Cats have been around for thousands of years and must have inspired countless songs before modern recording technology. Sadly, we’ll have to make do with the ones we have from the past century or so. Thankfully, they’re pretty good tunes. We have melancholic songs, catchy songs, risqué songs, and many more to fit nearly every mood. When you’re trying to liven up your day with some feline spirit or want to dedicate a song to your favorite cat, look no further than our list down below.
The 13 Songs About Cats
1. “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” by The Aristocats
- Release year: 1970
What better song to start off our list than a song by cats and for cats? This groovy jazz bop is among the most underrated in Disney’s catalog but perfectly embodies the independent, carefree spirit that makes cats so enchanting to us in the first place.
2. “What’s New Pussycat?” by Tom Jones
- Release year: 1965
Infuriatingly catchy, saucy, and punchy all at once, “What’s New Pussycat?” has been used as a comedic punchline more than a few times. It’s a renowned classic at this point, but you might be surprised to hear that the singer, Tom Jones, didn’t even like the song very much.
3. “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin
- Release year: 1974
Another rock hit with “cat” in the title but nothing to do with cats, “Cats in the Cradle” is a somber warning about the dangers of family drifting apart. The song actually started as a poem by Chapin’s wife, and he took the poem and added his relationship with his son to create the song we know and love today.
4. “Black Cat” by Janet Jackson
- Release year: 1989
More hair metal than Janet Jackson’s usual pop style, “Black Cat” was written as an urgent message to a bad boy or “black cat,” but also references heavy topics like gang violence. While the song itself isn’t about cats, it uses the myth of cats having nine lives as well as black cats being seen as a misfortunate omen.
5. “My Cat’s Name Is Maceo” by Jane’s Addiction
- Release year: 1997
Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell once had a cat named Maceo, who was in turn named after a famous jazz saxophonist named Maceo Parker. The band always leaned toward the funky, which is interesting when you realize the Aristocats song at number one.
6. “Smelly Cat” by Phoebe Buffay
- Release year: 1995
What else needs to be said about the cultural phenomenon that is “Smelly Cat” first debuted by Phoebe on Friends? Funny enough, it was originally written to be about a stinky dog named Gouda, but everyone agreed a smelly cat would be more amusing. It certainly stuck, too, considering the song’s popularity.
7. “All Dead, All Dead” by Queen
- Release year: 1977
Definitely the most morbid entry on our list and an underrated gem by the legendary Queen, this song was written about guitarist Brian May’s childhood cat. Two different versions exist, with one featuring Brian May as the vocalist and another with frontman Freddie Mercury singing.
8. “Cool for Cats” by Squeeze
- Release year: 1979
“Cool for Cats” was written about being a British teenager, which is evidently very cool. Besides having a snazzy title and a catchy tune, the title “Cool for Cats” actually came from the first British rock n’ roll TV show of the same title. What better way to show off your cool cat than this song?
9. “The Love Cats” by The Cure
- Release year: 1983
A more abstract cat-related song, “The Love Cats” is based on a gloomy novel called The Vivisector. Singer-songwriter Robert Smith used the song to examine how society treats its most vulnerable by comparing it to cats being treated cruelly, which is a novel if macabre way of using cats in music.
10. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens
- Release year: 1961
Originally called Mbulu, or Zulu for lion, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” wasn’t written with its famous refrain. Legend has it that singer Solomon Linda improvised it on the spot during the third take, and the rest is musical history. This mellow jungle anthem celebrates the king of all cats, highlighting their sleepy side.
11. “Cool Cat” by Queen
- Release year:
Unlike the earlier Queen song, this one with “cat” in the title actually doesn’t directly relate to cats. Instead, it’s a classic rock jam dripping with that strutting spirit cats have by nature. It’s all about being yourself, and let’s be honest, when was the last time you saw a self-conscious cat?
12. “Leave My Kitten Alone” by The Beatles
- Release year: 1964
First recorded by R&B artist Little Willie John, “Leave My Kitten Alone” was initially rejected for the release of The Beatles’ 1964 album Beatles for Sale. Cats are used in the song to mirror the vulnerability of a person suffering through a devastating heartbreak.
13. “Invitation to the Jellicle Ball” by Andrew Lloyd Webber
- Release year: 2019
We’d be remiss to not include a song from the iconic Cats, and this introduction to the frolics of the Jellicle Ball is the perfect choice to send off our list. The song embodies the unbridled independent spirit of cats everywhere, whether it’s a sleepy housecat or a fearless stray.
Cats are complex creatures that summon up a lot of different feelings for humans, and music is one of the best ways to turn that into art. From underrated tunes by the Beatles and Queen to truly obscure British bops like “Cool for Cats,” our favorite felines have lots of songs to call their own.