The king of crime

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 December, 2008, 12:00am

This week A poem about a criminal cat that the police just cannot catch

Beware of the cat

There is something about cats that make them favourite animals for writers to write about. Cats can be mysterious. And they can be evil like the monster in Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Black Cat.

This week's cat is a very interesting character. He's an expert criminal that the police just cannot catch. He commits crimes all over the place and never leaves any clues behind. There is no criminal in the entire world like Macavity the Mystery Cat. He is the King of Crime.

1. What is a 'criminal'?

a) a person who helps the police

b) a person who breaks the law

2. What is a 'clue'?

a) something that helps someone solve a puzzle or a mystery

b) something that is stolen during a robbery

Practical cats

Macavity the Mystery Cat is from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. It is a book of poems about cats written by T.S. Eliot (1888 - 1965) and published in 1939.

Eliot wrote the poems for young people, but the book was so amusing and lively that many adults read it. Eliot was a life-long cat lover.

He had originally intended to include some poems about dogs in this collection, but eventually decided that it would be 'impolite to wrap cats up with dogs'. So the book ended up being only about cats.

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats is about a group of felines called Jellicle Cats. The book was used as a basis for the worldwide hit musical Cats.

3. What does 'lively' mean?

a) not very interesting

b) full of life and energy

4. What does 'life-long' mean?

a) for all of someone's life

b) for the first few years of someone's life

The hidden paw

Macavity the Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot

1. Working in groups or pairs, write down the following words and check their meanings in the dictionary. to defy / bafflement / despair / to reach / gravity / levitation / a fakir / sunken / domed / uncombed / a fiend / depravity / respectable / a larder / to loot / to rifle / to stifle / a trellis / disclosed / deceitfulness / suavity / an alibi

2. Read the poem aloud. What is the shape of the poem? How many verses does it have? Does it rhyme? Does it have a rhythm like a song? Does the poem have more than one subject? Is the poem told in the first person (I) or the third person (he)?

3. Working again in pairs or groups, write down a physical description of Macavity in your own words. (Macavity is a ginger cat. He's very tall and thin ...)

4. What do you think about Macavity? Is he exciting or boring? Do you like him or do you disapprove of him? Why?

5. You are a detective tracking down Macavity. Write down a list of words and phrases that describe his character.

6. Make up a name for the cat detective that has been told by Scotland Yard (the headquarters of the police force in London) to hunt down Macavity.

7. Write a short story about how your cat detective finally catches Macavity ... and how Macavity escapes.

And finally

Do you think Macavity the Mystery Cat is an interesting poem? Why?

Read about Gus the Theatre Cat, Skimbleshanks, Rum Tum Tugger and all the other Jellicle Cats in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

Listen to the CD or watch the DVD of the musical Cats.

To read the poem, go to


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