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Literature / I Am a Cat

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"I am a cat. As yet I have no name."

I Am a Cat (Wagahai wa Neko de Aru) is a satirical novel written by Natsume Sōseki (the pen-name of Natsume Kin'nosuke), which first appeared in ten installments in the literary magazine Hototogisu ("Cuckoo") between 1905 and 1906. Soseki had not intended to write more than a short story but it was so popular that he expanded it to fill a whole book. It is the chronicle of an unloved, unwanted, wandering cat who spends all his time observing humans, from his schoolteacher master, his servant, his horrible children, and more.


  • Anyone Can Die: The deaths aren't common, but nobody's safe. Not even the cat.
  • Butt-Monkey: Chinno Susami, or "Mr. Sneaze" as he's known in some translations, the English teacher who took the cat in, is shockingly incompetent at nearly everything he attempts to do.
  • Downer Ending: By the final chapter, practically not a single character has a better life than they had at the start of the story. The cat proceeds to get drunk and subsequently drowns in a water basin.
  • Dub Name Change: The second English translation gives the main characters English names that are supposed to mirror the meaning and/or the feel of the original Japanese names. Kumumaya no Kuro, literally "Richshaw Owner's Black (cat)", becomes the somewhat questionable "Rickshaw Blacky", to use one example.
  • Expository Pronoun: One of the most famous examples in Japanese literature − the cat uses the noble pronoun "wagahai", which comically contrasts his not-so-noble position. Thanks to Pop-Cultural Osmosis, it's become very heavily associated with anthropomorphic cats.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: One of the first things the cat tells us of was how a student catches, boils and eats cats. It doesn't get much better from there when he tries to sneak into the school-teacher's house and repeatedly gets thrown out by the maid. The children spend a lot of their time torturing the poor thing.
  • No Name Given: The cat is never named at any point in the story, and resolves to be a nameless cat for the remainder of his days early on, though he is given the nickname "Professor" by a fellow cat otherwise, in reference to his master.
  • Self-Deprecation: The cat has nearly nothing but a laundry list of negative things to say about his master the English teacher, a fairly blatant caricature of the author himself.
  • Shout-Out: Two of them in the first chapter to contemporary literary magazines Hototogisu and (now defunct) Myōjō – the master tries to send his works to these magazines in one of his stints at trying various crafts.
  • Stray Animal Story: An early example. The story is about the life of a wandering cat.
  • Wise Beyond His Years: The cat, in everything from its erudite language to its observations on human culture.

Alternative Title(s): Wagahai Wa Neko De Aru