The top 10 classic rock songs about cats feature a list of great tunes that either make direct reference to the feline creature or were used as a metaphor. Like everyday people, some of the best recording artists of all time shared an appreciation for cats, regardless if they were domesticated household pets or members of a larger species of cats such as cougars, leopards, and tigers. Cats have also been a favorite metaphor to describe certain people based on their appearances or attitudes. The song list includes a mix of well-known classics that became big hits. It also features a folksy favorite and at least one or two that could potentially tug away at the heartstrings.
Top 10 Classic Rock Songs About Cats
#10 – My Cat’s Name is Maceo (performed by Jane’s Addiction)
Written by Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction, “My Cat’s Name is Maceo” was a tribute song he wrote for his cat. It was named after Maceo Parker, the famed American funk and jazz saxophone player Farrell was a fan of. Parker rose to fame as a musician who played with the iconic James Brown. Starting off with a drum roll, the highlight of this song was the saxophone played by none other than Maceo Parker himself. Farrell sang about a cat whom he described as a little man caught in the feline’s body. Originally, “My Cat’s Name is Maceo” was meant to join the tracklist belonging to Nothing’s Shocking but the group felt it sounded too much like pop rock. Instead, it was reserved for the 1997 compilation album, Kettle Whistle.
#9 – Phenomenal Cat (performed by The Kinks)
The Kinks’ sixth studio album, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, was a 1968 release that featured “Phenomenal Cat.” It was a song written by Ray Davies about a cat who flew around the world whenever he wasn’t busy eating. It was one of the beloved characters from Village Green that had a psychedelic approach to a story sharing similar characteristics to a children’s fairytale. After starting with a flute intro, Dave Davies starts singing about the tales of “Phenomenal Cat” as a mellow, musical-style nursery rhyme. While this song may not stand out as a classic hit “Phenomenal Cat” has a special charm to it that passes as an easy-listening gem.
#8 – Cat in the Window (Bird in the Sky) (performed by The Turtles)
Originally, “Cat in the Window (Bird in the Sky)” was a song performed by Petula Clark in 1967. In 1970, The Turtles recorded a soft rock cover version about a cat looking out the window, eyeballing the bird that is flying about in the sky. Although the group from California was better known for 1967’s “Happy Together,” the version performed by the lineup of Howard Kaylan, Al Nichol, Jim Pons, and Mark Volman added more groove to what started out as a short and simple song.
The Turtles’ LP version of “Cat in the Window” was the final track belonging to More Golden Hits, a compilation album that was released in 1969, just before the 1970 release of its single version. Also short and sweet, this edition of “Cat in the Window” behaved as if the alerted eyes of the feline mentioned in the song were darting about, staying focused on the bird the whole time.
#7 – Pads, Paws and Claws (performed by Elvis Costello)
“Pads, Paws and Claws” was a song performed by Elvis Costello that was used as a metaphor to describe a troubled marriage. Released in 1988, it came from the British singer-songwriter’s twelfth studio album, Spike. While “Veronica” was the hit single from the album, “Pads, Paws and Claws” also earned its place as a memorable number. This fun song started off with Elvis Costello’s screechy cat-like wail before going into a playful mix of bass, drums, and piano.
Although the marriage sounded like it was on the rocks, “Pads, Paws and Claws” was an enjoyable enough song to simply jump up and dance to as if a cat was playing along with Elvis Costello along the way. As is the case with relationships that have turned sour, the claws from two sides of an argument come out, just like two cats duking it out to see who will come out victorious. This was the reference Elvis Costello was making as he described the couple’s behavior throughout the song.
#6 – The Kitty Cat Song (performed by The Troggs)
Fans of the Troggs are likely to remember the group’s biggest hit, “Wild Thing,” which was released in 1966 and has since become one of the greatest classic rock songs of all time. This is the same UK-based garage rock group that opted to write about a cat as well. “The Kitty Cat Song” made reference to the purchase of a cat who shared the same unappreciative personality as the singer’s love interest. Despite all that he’s done for her, the cat prefers to scratch him instead of showing love and affection.
Performed by Reg Presley as lead vocalist, “The Kitty Cat Song” came from the Troggs’ debut album, From Nowhere. While “Wild Thing” got all the attention with a man’s quest to win over the interest of a woman who caught his eye, “The Kitty Cat Song” served as an unfortunate second chapter to what could have otherwise been a great love story. At least this was the case according to the UK edition of From Nowhere. In the US, “The Kitty Cat Song” was omitted and the album’s title was called Wild Thing instead.
#5 – Old Black Cat (performed by Ian Anderson)
British-based Jethro Tull was a rock band that specialized in the fusion of blues and jazz as its musical style. It was a formula that worked well as Ian Anderson, John Evan, and Jeffrey Hammond teamed up to form what became one of the music industry’s most iconic rock groups of all time. Named after a famed British agriculturalist, Jethro Tull was founded in 1967 in Blackpool, England by three young men who also happened to be schoolmates.
Over time, Jethro Tull dabbled in a variety of different rock songs that danced between folksy numbers and hard rock. Between 1968’s This Was and 2023’s RokFlote, Jethro Tull has produced a total of twenty-three studio albums and has sold millions of copies around the world. Fans are likely to recognize Aqualung and its title track as the megahit that hurled Jethro Tull into the category of immortalized rock gods.
As a solo artist still performing with Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson recorded an album titled Rupi’s Dance. Released in 2003, the title was dedicated to a small feral black cat that became a member of Anderson’s family while he was growing up on a farm in southwest England. “Old Black Cat,” was a touching song about Rupi written and performed as a folksy number by Ian Anderson.
When listening to this song, doing so with a tissue handy would be considered wise. It was a heartfelt story about a cat who lived a full life before passing away at some time between Christmas Day and New Year’s. Not only has Anderson performed this song as a solo artist but it has largely been included in the Jethro Tull song list whenever performing in concert. Anderson has always been a fan of cats. In addition to “Old Black Cat,” there is also the album’s title track. “Rupi’s Dance,” according to Anderson, is a song about a rescued runt from a feral litter and the Hindu name for beauty.
#4 – Cat Scratch Fever (performed by Ted Nugent)
Ted Nugent’s idea of “Cat Scratch Fever” was a metaphor to describe his body’s need to seek some relief with the help of a female companion. Much like a Tom on the prowl, Nugent’s lyrics suggest he was on the hunt to find the right cats to cure him of his lustful condition. When this was released as a single in 1977, it only peaked as high as number thirty on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at number thirty-seven on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. However, “Cat Scratch Fever” became a classic rock gem among a fan base who couldn’t get enough of this heavy rocker.
In 1992, Motorhead covered this for its album, March or Die while Pantera did the same in 1999 for its album, Detroit Rock City. Although Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” was sexually metaphorical, it was loosely based on an actual medical condition caused by a cat scratch that usually affects small children. In extreme cases, an untreated cat scratch can potentially lead to an infection that can also cause a fever. As far as the fans were concerned, “Cat Scratch Fever’ was the perfect cure to listen to a great rock song with a fantastic guitar riff.
#3 – Lucifer Sam (performed by Pink Floyd)
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn was Pink Floyd’s debut album that was released in 1967 as a group founded by Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright. “Lucifer Cat” was a song about Barrett’s Siamese cat, Sam. It was originally titled “Percy the Rat Catcher” before it was changed to better suit the lyrics. Although it was originally perceived the song was about Barrett’s personal life, “Lucifer Cat” was simply sharing the tale of his feline companion as a psych-pop gem.
This marked the beginning of a brilliant career for the UK-based rock group that would set the bar in the realm of psychedelic pop culture. Fans of Pink Floyd who remember Syd Barrett are likely to recall “See Emily Play,” one of the greatest singles ever made by one of the most brilliant songwriters the music industry has ever known. The beauty behind Barrett’s songwriting skills was the ability to take something most people wouldn’t think about sharing stories about and turn it into a great tune.
#2 – Year of the Cat (performed by Al Stewart)
“Year of the Cat” was a narrative soft rock song performed by Al Stewart as if he were a tourist who enjoyed a bit of romance with a mysterious woman. Upon waking, he learned his tour bus left without him but he didn’t seem to mind as he opted to stay back for a while. For Al Stewart, the inspiration behind the song came to him after observing a Vietnamese astrology book that was opened to a page covering “Year of the Cat.”
This came about the same time he watched Humfrey Bogart’s classic, Casablanca. Al Stewart was also a devout fan of Bob Dylan. These were the three elements that influenced Al Stewart to write “Year of the Cat” as a song. The cat is one of the twelve animals belonging to the Vietnamese zodiac. With the help of songwriter Peter Wood, Stewart had this song recorded in January 1976 before it was released as a single in July. According to the Vietnamese zodiac calendar, the Year of the Cat was from February 11, 1975 until January 30, 1976.
According to the Vietnamese Zodiac, the Cat is the fourth animal sign of a twelve-year cycle. In Vietnam, cats have their practical uses when it comes to agricultural protection against field rats. Rice farmers use cats as a means to ward off all rodents that pose a threat to their yield. Cats have also been extremely popular in Vietnamese folklore as a spiritually gifted animal that brings those who care for them. There are many cultures around the world that regard cats as good luck charms. In 2011, which was another Year of the Cat according to the Vietnamese zodiac, there was a baby boom that was credited to cats as a symbol of good fortune. This was significant considering the nation continues to feel the impact of Agent Orange, the herbicidal warfare the U.S. military unleashed during the course of the highly controversial Vietnam War.
“Year of the Cat” is a gentle folk-style rock classic that has a lengthy instrumental compensation featured on Stewart’s seventh studio album. The single version was reworked by Alan Parsons and Phil Kenzie which turned this song into a golden jazzy ballad. The single became a big hit for Al Stewart as it peaked as high as number eight on the US Billboard Hot 100 and the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. It was a number three hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart and a number six hit on its Adult Contemporary Songs chart. In the UK, “Year of the Cat” became a number thirty-one hit. Just like the Vietnamese, the British agree cats (regardless of color) are symbols of good luck. Al Stewart’s classic also became a number thirteen hit in Australia, a number eighteen hit in Belgium, and a number six hit in the Netherlands.
#1 – Stray Cat Strut (performed by Stray Cats)
When a band names itself after cats, one is bound to assume it will also have a song that would have something to do with cats in the title. Formed as a rockabilly band in 1979, there were three New Yorkers who first decided to come up with Tomcats before changing it to Stray Cats. Brian Setzer, Slim Jim Phantom, and Lee Rocker proudly strutted one hit song after another near the top of several official music charts from 1980 to 1983, including the classic “Stray Cat Strut.”
Right after the legendary “Rock This Town” rocked the entire world with its unique approach to rock and roll, “Stray Cat Strut” prowled in the group’s second major hit. However, in order of sequence, “Stray Cat Strut” was released first in 1982 but didn’t quite win enough attention at the time to crack the US Billboard Hot 100. That changed after “Rock This Town” was released as the follow-up. In 1983, “Stray Cat Strut” clawed its way up to become a number three hit. On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number two. Overseas, it was a number eight hit in Ireland, a number eleven hit in the UK, and a number thirty hit in South Africa.
“Stray Cat Strut” was more than just a song. It was a status symbol. Just like people have been known to do, a confident cat walks around with a proud stature that’s easy to spot. As a group, the Stray Cats capitalized on this as a bold statement that defined the three-man band. “Stray Cat Strut” first described a black and orange cat sitting on a fence, which shared the colors of Brian Setzer’s guitar. “Casanova” was the wise-guy cat that bore similarities to the cartoon series, Top Cat. The appeal of “Stray Cat Strut” never gets old and neither does the vibe of rockabilly. Thanks to the Stray Cats, new energy was breathed into the music industry that gave the boost it needed to really start rockin’ again.
Top 10 Classic Rock Songs About Cats article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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