. According to the (long gone) LEGO Studio website, that scene actually did have an alternate "cat-squish" version that was even filmed, but the parrot was used instead because "LEGO cats don't squish well."
Cat abuse is a running gag throughout the movie. While this is normally a horrible thing to joke about, it actually is funny because the cats are clearly fake and all the characters are completely nonchalant about it.
Julie And Julia: Protagonist Julie Powell has a tantrum and throws things. Unusually for this trope, the cat heard yowling is actually an established character, Julie's beloved pet, so this doubles as one of Julie's Jerkass moments.
In The Three Stooges short Malice in the Palace, Larry prepares hot dogs and rabbit for two ominous patrons. A dog and cat invade his kitchen as he is cooking and as Larry chops the food, as the animals howl over various accidents. When he brings out the food, everyone including Moe and Shemp are convinced it's roasted Rover and Kitty. It's not.
In the sex spoof Live Nude Shakespeare, one of the actresses recites a line of Shakespeare while wielding a large sword. As she finishes, she lets it drop down point first. Cue cat yowl.
Fatal Instinct. Occurs twice: once when Laura Lincolnberry punches and breaks the cookie jar, and again when she shoots Lola Cain and Lana Ravine at the same time.
Bolt has a small bit on this. Bolt is begging for food at a trailer park, and when Mittens decided to step in, she almost got hit with a frying pan.
During the opening flashback sequence from Batman Returns, the Cobblepot family's cat wanders too close to the cage/playroom where baby Oswald (a.k.a. The Penguin) is being kept and is yanked right through the bars and into the cage before presumably being killed. Later, a cat is heard during the scene where Selina has her Freak Out and trashes of her apartment before her transformation into Catwoman.
In Snakes on a Plane, the snakes' first victim is a cat in a pet carrier that's sitting beside their crate in the cargo hold.
Don't forget the chihuahua that gets eaten by the anaconda
Seen onscreen in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The cat, a gift packed by their senile, great-aunt, is let loose in the Griswold's home. Cat plays with tree's lighting wiring, the lights come off, Clark goes to plug them back in. That Poor Cat presumably still has the cord in his mouth, as a loud stock yowl is heard, and cuts to a burn in the carpet the shape of the cat.
In Mr. and Mrs. Smith, when John is thrashing through the bushes prior to invading their house.
In the original script for A Fish Called Wanda, there was a running gag in which Otto would randomly shoot the tails off of offscreen cats for no reason other than that, well, he's Otto. These scenes were cut in post-production because they didn't really contribute to the rest of the film. Besides, the film has plenty of gratuitous (yet hilarious) animal cruelty without the cat scenes.
Sassy from the Homeward Bound The Incredible Journey movies often had this trope invoked on her. The first time was when Chance chased her around the house when she kept piling on the insults on Chance during the wedding (which apparently ruined it slightly), the second time was when Chance catapulted her with the see-saw (which later turns out to be a Chekhov's Gun against a much bigger Mountain Lion), the third time was when the female caretaker farmer was busy feeding Chance, she accidentially stepped on Sassy's tail. The last time it happens is when the dogs rebounded when trying to escape the pound.
Used repeatedly in Apt Pupil when Dussander is trying to force the cat into the oven.
Turns up, of all places, in the Michael Moore documentary Capitalism: A Love Story. In the scene replaying President Bush's Our Economy Is In Danger speech, animation in the background shows the White House wrecked by earthquakes, tidal waves, fire, lightning and hurricanes, which blow that same old poor cat through the air right behind ol'El Presidente.
In Toy Story, Rex is pointing a flashlight at the bushes, in order to search for Buzz from the window (Buzz fell into the bushes earlier after a stint Woody pulled backfired horribly), Rex spots something in the bushes and inquires if its Buzz. The response is a cat screeching. All the toys then groan and Rex says in a sharp whisper "Whiskers, will you get outta there?! We're trying to do a search-and-rescue!"
Done in the french film La Cite De La Peur. Notable in that, because of a "low budget gag", a whole part of the film has sound effects done by the actors in the dubbing. And, yes, the cat scream was done by an actor, and the others comments "Wow, you do quite a good cat impression".
In The Benchwarmers, Clark's bat flies out of his hands and hits 3 squirrels out of a tree.
There's a cat screech during the truck steal scene in Free Willy.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer starts its first chapter with a cat being hurt, and gleefully continues hurting them for the rest of the story.
Live Action TV
That Poor Cat is used slightly differently in Monty Python's Flying Circus. During an episode where they'd been blowing up animals the entire show, the camera follows two people and you can hear meowing offscreen. Just to make it clear, an arrow points to the edge of the screen, saying "cat." You can guess what came next.
They also do it with pigs in one episode, along with a hand crossing cartoon pigs off a blackboard.
Heard second-hand as Mrs. Premise tells Mrs. Conclusion about the trouble she had burying the cat - "Well, 'e wouldn't keep still. Wrigglin' about, 'owlin'..."
In an episode of Pushing Daisies, Emerson Cod is caught in a graveyard with a shovel. He quickly tosses it off-camera, only to look at it in bewilderment when it apparently hits a cat.
In an episode of Married... with Children, Al is participating in a decathlon for senior citizens. Every time he participates in a throwing event, his toss is followed shortly by That Poor Cat.
A moment of silence now for Miss Kitty Fantastico, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We don't see its demise, but it's easy to imagine it made this sound, and, when its fate is mentioned, it's played just a bit humorously.
Variation in the first episode of Sonny With A Chance, where two stuffed toy cats wind up getting crammed into Tawni's fanmail shredder. The toy cats inexplicably unleash tortured yowls as they become flying fluff.
In the Doctor Who episode "The Eleventh Hour", the newly-regenerated Doctor takes a single bite of bread and butter, then emphatically rejects the meal by Frisbee flinging the entire plate, bread and all, out of a window, cuing of screen shattering sounds and a cat yowling in protest
The Doctor:AND STAY OUT!'
Heard frequently on the children's show Sir Gadabout, as it is used in the conclusion of the theme song, and everytime Gadders falls over.
Xena: Warrior Princess uses this several times, most notably when Autolycus is rummaging around in his sleeve.
Used at least once in Babylon 5, when G'Kar tries out Marcus' Minbari Fighting Pike. He accidentally opens it, one end smashing into a pile of garbage, complete with the sound of a shrieking cat. J Michael Straczynski admitted he put in the cat noise because cats are hilarious like that.
The One Foot in the Grave episode "Timeless Time" features this, when Victor throws a dead hedgehog which had gotten stuck on his foot out of his bedroom window (though the presence of the cat had previously been established, setting off Victor's car alarm by sitting on the car bonnet).
The Frantics used it to Great effect in the "Last Will and Temperament"-sketch.
In an episode of Alf the title character is using the family's cat, Lucky, as a stepladder. When Willie tells him to get down, he lets go of the windowsill, making Lucky shriek.
Sugar Rush has this in episode 7 when Kim gets rid of her toothbrush by throwing it out of the window.That Poor Cat indeed !
In a Two and a Half Men episode, Charlie is trying to drive Jake somewhere (refusing to let Jake drive), when they hear a cat screech, presumably from Charlie running it over. Jake has blackmail material when Charlie believes that he accidentially ran over Chelsea's cat, only to lose it when Chelsea's cat returns, only for Jake to get the blackmail material back by chance when one of his neighbors arrive to inquire about their missing cat that just so happens to resemble Chelsea's cat.
Sort of related: In a recent episode of Meet The Browns, the father and son try to retrieve a Cockatoo for their neighbor. They throw something at the bird. It then shows their horrified expressions as well as the cockatoo making screeching sounds.
On one episode of Castle, Beckett's team and a SWAT team break down an apartment door, thinking there's a terrorist named S. Nadal Matar on the other side of it. One of the apartment's owner's cats goes diving off the top of a nearby refrigerator and lets off the screech.
The second episode of New Girl sees Jess go to get her stuff back from her douche ex-boyfriend. After she gets angry, she goes inside to grab all of her stuff at once, and you hear that poor cat.
Years ago, Sports Illustrated magazine printed an issue with a black cat on the cover. Given its infamous cover curse where the person or team featured on it would soon have misfortune of some sort, no one was willing to pose for the issue. This was subsequently covered by NBC's Today Show, and the newscasters pondered out loud if something was going to happen to the cat. Cue offscreen cat yowl.
In the sketch "Last Will and Temperament" by Canadian comedy troupe The Frantics, a will reading contains the sentence "And to my cat Mittens, I leave my entire, vast... boot to the head." Cue an audible thump, followed by an anguished yowl. A later television version kept the cat completely off-screen, but abused it nonetheless.
Subverted by the Reduced Shakespeare Company in their radio show. In a discussion of how pain was funny, they have sound effects of a cat and a frying pan. They receive a phone call where the caller tells them that frying a cat is over the line. Cue "Well, is it ok if I stick Adam's face in the frying pan?" "Sure, that'd be funny." "AAAAAHHHH!"
Played for Drama in I Remember Mama. Uncle Elizabeth gets badly wounded, and his offstage howls of pain make Mama decide it's best to put him out of his misery.
In the 1992 version of Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, apprehending the culprit could get a bit messy. In at least one of the animations, there was a cat that flew out of the mess meowing.
In Secret of Evermore, the Hero's dog chases after a cat at the beginning of the game. Later in the game, when the dog becomes a robotic toaster-dog, he chases the (same?) cat off-screen. Cue the sounds of Laser Fire and said cat yelling. Ouch.
A couple times in Siren 2. You either hear the cat or see one running off.
On-screen example in Chrono Trigger. When you defeat Ozzie by dropping him down a pit, a cat runs into the pit as well.
The 2010 Halloween Update for Team Fortress 2 included "noisemakers" you can set off that play Halloween-themed sounds to the entire map. One of them is "Black Cat". In theory, it's supposed to be creepy. In practice, considering all the offscreen gunshots and explosions that occur during any given round, it devolves into this trope very quickly.
Sly 2 Band of Thieves has a cat frequently screaming for its life in Episode 1 (which takes place in Paris). Although it's just ambient noise and not player-influenced.
In one of the Rave-based Blaster games,going into certain rooms will result in a pitch black screen with distressful sound effects including this one, after which Rave comes out saying "You do NOT want to go in there!"
Avatar: The Abridged Series: On top of causing massive property damages, the Gaang apparently hits a cat at the end of their mail chute ride in Omashu.
In this episode of sporadic webcomic Think Mink a talk show guest Offscreen Cat tells how he isn't safe in any media. The host consoles him as best as she can and then accidentally hits him with a microphone.
I Am Not Infected: During their journey to Compton, Hartley sees a cat (which remains of screen). He proceeds to empty all his ammunition shooting at it, while it responds with the familiar yowling sound effect.
One trailer for Mr. Plinkett Reviews has this happening when he throws a DVD way. In a coffin.
In Drawn Together, whenever someone or something falls or is thrown offscreen, a cat is heard yowling, despite no cat ever being shown on-camera or even mentioned on the series. The characters make no mention of this.
Played with in King of the Hill: During a neighborhood rampage by Dale, who has acquired a suit of medieval armor and now sees himself as invincible, we actually see the cat sitting on a trash can before it cuts away and we hear the standard yowl.
In the Duck Dodgers episode Hooray for Hollywood Planet, Dodgers is swirling nun-chucks, until they slip out of his hands and crash off-screen with the stock crash and cat screech.
In an episode of The Critic, President Clinton at one point falls through the floor of the Oval Office, a cat yowls in the room beneath and the president says, "Sorry, Socks".
Later appears in part two of the season two premiere, during a Big Ball of Violence. No cat was seen before the dust kicked up, and none was seen after.
In "Spike At Your Service", Spike kicks a mushroom that hits a cat off-screen.
An interesting example is heard earlier on in "Sweet and Elite". Rarity is packing up to head back to Ponyville from Canterlot, when she gets a letter asking her to come to a garden party at that day. She changes her mind. Turning to the bagpony that has all her things (and I mean ALL her things), and her cat, Opal, in her cat crate, piled onto his back, she tells him that she won't be leaving, but will be needing help to re-unpacking them. The poor guy then subsequently collapses, and we hear what is assumed to be Opal yowling as all the luggage comes crashing down. We never see Opal during the collapse, but she was the only cat in that pile.
In the Invader Zim episode "Walk of Doom" Zim and Gir startle a dog—and the traditional cat yowl sound is heard.
Pops up in an episode of Phineas and Ferb when Doofenshmirtz throws a bear trap offscreen, and in another episode where a glass of lemonade is kicked offscreen.
Kick Buttowski gives us too many to count, it's practically in every episode. It appears to be the writer's favorite gag.
One that's sort of off-screen appears in Hand in Hand when Kick picks up a cat and flings it over a house over to the street on the other side only to land in Ronaldo's face. We don't really see much of it as the houses are in the way, but Ronaldo makes it very clear that this is what is happening.