What Happens to the Cat on Stranger Things? A spoiler for animal lovers

This is Mew Mew, Dustin's cat.

Mews, Dustin’s cat.

Spoilers and animals

I hate spoilers; I go out of my way to learn very little before I dive into a story or watch a movie. I want to go on the journey that an author or director intended, without knowledge that can affect my experience of it.

There is only one exception; I need to know if something happens to an animal.

I have a serious problem if a dog or a cat — or just about any animal — dies in a movie. Or a TV show. Or a book. (Don’t get me started about Old Yeller. And they call that a kid’s book! And movie.)

The death of an animal is a tool writers use, to show evil or to tweak heartstrings. If I see a pet show up in a film, I’m instantly on edge. Why are they showing the dog? Why is the cat in this scene? Is something bad going to happen?

When I saw the movie The Artist, I knew there was a dog involved ahead of time, but didn’t do the research to find out if anything happened to him. As the main character fell into despair, I became so tense and uncomfortable in fear for his pet that I almost walked out of the theatre. Spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the film: the dog is fine in the end. I wish I had known that going in; I would have been able to relax and enjoy the movie.

I know I’m not alone because there is an entire website dedicated to people who want to know beforehand if an animal is harmed. It is called Does The Dog Die.

And the recent movie The Mountain Between Us even posted a spoiler trailer assuring potential movie goers that the dog lives.

SPOILER ALERT for Stranger Things Season 2

My husband and I are fans of Stranger Things, and when Season 2 of the series was made available this past Friday, we jumped right in.

Dustin’s cat Mews appears early in the season, and that’s when I began to worry. This is a show where children die. Mews was at risk. They showed the cat too much for her not to become part of the story.

Don’t read further if you don’t want to know. Read on, if you’re like me and you need to know.

The cat dies.

I’m sorry.

The details: More spoilers

There are a few things that enable me to continue watching or reading a story where an animal dies, and both my daughter Corinne (who feels the same as I do) and I will let each other know the following, so we can make a decision about whether to watch or read.

How much is a reader or viewer invested in the  animal emotionally? Do you care about the cat? How much do you know about the dog? Do you feel the pain of the loss through the characters? In Stranger Things, you see the cat a few times, know her name, but there’s not a lot of interaction with the main character Dustin. However, when Mews goes missing, Dustin’s mom is understandably distraught. I can feel her pain.

How much of the death is onscreen, or described? Do you see the animal suffer? In the fourth episode of Season 2, the cat is killed. You don’t see how, but you do see her being eaten. It’s a quick scene but not an easy one.

Dustin's mom wears cat ears

On Halloween, Dustin’s mom wears cat ears, which is very sweet, but also gives viewers a sense of how she feels about her cat.

Should you watch Stranger Things season 2?

I like Stranger Things. It is classified as a scary show, a horror series. There has to be some visceral risk, and therefore, awful things happen. In the first season, people die. Children die. A deer dies. So if you don’t like that, don’t watch. I found the scene with the cat upsetting, but understandable for the story. However, we don’t see Dustin’s mom reacting to the death of her cat; she never finds out exactly what happens. This would have made it very difficult for me. Watching someone deal with the loss of a pet is always too raw, too painful. I cry. Every time. So I’m (relatively) happy to report I was spared those tears.

But wait!  There’s more!

Here’s another cat-related spoiler (but you’ll like this one): In the end of the last episode — part of which takes place a month after the main events of the season — we see Dustin’s mom sitting in her chair and cuddling a new cat, adorably named Tews.

Thus the violence, pain, heartache, and mourning for Mews all happen off screen. For me, it was bearable, and serves the story. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t horrified and saddened. But Stranger Things, is, after all, intended to evoke those emotions, among others.

My goal in this post was to offer people like me — who don’t want to experience the death of a animal — enough information to know whether to watch Stranger Things, and to do so without providing additional unnecessary and unrelated spoilers. If you read this far, I hope it helped you decide what to do.

Are you like me? Do you avoid books and movies where the animal dies?

Posted in: Good to Know

12 Comments on "What Happens to the Cat on Stranger Things? A spoiler for animal lovers"

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  1. I don’t watch Strange things. I also can’t stomach animals dying in books or movies. I am always like – if the baby dies I will be ok but kill the puppy and I am a puddle on the floor. For this reason will never see old Yeller!

    • Yes! Exactly! Me too. You can kill just about anything human or monster, but don’t touch the dog. Or the cat. Or the deer. Or the squirrel. Or… you get the picture. And I agree about Old Yeller. It’s also one of the reasons I hated the book Marley and Me and refused to even slightly consider reading (or watching the movie) A Dog’s Purpose (even before the controversy.)

  2. Mary McNeil says:

    I don’t even like to read true books recommended by cat bloggers if the animal dies at the end – even if it’s of old age ! When I taught grade school a lot of us would read aloud to the kids for a bit each day and we kept each other in the loop of which books you did NOT want to attempt to read aloud.

  3. Hildy says:

    I *really* don’t like how they handled Mews. First, I feel like they treated Dustin’s mom as the ever-dismissible cat lady character – who probably means well but certainly can’t be taken seriously because, let’s face it, she cares about cats a little too much.
    Dustin seemed pretty anti-Mews even before his “demidog” made an entrance – he was looking for part of his Ghostbusters costume in episode 1 and his mom wouldn’t move because Mews was on her lap. Bottom line, the writers signaled from the start that Mews was sort of annoying and his mom was a little over the top so it’s nbd that kitty is killed. I was ready to write off Dustin altogether after that episode because he doesn’t even seem that upset about it. I felt like the writers wanted us to care more about the cover up and wanted us to root for Dustin hiding Mews’ grizzly death from his mom.
    Dustin redeemed himself a bit in later season, but of course I also felt bad for Dart in the end. *sigh* Animals in tv or movies. It’s never safe.

    • Good points. I think overall Stranger Things allows a few characters to be cardboard, but I also like how they change it up a bit. Like Steve could have been “typical jerky boyfriend” but they let the character grow.
      And my husband and I both wanted more upset from Dustin that his cat (technically his mom’s but still — and her refers to her later as “my cat”) after she was killed.
      I also have a theory that Dustin may be a bit on the Autism spectrum. He has trouble reading other people’s emotions, he blurts things out — technicalities, like constantly reminding people that Dart is a Demadog — and he knows near encyclopedic details about his games. That might explain some of it.
      And yes, even though Dart would have eaten everyone, you kind of feel bad that he’s going to die. At least that’s offscreen.

  4. Laura says:

    Kill all the people if you want, but leave the animals alone. Way back, I agreed to watch one of the Alien movies with my husband (don’t remember which Alien movie), but there was a cat and I asked my husband (who had seen the movie before) if the cat lived. If it didn’t, I wasn’t watching the movie. Don’t get me started on Old Yeller. If there’s an animal in the book I’m reading, I flip through the end of the book and look for any reference to the animal to make sure it’s still there, alive and happy. And I think I’ll pass on Stranger Things.

    • Exactly! I know I’m not alone here. I remember the cat in Alien and worried about him through the entire movie. I was thrilled that Ripley saved him. I want to know ahead of time if something happens to an animal; it’s the only time I want a spoiler.

      As for Stranger Things, it’s not for everyone. I got hooked with the first season, and jumped in early to watch the second. I wasn’t happy about the cat dying, but it was tolerable. That said, if I had known ahead of time, I’m not a hundred percent sure I would have decided to watch the show.

  5. Captain Fluffy says:

    Ever since my cat ran away I can barley look at a cat without having to hold back tears…

  6. Dylan says:

    I finished season one of Stranger Things last night with my fiancee and loved it. Two episodes into Season 2, I see the cute ginger cat on screen a little too much and have the same concerns. I too had to look it up, and it really, really upset me to hear about what happens to this cat.

    I grew up with a cute ginger cat who looked exactly like Mews and the amount of love he brought into my life was indescribable. At the animal shelter I volunteered at, another sweet ginger boy named Joseph who I cared for every day was put down by a new hire to “make room” even though it was a no-kill shelter. I broke down crying that day at the shelter and quit soon after. I still think about him sometimes.

    I lost my Dad a year ago to a sudden heart attack and this time of year is proving to be really hard on me. I got into this show to try to forget about it and enjoy a good story. And now I see that the on-screen version of my childhood friend gets graphically killed and eaten by a monster.

    Some people may call it hypocritical that I have no issues with fictional on-screen human deaths but am losing my cool over a kitty, but I don’t care. It bothers me, a lot, enough to be totally fine with leaving the show where it is and not watching it again.

    Good art evokes emotion, sure. But in my case, the emotion is “walking out of the gallery and never coming back.”

    • I know how you feel. An animal starts to appear more on screen instead of just in the background and you know; you just know. Add to that how much the cat looks like your heart cat and Joseph, and the recent lost of your dad; I can completely understand why it would be too painful to watch.

      I don’t think it’s hypocritical to be more bothered by an animal dying in a TV show than when it’s a human. We’re not alone. I know more people who feel the way we do about the death of animals in art than those who don’t.

      My opinion? I think it’s for several reasons: many of us have loved and lost a pet, and the grief is real and powerful—and never really goes away. The death of an animal in a movie or TV show (or even in a book for me) triggers that grief. It strikes a nerve, letting out raw emotion. In addition, nearly every animal who dies is innocent, a pawn in something larger than themselves. Directors and writers know not to show the death of a child; it would be too horrific, it would cross a line. But an animal is like a stand-in, a way to show evil and heartlessness, without crossing that line. Unfortunately for some of us, the death of an animal on screen does cross that line. For Stranger Things (spoiler alert), I think they needed to show that Mews was attacked and eaten by Dart because Dart had to die—and Dustin had to make it happen—and the audience had to feel it as the right, yet painful, decision. They couldn’t have too much empathy for a demogorgon.

      I think you made a wise decision to not watch the rest of Stranger Things. A month or so after my father-in-law passed away rather suddenly this summer, my husband and I watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. We thought it would be an escapist movie, and didn’t realize there were a lot of father and loss themes within in it. We made it through, but it was hard for him.

      I understand how this time of year would be difficult for you, after you lost your dad. With any loss—human or pet—there’s an empty space in your life that never fills up. A friend of mine once told me that you never get over it, you just learn to live with it.

      I hope the cherished memories of your father, your pets, and all the loved ones you’ve lost bring some warmth and solace to you.

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