What are Jellicle Cats?

To the best of my knowledge, the phrase “Jellicle Cats” comes from TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. This is a collection of whimsical light poems by TS Eliot concerning feline psychology and sociology. It is published by Faber and Faber. The book is the basis for the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Cats.

Jellicle Song for Jellicle Cats
Jellicle Song for Jellicle Cats from the theatrical show CATS.
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The theatrical musical by Andrew Webber is being made into a film right now and is going to be a blockbuster and highly successful.

To return to Jellicle Cats; I believe that am able to reproduce a part of this book which is the poem, The Song of the Jellicles (see below).

The Song of the Jellicles by TS Eliot
The Song of the Jellicles by TS Eliot

You can see that the fifth line down states:

“Jellicle Cats are black-and-white,”

They are also rather small cats and happy and bright. They caterwaul sometimes, which is a mating call. This indicates to me that Jellicle Cats is probably a reference to scruffy, nocturnal street cats. The poem describes this cat in some detail but in terms of coat pattern they are black-and-white cats. This is confirmed in the book, Cat World by Dr Desmond Morris in a section where he refers to partially white cats as a result of the white-spotting gene.

He refers to 8 different types of partially white cat as follows:

  1. A cat with white paws is said to be ‘mitted’.
  2. A white patch on the chest is said to be a ‘locket’.
  3. Small white belly patches are referred to as ‘buttons’
  4. When the coat is half white and half a solid colour it is said to be a ‘bi-colour coat’
  5. A cat with a predominantly white coat and a few colour-patches is referred to as a harlequin coat
  6. A white coat with colouring on the tail and an inverted V shaped marking on the head is called a ‘Van cat after cats from the Lake Van area of Turkey who have these markings
  7. A black cat with a white chest and sometimes underside and white legs is called a ‘tuxedo cat’ and:
  8. A black-and-white cat is sometimes called a “Jellicle Cat”.

I have capitalised Jellicle Cats because TS Elliot did but it would more natural to write the phase thus: ‘Jellicle cat’.

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