Orange Tabby Cat Stars in Major New Film and Raises Profile of Domestic Cats

Ulysses, the ginger tabby cat who is a co-star of the new Coen brothers film about music is in fact three cats. I didn’t realise that but I do know that he is a key player in this acclaimed film, which, I believe, raises the profile of all domestic cats. It makes all domestic cats a star and I sincerely hope that Ulysses encourages cat owners to see their cat in a new, more appreciative and respectful light. The film is “Inside Llewyn Davies”.

I am delighted to see a cat, and an “ordinary” moggie at that, feature as a central actor in this film which was awarded Best Picture by The National Society of Film Critics and has been nominated for many other awards.


I said Ulysses is a co-star. I may be wrong. Some say Ulysses is the star of the film. He is a scene stealer. He is seen riding the New York subway. That took some doing and you could argue that it was an abuse to make a cat do that in the name of entertainment. I’d rather not go down that road at this time because I feel there are many positives for the cat to take from this film.

The reason why three ginger tabbies were employed was because the role was too demanding for one cat. In the subway scenes two cats were employed. “Jerry” described as “an action cat” and “Daryl” who was the laid back boy who was able to cope with the noise and disturbances of the subway. There are very few cats who would cope with a subway in full use. However, ginger cats are renown for their balanced temperaments. I wonder if a ginger tabby was deliberately chosen for this reason. I’d like to know the reason for choosing this type of cat. Was the idea taken from Bob the orange tabby who befriended a drug addict and saved him?


The third cat was Tigger, a female. She was the cat who was usually held by the actor Oscar Issac. The film makers called her the “holding cat”.

Five cats in all were chosen but two proved unsuited and were not employed. A Hollywood animal trainer, Dawn Barkan, prepared them for the role. She was concerned about the subway scenes. Saying that:

“Much of what was scripted is a scary thing for a cat”.

She said it was not a good idea to shoot a live subway scene. She was right but it went ahead.

“The film doesn’t really have a plot. That concerned us at one point. That’s why we threw the cat in”. (Coen brothers, the film’s directors)

Well, as a cat lover, I have to see the negatives too. Was it ethically acceptable to put cats through difficult circumstances for a commercial enterprise?

I’ll stick out my neck and say that, on this occasion, yes it was, because the film portrays the cat in a good light, which I hope rubs off on society and raises the profile of the world’s best loved companion animal, which sadly is still frequently ill-treated.

How does this film square up with Grumpy Cat being in a film? Well, I see a difference. All three cats in this film are healthy and playing a normal role. Grumpy Cat is being exploited (I say) because of facial deformities. It is a fine line but there is a line.

  1. P.S. Cat actors are paid less than dog actors. Typical. Cat actors earn £100-£200 a day.
  2. Associated: Cat People movie
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Orange Tabby Cat Stars in Major New Film and Raises Profile of Domestic Cats — 20 Comments

  1. 🙁 Sorry but I find it distressing the way he is holding the cat in the photo and the trailer, without supporting his/her weight properly, I hate any films where animals are used 🙁
    “The film doesn’t really have a plot. That concerned us at one point. That’s why we threw the cat in”
    That says it all to me ‘threw the cat in’ like any old prop 🙁

    • As always, you read my mind. I, immediately, hated the way the cat(s) are being held.
      And, I don’t see any affection being given either.
      The cat may as well have been a ragdoll.

    • That sounds like those Coen brothers 😉 They poke fun of themselves alot of the time. Ethan and Joel, I believe, are really fond of cats.

    • Yes, I know the phrase, “threw a cat in…” does not look good. But despite that and the fact he holds the cat poorly, we have a cat featured in a major film. And he is a companion to a man and the film is successful.

      I think the film should encourage cat adoptions. That’s the bottom line.

  2. The type of film I really dislike (and I never watch films anyway) pointless, plotless, handsome brooding man, pretty whinging woman, loud background music and dark setting, but this one has the added zero factor of having a cat “thrown in” to be lumped about and exploited, what a load of tosh, now where did I put my library book? 😉

  3. As Michael pointed out, we’ll have to wait and see… hopefully the good that comes of this will outweigh the negatives inherent in using a cat on a busy set (esp. the subway-how awful for the tabbies).

    • Obviously, I mean for the cats. I’m glad, Michael, that you added that comment from the animal handler, Dawn Barkan. (pls reply w/a link to the quotes? I’ll find them though. this one may be the first theatrical release I have seen in well over a decade–this sounds so interesting!)

    • Yes, Caroline I hope there will be some good that comes out of it for the cat. At the very least we have a man living with a cat in a major film. That in itself bucks the system.

  4. Alright, seen at least the trailers now–ca’t blv that Michael had to alert me to this post-production on the Coens’ Cat Movie, but wow! this has got me excited in film again! This could be really, truly, the Turning Point for cats in film…ever-so-gently-hangin-in-my-arm ginger tabby 🙂 Blv me, this is to emphasize what the poor little creature so stoicly puts up with from so many humans. just keep in mind how adept Joel and Ethan are at poking fun of our own 😉

  5. I can see your point Michael and I hope you are right about it encouraging cat adoptions but I still don’t think using cats like that is very kind to the cats concerned.

  6. In the film he is holding the cat the wrong way which might encourage other cat owners to do the same since films set a trend in society. A cat always has to be supported at its rump while being carried.As kittens cats can be carried by the scruff of the lose skin on its neck as does the mother cat in nature.

  7. My thoughts on cats being “used” as actors are these.

    If the world of cats was 100% good with no unwanted cats and all cats were in good homes then it might not be possible to justify using cats as actors because it is for our benefit. However, if actor cats enjoy it and are treated nicely etc. then it could be justified.

    As the world of cats is far from ideal and there is lots of work to be done to improve the situation, then the imperfect idea of cat actors is justified if it makes a positive difference in the long term to cat welfare but only if the actor cats are well treated at all times.

  8. I have this movie – I will watch it and see how it is. I got it the other day just because I saw the cat and was interested.

    • Great Marc. I am pleased you have the film. i watched the trailer, read an article about Ulysses and saw a review on television but watching the whole film will help to get a full perspective.

      I sense the film is a “realist” type film. A slice of real life from an era in American history. The human star is a talented singer/writer as I understand it but he is a commercial failure but that is not unusual in the music business and does not signify the person is a failure . I hope that fact does make the point that failures keep cats.

      The film may hint at the point that some cat caretakers and lovers are outsiders meaning they don’t really fit in with mainstream society.

  9. I’m on the fence, for now. I’d like to at least watch the movie. It may soften some hearts out there, and like Michael said, encourage some adoptions out there. Beautiful cat(s).

  10. I do see all points. I can see that the cat has his toes splayed ready to grab onto something because he is scared 🙁 I can also see Michaels point that in a world where the cat receives a lot of bad press its good to see them in a positive light

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