The Cat Came Back
You can fly to the other end of the world, and know you'll only find, that I've reserved the seat behind you, we can talk about old times.
—Marillion, "The Uninvited Guest"
But the cat came back, the very next day, the cat came back, they thought he was a goner but the cat came back, he just wouldn't stay away.
—The Cat Came Back, Harry S. Miller
Bob saved Alice's life. Alice then voluntarily and happily worships and takes care of Bob constantly to pay him back. This drives Bob crazy. Crazy enough to try and get away from Alice, but he is doomed to fail. If he gets on a bus, or a plane, or a boat, as soon as he reaches the destination, Alice will be waiting for him, holding the sweater she knitted for him, as well as a tray of his favorite food. Alternatively, Bob could barricade himself in an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere, and just as he finishes hammering in the last nail, he realises Alice has been standing next to him all along, handing him the nails.
This uses a comic version of Offscreen Teleportation.
The trope is named after the song and cartoon The Cat Came Back, where a man desperately tries to get rid of a cat, but no matter what he does to get rid of the thing, the cat comes back "the very next day" (and brings massive misfortune to anyone who tried to take it away).
With just a tiny tweaking, such a plot can easily go from comedic into horror territory: variations of the story of the demon (or corpse, or spoon-wielding killer) you just can't get rid of no matter what you try...
If you're dealing with an object of similar tenacity see Clingy MacGuffin. Compare The Thing That Would Not Leave. Not to be confused with The Cat Returns.
Anime and Manga
- Early in Love Hina, Keitaro and Naru both go on a trip to the same place on the same train at the same time in an attempt to get away from each other.
- More than one comic in Archie Comics has centered on this with regards to Mr. Lodge or Professor Weatherbee trying to get away from Archie. Fly to Rome, he's for some reason hustling tips at the cafe. Head for Japan, he's three rows ahead of you in the audience at the Kabuki. Has driven Mr. Lodge over the edge into temporary mental collapse.
- "You will not find The Phantom; he will find you." - Old Jungle Saying
- If Batman gets on someone's case, there is no shaking him. Well, there was that one guy, but he had to go through three clubs and two subways.
- And when he came back home Batman was waiting for him there.
- The Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire graphic novel PSmIth has fun with this one. A man shows up at the bar with a gun, ready to shoot the bartender. He is defeated, and thrown into the "sleep room". Then it happens again. And again. After thirteen times, the robot that's been taking the man to the sleep room complains that he can't do it again because the room is full. Further investigation shows that thirteen identical clones with a Hive Mind have all tried to kill the bartender.
- In the Tintin comics, Captain Haddock can never escape opera singer Bianca Castafiore. If she doesn't show up in person to plague his life, a Tibetan porter or a Middle Eastern trader will be listening to her singing the Jewel Song on the radio at ear-splitting volume. Cue cursing from Haddock.
- The squid in De Cape et de Crocs.
- In Up, after Carl tries to get rid of Dug and Kevin, they each show up exactly where he and Russel were running to. Of course, they are an old man and a kid with a house tied to their backs versus a hyperactive dog and a very fast bird.
- |"You have saved our lives. We are eternally grateful!"
- WILL YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!
- Of course, this is subverted in the third movie, when they end up saving all of Andy's toys from the incinerator, and Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head repeat this line to them.
- No teleportation, but in What About Bob? Richard Dreyfuss' character cannot escape Bill Murray's character.
- Weekend at Bernie's
- Played for laughs masquerading as horror with the doll in Doom House.
- The film Malicious is an example of the "horror" variation of this trope. Bonus points for featuring Molly Ringwald naked in it.
- In Redemption, a Perestroika-era Georgian film, the body of the local Party official keeps getting dug up and left exposed no matter how often people put it back in its grave.
- Young Buddy does this for a little while to Mr. Incredible at the start of The Incredibles. A desperate attempt to be named sidekick and an interesting likeness to this trope. He also sort of does it in appearing to him later as the older, improved supervillian.
- Played for horror in The Grudge; in fact, most of the terror comes when you realize that the curse is inescapable. The final line of the film captures this quite nicely: "We managed to save the house!"
- The first Harry Potter book features the Dursleys being dogged by magical postal owls in this fashion.
- Taken to its logical conclusion in The Film of the Book, where Harry looks out the window, while Uncle Vernon is happily spouting about how "there's no post on Sunday." Their lawn, car, and roof are covered in owls, as are the neighbors' lawns, cars, and roofs, and their neighbors' lawns, cars, and roofs, and so on. The entire subdivision is besieged with owls, all to get Harry his acceptance letter. All while Hedwig's Theme plays quietly and cheekily in the background.
- Harry tends to have this problem with various admirers who mean well but make him very uncomfortable with their hero-worship. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry finds himself constantly followed by Colin Creevey, which leads to the poor kid getting Petrified when he tried to visit Harry in the Hospital Wing at night. Ron, meanwhile, has this problem with Lavender Brown in the sixth book and there's a brief period of time when Harry has to also dodge Lavender, along with Cormac.
- Let us not forget Romilda Vane, she of the love potion which, by sequence of events, very nearly got Ron killed.
- Appears in Joseph Heller's classic novel Catch-22. Yossarian spends much of the second half of the book trying to escape Nately's Whore, going to such lengths as to take her up in a plane, fly over Italy, strap a parachute to her back and kick her out (over German held territory), only to return to Pianosa and find she's already waiting for him.
- The early Discworld book The Light Fantastic has an extremely elderly wizard preparing an elaborate method of escaping Death. The last step is climbing into a tiny airtight box and locking it from the inside. Just as he settles down, he hears a voice in his ear: Dark in here, isn't it?
- Locking oneself into a small airtight box would tend to lead to immediate suffocation and death.
- Inverted with the Igors, who stay out of your way most of the time but appear behind you right when you need them.
- In Going Postal, an employer of an inquiring turn of mind stands in front of a bear trap and calls for his Igor. He hears the bear trap go off, then turns around to see an uninjured Igor holding the sprung trap. Igor tells him this isn't the first time, for him or for any Igor; one of his uncles was employed by a man who liked to stand with his back to a pit of spikes when he made the call. Then one day he forgot it was there. Talk about laugh.
- In Going Postal, Moist von Lipwig finds that he is being relentlessly and cheerfully pursued by Mr. Pump, his parole officer. Mr. Pump, being a golem, has a definite advantage over Moist in that he never needs to eat, rest, or even breathe.
- Also shows up in Guards! Guards! which has the villain at the end of the book futilely fleeing from the supposedly imprisoned Vetinari.
- Wednesday at the beginning of American Gods.
- No matter how much the nameless protagonist of Green Eggs and Ham protests and runs, Sam-I-Am will always be just around the corner to attempt to get him to try the eponymous dish...
- "The cat that kept coming back" was an important plot point in the Jeeves and Wooster novel Aunts Aren't Gentlemen.
- In O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief", one of the kidnappers, Bill, gets so fed up with the titular kidnapee he tries to send the boy home. As he's reporting this to his partner Sam, the kid has unbeknownst to him snuck up behind him, and Sam gently points this out to Bill, after checking to see if there's any history of heart disease in his family.
- In addition to the animated cartoon mentioned above, the trope-naming song was also memorably featured in a sketch on The Muppet Show.
- Actually, the Muppet Show sketch was an almost entirely different song, though it had much the same theme.
- The little yellow muppet that sings "You are my sunshine" in the famous "Hugga Wugga" sketch pulls this trick off.
- Played for horror in the Tales from the Crypt episode "Loved to Death." In the episode, the main character gives a love potion to beautiful woman who won't give him the time of day. It works far too well. Eventually he kills himself to escape, and on the escalator to Heaven, finds her right behind him, now hideously mangled because she killed herself.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide: Two episodes have Ned facing this from his mad Clingy Jealous Girl Missy.
- Also, there's one other episode where Missy's cheating off of Moze, and when the other girl moves her paper so Missy can't see it, Missy's instantly on the other side of her and continues to copy the answers.
- A rather literal instance of this happened in the Pilot episode of Early Edition, when Gary, trying to evade the newspaper-bringing cat, left town and went to a very remote area. The cat had no problem at all finding him and delivering his paper.
- An episode of Hancock's Half Hour has Hancock trying to entertain a group of fellow passengers on a train, and predictably alienating them instead. To avoid meeting them on the return journey he takes the (slower) bus, only to find that they've all had the same idea.
- A Mr. Show sketch has two old friends/acquaintances say their heartfelt goodbyes after meeting each other for a goodbye drink... only to keep bumping into each other as they stop off to perform various errands on their way home, to their increasing irritation. Things get really surreal when one of them expects the other to show up, is surprised when he doesn't, panics and begins to check the sites of their previous accidental encounters in increasing hysteria, only to learn the other one has died at some point during the night.
- In Flash Forward, an oddly dramatic example, Dr. Benford has a vision of the future in which she's having an affair with another man, who turns out to be the father of a boy under her treatment. To try to avoid this, she transfers the boy to another department, but he's promptly transferred back. (episode "Black Swan")
- Decidedly non-comedic example in The Twilight Zone episode "The Hitchhiker", in which a young woman is taking a road trip by herself across a couple state lines. Her first day out, she sees a hitchhiker standing by the side of the road, thumb out, and after she passes him she keeps seeing him, state after state and night after night, until finally she panics, goes to a phone booth and calls her mother. Who thinks that she is a prank caller, because her daughter died in a car crash two weeks ago. When the woman gets back in the car, the hitchhiker is in the back seat, staring at her in the rear-view mirror .
- A variant was done in the Twilight Zone revival. A woman continually sees a bus driven by a creepy guy no matter where she goes. Eventually her dog jumps onto the bus, while she yells at the driver to "get out of [her] life!" The driver replies "It's not your life, it's the life you could have had," and we learn that the woman and the dog were both hit by a car at the beginning of the episode. The dog is brought back to life and, had the woman had the courage to board the bus as well, she could have been revived. Instead, she fades away.
- This was used by Stephen Colbert in a fake audition tape shown at the Correspondent's Dinner, featuring Helen Thomas in a Droopy-like role, pursuing Colbert after asking an Armor-Piercing Question.
- On The West Wing, after the president's entourage is shot at while leaving a public event, C.J. realizes her life was saved by someone who pulled her to the ground. She eventually figures out it's Sam and asks why he didn't tell her, and he invokes this in his response:
Sam: I didn't want you to feel beholden to me. I didn't want it to be like an episode of I Dream of Jeannie, where now you've gotta save my life, and the time-space continuum, and you have to follow me around with coconut oil and hot towels...
- Joel Polowin's parody "The Bug Came Back" features a programmer futilely trying to fix an error in his code. In the final verse:
We set up an experiment that Schrodinger inspired:
- The country music song "What'll You Do About Me" (which has been recorded by Randy Travis, Steve Earle, Doug Supernaw and others) features the narrator having a Cowboy And The Lady-esque one-night stand and becoming a stalker afterwards. Sample lyrics: "You can change your number, you can change your name, you can ride like hell on a midnight train. That's all right, mama, that's okay, but what'll you do about me?"
- Nickelback sings a similar song, "Follow You Home", where the stalked girl rigs a car without brakes and buries the stalker to try and escape, among other things.
- The novelty song Little Blue Man in which a woman is continuously stalked by a Little Blue Man who professes his love for her. Finally she drops him off a building in desperation, only to have him return one last time to announce that he doesn't love her anymore.
- Paul Dehn's poem Mrs. Ravoon, memorably set to music by Tom Mastin. "You are too much with me, late and soon."
- "You'll never get rid of the *boom-boom-boom* no matter what you do!"
- This song is The Thing, by Phil Harris (the singer who voiced Baloo and Little John in Disney's The Jungle Book and Robin Hood)
- Jonathan Coulton's "Creepy Doll".
- Alexander Rybak's song "OAH" has Alexander stalking a girl everywhere, while singing "I love you o-aah". The fact that everyone else than the girl gleefully sings and dances along doesn't help her at all.
Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends
- One of the stories about Coyote in Navajo myth has him courting a woman who doesn't want him. As part of her Engagement Challenge she tells him that he must let her kill him four times (four being a major Arc Number in Navajo myth) and come back. By the fourth time she is so aggravated that she takes up a club, beats Coyote to pieces, crushes the pieces into dust, burns the dust, and scatters the ashes to the winds. He still comes back due to his Soul Jar.
- In Nethack, after you've picked up the Macguffin, its guardian will periodically respawn near you as you're trying to escape.
- In Final Fantasy VII, Cloud attempts to sneak out of Aerith's house during the night because her mother told him to leave before she goes with him on a dangerous trek through the slums. He sneaks past her bedroom as she's sleeping, sprints across the Sector...only to find her waiting for him at the entrance to the next area, earning a well-deserved gesture of shock from Cloud. But how...you were...and I ran...
- In Clock Tower for the SNES, when you are being chased by Scissor Man, if you duck into an elevator, when you reach the floor you were heading for, Scissor Man will step out of the nearby room. I doubt this was intended as part of the game, but it is certainly freaky if you don't expect it.
- In The Elder Scrolls Oblivion, the Staff of the Everscamp compels whoever has it to never let go of it, and whoever holds it is followed by four daedric (demonic) scamps, though they do nothing more than follow the owner (and emit a terrible odor). The only way to get rid of the staff is for someone else to willfully take it, or to return it to its shrine.
- Consider this: You can kill them infinitely for the hell of it. You could literally set up an entire mini-story based around that staff...
- People also use it as a source of infinitely-spawning enemies for Level Grinding.
- But nothing in Oblivion has reached such memetic status as the aptly named Adoring Fan. After gaining notoriety in the Imperial City arena, he will begin to insist on following around and being completely freaking useless. If he dies, whether naturally or by "accident", he will respawn in the exact spot you first met him. Many players actually make something of a sport out of this, trying to find out just how many ways one might be able to kill him.
- In the 2D Sonic the Hedgehog games, Tails will respawn and follow you eternally. Trying to shake him off has become something of a sport among Sonic players.
- In the Professor Layton games, Layton adopts the orphaned Flora after the events of the first game. In all the subsequent games, he attempts to leave her at home rather than bring her along on dangerous investigations -- not that he doesn't want her around, but because he worries about her so much, as is made clear in his journal entries. She sneaks along anyway. It's somewhat Justified by an intense case of separation anxiety and monophobia.
- In one chapter of the shareware game Spandex Force, there's this creepy bearded guy in a Robin-type getup who keeps following the PC around, claiming that he's called "Wonder Boy" and that he wants to be his/her sidekick.
'Most villains in RPGs possess some form of teleportation. They generally use it to materialize in front of the adventurers when they reach the Obligatory Legendary Relic Room and seize the goodies just before you can. The question "if the bad guy can teleport anywhere at any time, then why doesn't (s)he just zip in, grab the artifact, and leave before the adventurers have even finished the nerve-wracking puzzle on the third floor?" is never answered. '
- The short film Perv: The Cat, featuring a cat that consistently gets in the way of a couple about to make love, is essentially this trope.
- A Doug Walker skit features him making the mistake of asking Kyle Hebert to demonstrate his narrating technique. The result is Hebert following Doug around for the rest of the day, refusing to ever shut up, and eventually he even climbs into bed with him, at which point Doug smothers him with a pillow.
- In Homestuck, the ever-creepy Cal follows Dave around.
- Done in this strip from Girly.
- You can't get rid of Party Cat, even when you get rid of Party Cat.
- The Orb of Bliss in The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred Unlike the magical swords, she floats and can move freely about, thus following Mordred everywhere. And even when he tried to get rid of her, she comes back. Most recently he got fed listening to her chatter and stuffed her in a box which he tossed out the 2nd story window, only to have it, and the undamaged orb, returned in the next page by the downstairs neighbour.
- Igor in Nodwick is able to confront the title character a number of times when he's fleeing from the Henchmen's Guild, only to be fast-talked into going back empty-handed.
- In most Scooby-Doo episodes, Shaggy and Scooby will find themselves in such situation with the villain of the day. (This also happens in both movies.)
- We got a serious one in "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated": In "The Legend Of Alice May", Mr. E uses Alice May in a Ghost Girl plot to give the gang a old Crystal Cove year book. In "Pawns of Shadows", the gang unmasked Oliberatax as Alice May.
- In the Looney Tunes short Yankee Doodle Daffy, Porky Pig is a talent agent trying to go on vacation, who first has to get away from Daffy Duck, who is trying to convince Porky that his young client "Sleepy LaGoon" has star quality, mainly by demonstrating his apparent talents himself.
- A similarly-themed cartoon (Draftee Daffy) has Daffy trying to evade "The Little Man from the Draft Board", who even follows him into Hell.
- Subverted in the Bugs Bunny short "Tortoise Beats Hare." it wasn't the original tortoise that kept inexplicably escaping Bugs' methods of leaving him behind. It was a series of identical tortoises which the first one bribed to screw with him.
- Pepe LePew. No matter where That Poor Cat goes, Pepe is there to hold her in his arms.
- That red hairy monster was also quite persistent in following Bugs in that one cartoon.
- Oh, you mean Gossamer!
- This also happened to Ralph Wolf, when he proved unable to evade Sam the Sheepdog. Like the "Tortoise Beats Hare" example listed above, it turned out that there were multiple Sams.
- Droopy is an undisputed master of this trope.
- Of course, there often was more than one of him.
- The short Northwest Hounded Police is pretty much nothing but this trope.
- The Warner siblings on Animaniacs are fond of doing this as well. Apparently, they can even bi-locate (stand in two positions at the same time in the same room).
- They meet their match in the short Chairman of the Bored, in the form of Francis "Pip" Pumphandle, who follows them home and only leaves when his monotonous anecdote is complete. At the end they decide they actually miss him, and chase after him, wanting to hear more of his stories.
- Happened in an episode of The Simpsons: Bart and Lisa escape from Mr Burns through a laundry chute, only to find him waiting for them when they hit the ground. Lampshaded when Bart incredulously points out that it's physically impossible for Burns to have arrived first.
- Mr. Burns gets another example when he uses the trapdoor in his office and the victims fall out of the ceiling in the same office, despite this being physically impossible. Burns simply responds exasperatedly "Oh, it's doing that thing again..."
- And in a Treehouse of Horror ep., with Homer threatened by a psychotic Krusty doll; Homer drops the doll into a Bottomless Pit, but it comes back by riding back home under the car.
- In yet another episode, Homer finally starts to like Flanders... to the points that their roles end up getting reversed and Flanders tries as hard as he can to get Homer off his back. It doesn't work.
- In SpongeBob SquarePants, the titular character actually so annoys his attempted murderer, the Tattletale Strangler, that he locks himself in prison to get away from SpongeBob.
- A Running Gag in Garfield and Friends, where Garfield will often send the annoyingly-cute Nermal off to Abu Dhabi, but he will find his way back into Garfield's house just seconds later.
- Also in the newspaper comics as well.
- Dexter's Laboratory had a pretty standard version of this one in the episode "The Continuum of Cartoon Fools", in which Deedee repeatedly found ways to get into Dexter's Lab, and only by figuring out the obvious entrance Deedee could use every time to get inside (the secret book case entrance) could Dexter seal her off once and for all. The kicker? He locked himself out of the lab. He then spends the last thirty seconds or so of the cartoon going on a tirade about how he's no better than "that crazy coyote or that stupid duck".
- The robin in Krypto the Superdog, whose desire to be Bat-Hound's partner drives the normally implacable Caped Canine to hide in Krypto's spaceship with the lights out.
- In an episode of Recess, a kid follows the Recess gang around, causing them bad luck. They do everything they can to lose him, but he always seems to catch up somehow, invariably greeted with sheer disbelief by the troupe. In one of their more extreme plans to get rid of him, Vince boots a ball all the way to China and tells the kid to retrieve it. The gang are momentarily relieved that he's finally gone, until he inexplicably returns from China a few seconds later, complete with a hat and a bowl of Chinese food.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Perry Lays an Egg", Perry the Platypus discovers Dr. Doofensmirtz's latest scheme is simply to ridicule the whale who stole one of his old girlfriends, and promptly turns around with an annoyed look on his face. Dr. Doofensmirtz has to chase Perry down in this manner and demand Perry thwart his "evil scheme". "I just insulted the macaroni and cheese recipe of a whale! How is that not evil?"
- Lampshaded in an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, where Shake, Frylock and Meatwad attempt to rid themselves of a murderous ventriloquists' dummy, only for it to reappear every time they look away. Their final attempt to get rid of it involves Shake burning it with a flame thrower while Frylock and Meatwad watch several surveillance monitors looking in every direction. The dummy then appears from above in a parachute.
- One of Robot Chicken's Star Wars skits involves Jar-Jar Binks visiting Darth Vader. Vader tries to shoo him away before finally tossing him out the air lock. Vader sleeps peacefully that night...until Jar-Jar appears, somehow learning the blue shiny trick. Without need to eat or sleep, Jar-Jar can hang with Vader all day, any day! YAAAY!
- The Oscar nominated National Film Board of Canada Short Film obviously called The Cat Came Back from 1988 is a hilarious seven minutes of this trope.
- Bing the chameleon from The Angry Beavers is very persistent once he decides you're his friend.
- An episode of Jimmy Two-Shoes had Heloise, who just wanted to read her book, being pestered by Jimmy and Beezy, who were having a contest to see who could make the most annoying sound.
- Happens to Rainbow Dash at the start of the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Griffon the Brush-Off", where Rainbow tries to avoid Pinkie Pie, only for Pinkie to follow her all across Ponyville.
- Pinkie does it to Dash again in "Party of One", while trying to find out why her friends are skipping one of her parties and why they're keeping it a secret.
- In one case, Pinkie is happily bouncing along at a casual pace, as she usually does. In the other, she's wildly chasing Dash and matching her (considerable) speed. Both methods are equally effective.
- Taken Up to Eleven (like most everything Pinkie Pie does) when Rainbow Dash hides inside the bell of the town bell-tower. As she's clinging to the dark inside of the bell, the bell's clapper opens its eyes. Turns out, Pinkie somehow replaced the bell clapper and then pretended to be it! (How she hangs there despite not having any fingers or hands is never explained.)
- In "A Friend in Deed", Pinkie gives Cranky Doodle Donkey this treatment when she chases him around Ponyville trying to get him to accept her apology for damaging his scrap-book. This includes the likes of putting on a beaver costume and actually chewing down a tree, and replacing a statue of Princess Celestia.
- The Aracuan Bird in many of his appearances, especially if Donald Duck is trying to get away from him.
- WITCH has this with Irma, who is constantly hounded by a boy, Marvin, who has a massive crush on her (which she pretends not to appreciate as time wears on).
- American Dad had this when Hayley and Jeff trying to flee from Roger attempting to take the bag of money Stan gave to Jeff. Their attempts fail when Roger is right there where they're hiding. The escape ends in the Great Wall of China with Roger finally got the money, but almost all was spent from the escape.
- A frequent British Newspapers reaction to the latest inevitable return of Peter Mandelson.
- When recounting politics in Dave Barry Slept Here, Dave Barry refers to Nixon's numerous bids for presidency like this. At one point, he mentions that Nixon had holes in his chest "from the numerous times people had stuck wooden stakes into him."