Brow Beat

How Many Times Do the Cats in Cats Say “Cats”?

A Slate investigation.

Taylor Swift as Bombalurina with fur, pointed ears, and a collar. Several dozen white tally marks fill the frame.
Taylor Swift in Cats. Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Universal Pictures.

The musical Cats is one of the longest-lasting Broadway shows of all time, with a total of 7,485 performances during its original run, and the new movie adaptation of Cats from Tom Hooper is generating plenty of buzz of its own. But while much has already been written on the digital fur and the sexualization (or neutering) of its characters, one important question remains: How many times do the cats of Cats actually say “cat” or “cats”?

I attended a Cats screening and counted, with a ballpoint pen and a stack of sticky notes, every time someone said “cat” or “cats,” which is a lot. Sometimes the examples were saturated, as in the introductory song “Jellicle Cats,” which mentions practical cats, dramatical cats, pragmatical cats, fanatical cats, and so on, one after the other. But the rhyming couplets of other songs made it easier to keep track: It was safe to assume that after a line that ended in mat, for example, a line ending in cat would follow.

Other instances of “cats” in the dialogue are more straightforward, without T. S. Eliot’s whimsical, lyric touch, as when Old Deuteronomy (Judi Dench) says, with exaggerated gravitas, “I judge a cat by its soul,” or “The most deserving cat will be reborn into another life.” The more mortifying utterances can be found in the wooden attempts at humor, such as when the Jellicles ask Victoria (Francesca Hayward), “What’s your name? Cat got your tongue?” or when Jennyanydots (Rebel Wilson) says, “Don’t mess with the crazy cat lady!”

By the end of 1 hour and 50 minutes, I had counted a total of 160 instances of the word “cat(s).” That’s a frequency of more than one “cat” per minute. Yes, that’s a lot of “cats,” but what were you expecting from a movie called Cats?