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Why Holly’s’Cat’ in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a popular character

With such strong central character, it may be surprising that people often remember the cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Holly Golightly is the capricious and endearing protagonist in Truman Capote’s famous 1958 novella. This is narrated through the point of view of an unnamed guy living in New York City. The celluloid adaptation came out two years later and has also long been regarded as a classic.

Original poster – CC licensed

This movie version starred Audrey Hepburn as Holly, and George Peppard (the unnamed narrator of the book, becoming a character named Paul). Such has been its impact that Gloria Steinhem, the famous American lady of letters and journals wanted to imitate Holly. After seeing the film, she got blonde streaks in her hair – to seem more of a rebel.

Holly and ‘Cat’

If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany’s, then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

The 1961 film is also memorable for its feline co-star, despite not really having a title. In Capote’s book Holly describes that cat as ‘a poor slob without a name’. It is a stray and like ones the world over to today, it is nameless.

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffannys – 1961

Audrey Hepburn’s role as Holly is an iconic one, and her character endearing . Headstrong yet vulnerable, she seems just like cats themselves – particularly strays. Like them, she aims for self reliance, and fears that opening her heart could get in the way. She doesn’t want this to dampen her aims to be a woman of independence.

Throughout the story, Holly tries to convince herself she can avoid intimacy, and being tied-down to her pet or to anyone – potential lovers included. Avoiding naming the cat is one example of this strategy.

Later, Holly forces ‘Cat’ to flee, because she herself is hoping to leave town. This is something she immediately regrets, and drives around in an attempt to find him. However much she tries, she is unable to avoid emotional connections that inevitably occur at certain points in our lives.

In the scene ‘Holly’ throws her ginger cat into the rain soaked New York streets. Some time after shooting, Audrey Hepburn recalled the scene and named it “one of the most distasteful things” she ever had to do. 

Orangey – the real-life tabby who played ‘Cat’

While this marmalade tabby has no name in the film, it stays in our memory. However, the real life feline who played the its role of ‘Cat’ certainly had a name: Orangey. At this point, he already had a decade of acting experience to his name. Debuting 1951, Orangey played the fugitive cat in Diary of Anne Frank – 1959. He was valued in film roles for his ability to sit for long lengths of time – one of the reasons he was so in demand for movie shoots.

Audrey Hepburn with cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's

After the movie, Orangey won his second Patsy (Animal Oscars) for his role and continued acting. Despite ( apparently) being a bit of a diva in real life, the kitty starlet went on to appear in a number of films and TV shows (e.g.the Dyke Van Dyke Show and he Beverly Hillbillies) until the end of the 1960s. 

Far from being just a bystander in Holly’s life, Orangey as ‘Cat’ in Breakfast at Tiffany’s remains in our memory. He personifies Holly’s own rootlessness and her striving for self-sufficiency while also actually being a vulnerable soul in a big city.

What is your favourite animal role on film? Let us know in the comments below.

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