Brief History: The idea of a clever cat who tricks others in order to help a master is a common theme in many cultures across Europe, Africa, and Asia. This idea is thought to have started in Indian folklore and traveled to Europe. The most popular versions come from Italy or France. Despite what they try to convince you of in Shrek, this is how the story goes: A miller’s youngest son inherits a cat from his dad and the cat (who can of course talk) promises to make him wealthy if the young man gets him a pair of boots. No pants or shirt or cape. Just boots... for his back paws. With the confidence which only a new pair of boots can give, the cat then makes several trades throughout the town until his dealings lead him to the king. He presents the king with gifts sent from an imaginary master, the Marquis of Carabas. In order to introduce his real master to the king, he tells the miller’s son to pretend that his clothes were stolen by bandits. The king then wants to help the young man who he thinks has been sending him so many goodies and wants to match up the “Marquis” with his daughter provided that the lord show them his holdings. The cat then sets up other illusions to make the king think that the miller’s son is a kindly lord, beloved by his people (people who are actually people under the control of an evil, shape-shifting ogre). Not really sure how being the tenant of an ogre works? Would they still pay taxes or would the ogre just demand sacrifices? Off topic. Where was I? Puss in Boots also manages to fool the ogre into turning into a mouse, eats him, and claims the ogre’s property for his master. So, miller’s son, princess, and cat get to live in luxury for the rest of their lives, while the poor people on the ogre’s land wonder who the heck all of these people living in the castle are.
Analysis: Clearly, this is about listening to your cat. Need I say more?
Blame it on the Victorians: In some earlier versions, the cat is a fairy in disguise, is a female cat who is like a replacement mother taking care of the main character, or is secretly trying to play his master for a chump then has a change of heart. By the time Charles Perrault wrote it down in the 1800s, Puss was simply a talking cat. The role of a cat in Victorian society differed based on your social status. To farmers, cats were yet another animal to help around the house and keep down on the best population. For wealthy households, they were simply pets. Still, cats held a stronger sway over women of the time than men. Women who were trapped home all day long relied on the love and distraction of pets to keep them sane. This was when cat funerals, which is something we think of as being more sentimental and modern, came back into “fashion”.
Last thoughts: Stop giggling at the title. It means cat, you sicko.
* Side note: You ever watch the Puss in Boots with Christopher Walken in it? It's so magical you might not be able to stand it.
*If you want know any of the places where some of my research comes from, just contact me.