Book: “Cat” (Fear Street #45) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Archway Paperbacks, 1997
Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!
Book Description: The cat came back…
Marty never liked the cat—it always got in the way at basketball practice. But he never meant to kill it.
Now Marty thinks he’s going crazy. He sees cats everywhere. He knows they want revenge.
Too bad Marty doesn’t have nine lives. Because his first one is almost over.
Had I Read This Before: No
The Plot: When we meet our protagonist Marty, right out the gate in the prologue he’s talking about how much he hates cats. So from the get go, I don’t trust him and/or despise him. I get that he’s allergic, but he also doesn’t like them because they are ‘evil looking’, and are always ‘slinking around’. But he assures us that he didn’t mean to KILL that cat even if it drove him crazy, and that he’s now paying for it.
We now jump into the story itself. Marty is on the Shadyside Tigers basketball team with his BFFs Dwayne and Barry, and Coach Griffin is being really hard of “The Three Musketeers” because they have a big game on Friday. Marty and his friends are the best players on the team, but Marty is the star, so much so that people will sit in the bleachers and watch him during practice, like Kit Morrisey, one of the prettiest girls in school and one that Marty is very obviously fixated on. Gayle Edgerton and Riki Crawford walk into the gym, which isn’t good for Marty because he went out with Riki and then ghosted her. Gayle is hoping to write a story for the school paper about Marty, Dwayne, and Barry, and how they’re best friends and star players, but before they can start the stray cat that has been living under the bleachers runs out and causes a Benny Hill-like chase scene. The cat has been supposedly living in the gym for awhile now, and to that I say ‘no way’. Stine tries to play if off as really clever and no one can catch it, and that the kids leave it food and water, but I’m telling you a live trap would do the trick so something’s going on. The chase the cat but then Coach Griffin tells them to knock it off and focus on practice. Marty is paranoid that Riki is telling Gayle all about the kind of prick he was after they went out, and is so distracted by this concern he doesn’t see the cat dart back in front of him. He trips and lands on his knee, injuring himself like a dummy. Coach Griffin says that he may not be able to play in Friday’s game, and Marty blames the cat. As his friends and Gayle and Riki help him to a seat, he tells them that he may not have actually gotten the basketball scholarship he claimed he got so he NEEDS to play (and tells Gayle she can’t write that in her story). They see the cat again, and the boys chase it up the bleachers with Gayle telling them to stop. Marty grabs it saying that this is all it’s fault, and the cat, being a cat, squirms and claws at his forehead. He stumbles towards the edge of the bleachers, and loses his balance. He drops the cat and grabs Dwayne’s hand, but the cat falls off the top and lands with a crack on the floor. Gayle proclaims that it’s dead and that Marty threw it off the bleachers, killing it. Marty protests that it was an accident (kind of like when the cat tripped you, you sonofabitch?!), but Dwayne thinks that now is the time to make jokes about ‘roadkill stew’. Gayle says that Marty is a monster, and Marty insists that he LOVES animals and that he didn’t mean to do it. All the while, Dwayne asks Gayle if she’d like to make a fur coat out of the cat and makes jokes like ‘cat got your tongue’, and MY. GOD. Riki tells Marty she thought she knew him, but she guesses not, and Marty says he isn’t sad the cat is dead but he didn’t kill it. Gayle says he won’t get away with this, and she and Riki run out of the gym. The boys toss the cat in the trash can.
At school the next day Marty is instantly shunned and snubbed by his classmates and even his teachers! Gayle has worked her magic and I am living for it. Everyone knows that he killed the cat and now he’s Public Enemy Number 1. He complains to Dwayne and Barry that Gayle as gone too far, and Dwayne continues to make nasty cat jokes. They inform Marty that Gayle is the president of the Animal Rights Club at school, and they all figure that she’s probably seen an uptick in membership because of this. Gayle even goes so far as to make flyers with his face on them as well as mutilated animals, and that may be a bit much. Marty finds Gayle and says that he thought they were friends, and Gayle informs him that they sure aren’t anymore and that he’ll be hearing from her soon. Riki tells Marty to cool it and to focus on getting his knee better for the game next week, and ALSO tells him that she DOES think he killed the cat but the playoffs are more important, so he needs to play. Marty gets so riled up at her continued berating that his scratch wound opens and he starts bleeding. After he cleans himself up he is confronted by Coach Griffin, who says that he believes that he didn’t mean to kill the cat, but that if the papers find out about this it will be a BIG problem for Marty and the team. He tells Marty to face the Animal Rights Club’s charges against him in front of the Student Court. The problem with this is that it’s packed with Gayle’s friends, so Marty doesn’t think that he will get a fair shake and that none of this is his fault. I think that someone needs to explain to Marty Intent vs Impact.
At the Student Court in the gym things seem far more official than I imagine the Discipline Committee at my high school ever was (though I never had to stand before them; my detentions were sentences that didn’t stem from a day in court). Dwayne and Barry testify, as do Riki and Gayle, and Marty thinks that Gayle is perjuring herself when she says he threw the cat over the side but you did, Blanche, you did! The ‘attorney’ for the Animal Rights Council, Jessica, asks him if he did or did not say he was going to ‘get rid of’ the cat, and he can’t deny that. But somehow he’s still found not guilty for the murder of the cat, yet guilty for animal cruelty. He’s sentenced to 30 hours of community service at the animal shelter, and I’m not sure that this is at all enforceable, but it does seem like a fair sentence. Marty is pissed, and then is horrified when he sees the cat under the bleachers, staring at him! He tells everyone that the cat is alive after all, but they don’t see the cat and tell him that he isn’t funny.
Marty is sitting on the sidelines at practice working on homework, when Jessica sits next to him. She tells him that being the prosecutor for Student Court was something she had to do for a class, and she didn’t actually want to get him into trouble. They talk and flirt, but Marty notices Riki staring at them. When they call to her she leaves, and Jessica asks what HER problem is. After practice ends she leaves, and Marty tries to study but hears cat noises. It might have been the girls behind him, but was it really? Coach tells him that he will try and get his sentence reduced, but Marty says that he should serve all of it. That night at home Marty gets a phone call, and it’s Riki, who is berating him for flirting with other girls when they aren’t even together. She saw him with Jessica, and knows that he has a thing for Kit as well. He tells her he’s sorry that it didn’t work out between them, and she yells some more and why is she still so invested in this guy who killed a cat? Get better taste!
The next night Marty goes the the basketball game. He’s benched because of his knee, but that doesn’t stop the other team from meowing at him. Eventually he and Jessica talk and she asks if he’s actually dating a girl named Lisa, and he tells her no, and she’s happy to hear it. She also tells him that once Gayle’s rally is done things will probably calm down, but he didn’t do himself any favors when he claimed he saw the cat. He insists that he DID see the cat though. That night Marty is hanging out in his room when he hears to cats yowling and fighting outside his window. He then hears a clatter against the glass, but it’s just Dwayne and Barry, the creeps. Marty climbs out his window and they tell him they’re going to The Corner, a hot hang out spot for Shadyside teens, and THE HELL IT IS! I’ve never heard of this place! If it isn’t Red Heat or Pete’s Pizza it’s NOT a hot spot. Dwayne and Barry also have questions about his cat related freak out at Student Court. Marty tells them that he saw the cat, but they are skeptical… Until they are all walking home, and a cat drops from a tree on top of Barry’s head!!! He manages to get away from it, and asks Marty if it was the cat, and Dwayne says it CAN’T be, but bitches, you are in Shadyside, it absolutely CAN be.
The next day Marty starts his community service at the animal shelter. His supervisor, Carolyn, tells him to sweep the floors and feed the animals, and call her if any animals seem to be ill or sick. As he’s sweeping, however, the animals start freaking out at him because they KNOW he’s no good. He calls Carolyn to come back and help him, but of course, when she arrives they have stopped.
At school on Monday Marty tells his idiot friends about this and they don’t really know what to say. A bigger development, however, is that Kit Morrissey, back in school after a bout with the Flu, now has HER eyes set on Marty. She asks him what happened to his knee, and he keeps things close to the vest regarding his animal cruelty and just says he hurt it at practice. They hang out at The Corner (STOP TRYING TO MAKE THE CORNER HAPPEN) and have a wonderful time together. Marty notices Riki sitting in a back booth and glaring at them both, but who cares? He accompanies Kit back to her house, but when he walks inside he sees a LOT of cats.
She says that they are all hers, and that they’re freaking out because they’re hungry. Marty knows better, and bolts.
FOR SOME REASON, Marty, Dwayne, and Barry think that stealing a bunch of rats from the biology lab and setting them loose on the Animal Rights Club is a really good way to show that Marty has been unfairly maligned. Gayle says that she’s going to get them for this, and Marty is unfazed. He has another date with Kit that day and she LOVES this prank. They hang out some more, and even arrange a date for that weekend, and Kit kisses him when he drops her off. He isn’t interested in Jessica anymore because Kit has all of his thoughts. But as he’s walking home he realizes that he’s being followed by a bunch of cats. He makes a break for it, and while they chase him and do manage to get a few swipes in, they disappear pretty fast.
Things are going fine for Marty. He and his dick friends didn’t get in trouble for the rats, and while Jessica and Riki are still mad at him that’s okay because he’s with Kit now. And even though he still gets the occasional midnight phone call with a cat meowing on the line, things could be worse! He’s even back to playing on the team, and they win a huge game! Everyone celebrates in the locker room but then they go their separate ways, and Marty is driving home when he remembers he left his books in his gym locker. So he goes back to the school, and sees Gayle sprinting across the parking lot. He goes into the dark gym, and fumbles for the light…. but when the lights come on he sees Dwayne!!! He’s dead, and it looks like he’s been clawed to death! It’s then that Marty hears another disembodied meow!
Barry thinks that Gayle is the one who killed Dwayne, but Marty knows that it had to be a cat. Kit is very understanding and empathetic, and says to call her if he needs her, even if it’s just to talk. Marty knows that he has to confront Gayle, so he goes to her house. But when she opens the door she bursts into tears. She apologizes for how she’s been acting, and says she feels so awful that he found his best friend’s body like that. He asks her why she was running from the school that night, and she explains that she had been training for gymnastics and forgot about a babysitting job she was late for. She says that if she hadn’t been in such a rush maybe she would have seen who killed Dwayne.
After the funeral Coach Griffin gives the team armbands to wear in honor of Dwayne. Marty isn’t sure that he will be as good now that Dwayne is gone, but Barry says Dwayne would have wanted them to do their best. The team promises to play as hard as they can for Dwayne. Gayle, Riki, and other kids watch them practice, amped for the big games, and once practice is over Barry asks if Marty wants to study with him, but he has a shift at the animal shelter and says he’ll come by after. Barry asks for a ride home, and Marty says sure, but hurry up. He waits for awhile but Barry doesn’t leave the gym. Marty goes back to look for him, and is worried that he’s going to find Barry dead next, but nope, Barry is preoccupied with Riki, as Marty walks in on them making out. Marty, relieved that Barry is alive AND that Riki has moved on, heads off for his shift.
Carolyn tells Marty that the new big dog, Brutus, isn’t to be trifled with because he’s violent and is going to be put to sleep. Marty is more than happy to do that, but as he’s cleaning up he realizes that he’s slowly being surrounded by cats. Someone has let them out of their cages, and they are poised to attack him. As he tries to defend himself with his broom, Carolyn walks in and all SHE sees is an animal abuser abusing more animals. She tells him to go with her to her office, and explains that she understands that he’s been through a shock, but it had to have been HIM who opened the cages. She tells him that he can come back when he feels better. So Marty goes to Barry’s house for their study session, and the door is open so he walks in. But wouldn’t you know it? Barry and Riki are in the middle of a heavy petting session instead. Marty tells them about what happened at the shelter, and they think that he’s losing it too. A nosy neighbor walks into the room, having seen the open front door, but Marty and Barry say everything is fine.
The next morning Marty is awakened by his mother, who has been crying. She tells him to come downstairs because there are cops in the living room that need to speak with him. Marty puts on some clothes, and walks to the living room. The cops tell him that Barry is dead, that he’s been clawed to pieces, AND that the nosy neighbor said that Marty was acting weird. The cops also bring up the fact that Marty killed a cat AND that he was the one to discover Dwayne’s body. But they also concede that Riki says that Marty left before she did, and that when she called Barry that night around 11:30 he was still alive, so really it seems like questioning Marty when he has an alibi is a big ol’ waste of time. They also mention that Marty had told Riki and Barry that the door was open when he arrived, but Riki swears that it was locked behind her. So perhaps the killer was in the house!!!!
School is cancelled that day, and Marty takes Kit up on her ‘call me if you need me’ offer. She is also devastated and says that if everyone was just nicer to each other things would be okay. He says that he can’t believe this all started because of the stupid cat that they all were complicit in killing (I may be embellishing his train of thought). At practice the next day Marty says that he doesn’t know if he can play with his best friends horrifically murdered, but after the team has a meeting they all decide to play for both Barry and Dwayne. Marty, overwhelmed with emotions, leaves the meeting, and runs into Gayle and Riki. They point out that two of the three Musketeers have been murdered, and Marty is the only one who is left. Does he think he could be next?
Deciding that he needs to take his mind off of his imminent mortality, Marty goes to the shelter to burn some more community service hours. Carolyn is surprised to see him, but says that he can sweep up. She also informs him that Brutus the Evil Dog may have a stay of execution, because someone who wants a vicious guard dog may be buying him to guard his store. HOW RESPONSIBLE, I don’t see anything going wrong with that decision. Carolyn leaves and Marty starts to sweep, but, of course, the cats start freaking out. Marty calls out, asking if someone is there. And lo and behold, there is. It’s Kit! He says that he’s glad to see her and asks why she’s there, and she tells him that it’s his ‘turn’. She then raises her hand and the animals stop. She reveals to him that he killed her, and that his friends laughed. Because KIT is THE CAT! She is a shapeshifter, one of the few shapeshifters left on Earth, and that she would shift into a cat to watch him play basketball because she liked him so much, and he killed her!!! She explains that she has nine lives, natch, and that’s why she was able to come back after he killed her. Marty thinks that Kit is nuts, but then she turns into her cat form and attacks him.
After Kit gets some good swipes in Marty is bleeding and dazed, but then when pulling himself up with the dog cage he sees Brutus. He lets Brutus out, and Brutus does the dirty work for him and snaps Kit’s neck in his teeth. Marty passes out.
The doctor gets him all stitched up and Marty just contends it was a cat. He doesn’t mention shapeshifters to his parents. Riki calls him after he gets home and after they talk awhile NOW Marty decides that she’s ‘terrific’. The big basketball tournament is that Friday and Marty starts out strong. But then he sees glowing eyes under the bleachers, and sees The Cat. With blood stained paws. Marty begins to scream. The End.
Body Count: I guess three, since the Cat and Kit are one and the same.
Romance Rating: 3, only because Barry and Riki had a good thing going there before he bit the dust.
Bonkers Rating: 7. Because SHAPESHIFTERS NOW?!
Fear Street Relevance: 3. Sure, Marty lives on Fear Street, but that was barely touched upon.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“Squinting hard, my eyes fell on a crumpled, still form at half court.
Oh no… not again! my mind screamed. ‘Nooooo!'”
… And then it’s just Barry’s green backpack!!! How did he mistake that for a body!?
That’s So Dated! Moments: It is said that Barry looks like ‘the dude that plays Superman on television’, and Stine HAS to be talking about Dean Cain, right?!
“‘You idiot,’ Gayle sneered. ‘Rats are vermin. Cats are beautiful, sensitive animals.'”
Hear hear!!! A girl after my own cat loving heart!
Conclusion: While I had high hopes for “Cat” given the subject matter, I found it to be lacking on the suspense and then REALLY out of left field with the ultimate conclusion. That said, if you like cats and like hearing about them stalking dumb boys, give in a whirl. Next up is “Fear Hall: The Beginning”!