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Home > Cats > What Breed of Cat Is Dinah from Alice in Wonderland? Cartoon Felines Presented

What Breed of Cat Is Dinah from Alice in Wonderland? Cartoon Felines Presented

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits and emotions to non-human entities. It has ancient roots as a storytelling device, and many cultures have fables with anthropomorphized animals as the center characters (e.g., the serpent in the book of Genesis). Anthropomorphic techniques have been used for centuries in folklore and fairy tales and, more recently, in children’s literature in the 19th century.

There was a lot of anthropomorphism in the 1865 novel Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Some of the most famous anthropomorphic characters include the simultaneously pompous and obsequious White Rabbit, the mischievous and perplexing Cheshire Cat, the hookah-smoking caterpillar, and, a much more minor but still significant character, Alice’s pet kitten Dinah.

If you’ve read the novel or seen the film, you might have wondered what cat Dinah’s breed could be. The only real hint we were given about Dinah’s breed was her red coat coloring, so it’s possible that she could be a tabby cat. It’s clear that the more celebrated feline in the book, the Cheshire Cat, is a British Shorthair. But what about Dinah? Is her character based on a specific breed, or did Carroll treat her as an afterthought, a red-colored cat who wasn’t a central enough character to be modeled after any particular breed? The answer appears to be the latter, but keep reading to learn more.

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Who Is Dinah?

Dinah is Alice and her sister’s pet cat. Her character was inspired by the pet kept by Alice, the real-life person who inspired Carroll’s character in his books.

In the book, Dinah appears several times throughout the first four chapters. Though she is not physically present in Wonderland, Alice talks of her often.

In the 1951 Disney adaptation, Dinah is first seen sitting with Alice and her sister, listening to them read from a history book. Alice and Dinah spot a white rabbit with a pocket watch running by them and chasing after it. Not long after, Alice falls down the rabbit hole, leaving Dinah behind. Dinah is not seen again until the film’s end when Alice wakes up from the Wonderland dream, and they go home together for tea.

In the film, Dinah is voiced by actor Mel Blanc. Blanc was known as The Man of a Thousand Voices as he famously voiced characters such as Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, the Tasmanian Devil, and Speedy Gonzalez.

Dinah Alice in Wonderland Disney Animation Studios
Image Credit: Characters by Walt Disney Animation Studios, The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

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What Kind of Cat Is Dinah?

Carroll did not model the character Dinah after any particular cat breed. Though she is modeled after a real-life cat, we don’t know what breed the real Dinah was. The only hint we were given about her breed was her red coat coloring. Due to genetics, all cats with red or orange fur are tabby cats. So, while Dinah may look to have solid coloring, she’d have some type of tabby markings if she were a real cat. You’d also likely be able to see the distinctive facial markings of a tabby, such as the “M” on the forehead.

What Does Dinah Represent?

There is a lot of symbolism scattered throughout the book and films.

The most apparent theme throughout is the theme of growing up. When Carroll wrote his book, he wanted to explore how children see the adult world, including its arbitrary rules and social etiquette. Alice’s adventure represents a child’s struggles trying to survive in the confusing world of adults. Carroll draws parallels between Wonderland and the real world of adults as seen through a child’s eyes, with all of its chaos and lack of logic.

red tabby cat sits on the background of the sea
Image Credit: Anna_Zaitzeva, Shutterstock

Another recurring motif is that of identity. Alice struggles with her personal identity throughout the book, often being ordered to identify herself by the creatures she meets in Wonderland. Along with the doubts of her personal identity, Alice also struggles with her physical appearance. She grows and shrinks several times, which she finds confusing, much like the genuine thoughts we all had as we grew throughout our own adolescence. The Pigeon character mistakes Alice for a serpent, and the Cheshire Cat questions her sanity.

Alice learns to cope with rules that don’t make sense throughout her adventures. She starts managing the situations she finds herself in as an adult. Little by little, she loses her childhood imagination and starts seeing things as they really are.

But, does Dinah’s character represent anything deeper than being a childhood pet? She is mentioned several times by Alice as she adventures in Wonderland so though she isn’t present in this magical land, she is Alice’s anchor to the real world. She’s there when Alice falls down the rabbit hole and is present when she returns.

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Final Thoughts

While it appears as if Dinah wasn’t modeled after any particular cat breed, you can’t deny her importance as a character throughout Alice in Wonderland. She is a generic red kitten who may have been inspired by a real life cat, but we may never know what breed Carroll had in mind as he wrote Dinah’s character in the 1860s.

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Featured Image Credit: Characters by  Walt Disney Animation StudiosThe Walt Disney Company.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

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