‘The Cat who Walked by Himself’ by Rudyard Kipling

This is one of Kipling’s Just So Stories that he wrote for his daughter, Josephine. I sent a copy to a friend when his own Josephine was born and this was the one that came to mind when he said she is rereading it. Kipling’s archetypal Cat is “the wildest of all the wild animals” and refuses to be domesticated like the dog, the cow and the horse. The story treads the boundary between the wild and the homely that could be read as (but not only as) imperialist anxiety. The Cat insists “I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. I will not come” and yet he arrives at the warm Cave of his Enemy to ask for milk. The story is an elusive allegory that teases us to follow as the Cat makes his escape “on moonlit nights he roams the woods or the roofs, walking by his wild lone.”

First published in the Ladies’ Home Journal, July 1902. Collected in Just So Stories, 1902. Available online here

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