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Analysis / Cats Are Mean

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How This Trope Varies by Species and Breed

"Big Cats" Pantherinae

Lions

Probably the biggest exception to this trope. Lions are often portrayed as heroic because of the whole King of Beasts thing in the Western world (Europe first and the Americas later on). The male’s mane contributes greatly to the whole King of Beasts thing. Lions have portrayed positively even when domestic cats (Felis silvestris) in Europe have been pegged as demonic familiars to witches and burned to the stakes. However, as there have been plenty of tyrannical kings throughout history and the due to the lion’s King of Beasts portrayal in the Western world, the two tropes have been put together at times. This often takes the form of a good king lion and an evil king lion who is a pretender to the throne.

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Tigers

Have a similar reputation to lions in many Asian cultures. In Western works, tigers are portrayed as the Unpleasant Animal Counterpart to lions— if a lion and a tiger are on opposing sides, the lion will usually be the hero and the tiger will usually be the villain.

Leopards

Often portrayed as the Unpleasant Animal Counterpart to a cheetah.

"Small Cats" Felinae

Bobcats

Cheetahs

Rarely portrayed as villainous, most likely because they do not come off as particularly "threatening" compared to other large cats.

Cougars/Pumas

They are portrayed as Super Persistant Predator that attacks you unprovoked in stories featuring them, which is not Truth in Television. note 

Domestic Cats

In European and American culture, often depicted as sinister or at least morally ambiguous, especially when contrasted with dogs and mice. In medieval Europe, cats as a whole were assumed to be demonic, and were thus persecuted. In more recent years, this portrayal tends to vary somewhat. In general, what moral pegging a cat character is given is often dependent on its breed or its fur color.Persians, Siamese cats, Sphinxes, and other stereotypically "fancy" breeds are the ones most likely to be depicted as villainous, often being shown as evil even by cat standards. Black cats also tend to be portrayed as evil in fiction, due to the superstition about them bringing bad luck. By contrast, mixed-breed cats, especially tabbies, are more likely to be good or at least neutral.Kittens are also more likely to be good than adult cats, since they are seen as cute and harmless and therefore innocent. Even works that otherwise subscribe to this trope (i.e. Tom and Jerry) will often make an exception for kittens.

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