On a ship where the crew are deader than A-line flares with pockets in their knees, what's a cat to do? Well, in the case of Lister's pet Frankenstein, you give birth. And that was the landmark moment in the history of the Cat people's… history. Frankenstein's kittens then bred with each other (incest being perfectly acceptable in post-apocalyptic sci-fi settings), which in turn led to the creation of a vast civilisation.
Over three million years, the cats evolved to become a race of incredibly cool humanoids, and flew off to explore the cosmos. They left behind the idiotic and the infirm, and eventually only one was left: a cat renamed by Lister, in a moment of breathtakingly creative thinking, "Cat". (With that kind of talent for branding, Lister would absolutely kill it on The Apprentice.)
Now the thing about the Cat is that he is fantastically, unbelievably, awe-inspiringly superficial. We really cannot stress this enough. In fact, neither can he. "Superficial's my middle name," he once said, with inexplicable smugness. The Cat's sole aim in life is to wear splendid clothes and maintain a perfect physique. The latter came in very handy when he was put in front of the Inquisitor, who demanded to know how he had contributed to the universe. The Cat's answer: "I have given pleasure to the world because I have such a beautiful ass." Even the Inquisitor couldn't argue with that one, and he was a kill-crazed simulant nutjob.
The Cat's always so busy being dazzled by his own magnificence that he barely even batted an eyelid when it's revealed that Lister is his God, aka Cloister the Stupid, the holy being who sent Frankenstein unto the world. What does the Cat care, when he has threads like that? Of course, he hasn't ALWAYS looked natty. There was the time the polymorph sucked out his vanity, turning him into a staggering tramp. You'd think that would have been the Cat's lowest ever point, but it wasn't. Ohhh, it wasn't. There was worse. And worse had a name. And that name was… Duane Dibbley.
Thanks to hallucinogenic ink squirted out by a "despair squid", the Dwarfers all believed they'd been playing a virtual reality game all along, and in fact lived in a dark, totalitarian state. Lister thought he was a vicious killer, Rimmer thought he was a ruined hobo, Kryten thought he was a traffic cop, and the Cat was horrified to discover that he was Duane Dibbley: he of the sticky-out teeth, pudding bowl haircut and clothes that would be incinerated by any self-respecting charity shop.
It's actually sort of ironic that the Cat's best-known Red Dwarf moment was when he was the "duke of dork" – and Duane would make a re-appearance later when another polymorph got its mitts on him. Thankfully, apart from these lapses, our flamboyant feline has always maintained his eyesore dress sense and gleefully carefree persona – even when he was slung into prison when the Red Dwarf crew were resurrected by nanobots. Apart from suffering the odd beating, he came out of it all pretty well, and when we caught up with him in Back to Earth he was if anything even more of a fashionista, clad in an almost worryingly tight, purple jumpsuit thing. Even Liberace would have had second thoughts about that one, but hey – how else is the Cat going to remind us that his ass is still beautiful after all these years?