Despite ruling the online animal kingdom, cats remain strangely underrepresented in New Zealand film and television. NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop goes in search of our felines on film.

Maybe it's their "independent" nature, or the fact that they're a little tricky to wrangle once the cameras roll. Whatever the reason, initially at least, cats are somewhat hard to find in our screen history. Further investigation, however, reveals a line-up that would make Gareth Morgan shudder.

Theirs was one of the more unusual animal relationships in screen history. In the days before 24-hour television, at the end of each night's broadcast, a short animation bade goodnight to viewers. In it the plucky Kiwi shut up shop at the TV station, put out the milk bottles and caught the lift up to sleep in the satellite dish with The Cat.

Viewers never questioned why our nocturnal national icon was going to bed at night, or sharing a bed with a cat, and Goodnight Kiwi has become an important part of our screen legacy. But one unanswered question remains - how exactly did The Cat make the journey from the studio to the top of the transmission tower each night?

See Goodnight Kiwi and The Cat here:
Goodnight Kiwi

Perhaps due to the inevitable identity crisis stemming from his name, Footrot Flats' Horse remains one of our more complicated screen cat characters. Too wild to be tamed, too smart to be a stray, he's not to be messed with either way. Arguably the uncelebrated hero of film Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale, he saves the life of The Dog, and survives both a gunshot wound and near drowning. Respect.


See Horse come to life here, in The Making of Footrot Flats:

Definitely from the wrong side of Donaldson's Dairy, Scarface Claw rose to fame as the tomcat tormenter of one Hairy Maclary. The owner of a formidable feline reputation, Scarface was created by NZ author Lynley Dodd, and later brought to the screen in an animated TV series.

See Scarface Claw here, in Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy:
Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy

Proving that real life cats could be just as badass as their animated counterparts, motorcycle-riding Rastus was a rightful Kiwi celebrity in the 90s. Rastus travelled the country with his owner Max Corkill, sitting atop the handlebars of Max's motorbike in a customised helmet and goggles. Tragically, both Rastus and Max passed away after being involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver in 1998.

See Rastus the Cat here, on Newsnight:
Newsnight - Rastus the Cat

Look Blue Go Purple's Cactus Cat is a Flying Nun classic, and with good reason. While the lyrics seamlessly work an unlikely cat/cactus analogy - a prickly exterior belying a heart of gold - the video features multiple moggy shots - both real and animated.

Watch Look Blue Go Purple Cactus Cat here: