5 great songs about cats, in honor of National Cat Day on Oct. 29

Popular music is inundated with dog songs, ranging from classics like "Hound Dog" to annoying ear worms like "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?" and "Who Let the Dogs Out?"

Cat songs, on the other paw, are a much more elusive breed.

Maybe songwriters are less inclined to sing the praises of a pet that doesn't give a flying fig what you think. But we cat fanciers know better. Kitties may act aloof, persnickety and downright haughty at times, but they need our love and attention, too.

To help you celebrate National Cat Day on Oct. 29 -- yes, it's really a holiday -- here's a look at five great songs about cats.

"Stray Cat Strut," Stray Cats (1981)

The early '80s were a brief period of kitty nirvana in pop music, thanks to songs like the Cure's "Love Cats" and this rockabilly ode to a feline Casanova. Brian Setzer wrote "Stray Cat Strut" in 1979 when the band -- then called the Tomcats -- was still unknown, hence the lyrics: "I'm flat broke, but I don't care / I strut right by with my tail in the air." Three years later, "Strut" was a Top 5 hit and the trio was rolling in catnip.

The Stray Cats - circa 1981 - from left, Slim Jim Phantom - Lee Rocker - Brian Setzer

"Murder (or a Heart Attack)," Old 97's (1999)

It's easy to mistake this power-pop nugget for a basic lost-love song. But listen closer and you'll discover the "you" is actually a missing kitty. Singer Rhett Miller once told The Dallas Morning News he wrote the song about Charlie, a roommate's cat who escaped through a window Miller left open. The tune ends on an uncertain note, but in real life, Charlie returned before Miller had finished writing the lyrics.

"Cat in the Window (The Bird in the Sky)," Petula Clark (1967)

Produced by Jack Nitzsche -- the man who helped build Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" -- the string-laden "Cat in the Window" is one of Clark's most orchestrated hits. The lyrics are just as dreamy, with Clark comparing herself to an indoor cat, watching birds and "wishing for some wings to take a ride." Of course, cats don't really want wings; they want to hunt and kill anything with wings, just for the sport of it. But that's another topic entirely.

Petula Clark in 1966. She had sold 25 million records by then.

"Lucifer Sam," Pink Floyd (1967)

Although the song was inspired by singer Syd Barrett's Siamese cat Sam, the lyrics to "Lucifer Sam" are mysterious: Is he singing about a real cat? Or is it about a shady man, the sort of late-'60s "cat" that Keith Richards refers to in Gimme Shelter when he says, "We're splitting, man, if those cats don't stop beating everybody up"? In the song, Barrett concludes "that cat's something I can't explain," which turned out to be an apt description of the singer himself: Months after recording "Lucifer Sam," he left Pink Floyd under a cloud of LSD abuse and mental health issues.

In this March 3, 1967 file photo, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Syd Barrett and Richard Wright, of Pink Floyd, appear in London. The band released its debut album in 1967.

"Crosseyed Cat," Muddy Waters (1977)

Cat mysticism was a pet topic for Waters, who famously sang about his "black cat bone" lucky charm in "Hoochie Coochie Man." In this pithy blues-rock strut produced by Johnny Winter, he bemoans his girlfriend's hulking housecat, who growls and gives him the evil eye every time he comes over. Is the cat really the ghost of his girlfriend's previous lover? Muddy doesn't stick around to find out.

Blues musician Muddy Waters performs at New York's Palladium Theater, Oct. 1, 1977 in a benefit performance for the New York Public Library.

Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic. Email thorchris2@yahoo.com.

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