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The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles

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The heroic quest of a single cat.

When a fire destroys her home and scatters her colony, Small Cat sets out to find the home of her ancestor, the Cat From the North, and to make her own name along the way.

55 pages, ebook

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Kij Johnson

107 books465 followers
Kij Johnson is an American writer of fantasy. She has worked extensively in publishing: managing editor for Tor Books and Wizards of the Coast/TSR, collections editor for Dark Horse Comics, project manager working on the Microsoft Reader, and managing editor of Real Networks. She is Associate Director for the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, and serves as a final judge for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

Johnson is the author of three novels and more than 38 short works of fiction. She is best known for her adaptations of Heian-era Japanese myths. She won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short story of 1994 for her novelette in Asimov's, "Fox Magic." In 2001, she won the International Association for the Fantastic in the Art's Crawford Award for best new fantasy novelist of the year. In 2009, she won the World Fantasy Award for "26 Monkeys, Also The Abyss," which was also a finalist for the Hugo and Nebula awards. She won the 2010 Nebula Award for "Spar" and the 2011 Nebula Award for "Ponies," which is also a finalist for the Hugo and World Fantasy awards. Her short story "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change" was a finalist for the 2007 Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and World Fantasy awards. Johnson was also a finalist for the 2004 World Fantasy Award for her novel Fudoki, which was declared one of the best SF/F novels of 2003 by Publishers Weekly.

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5 stars
311 (38%)
4 stars
328 (40%)
3 stars
134 (16%)
2 stars
24 (2%)
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8 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 158 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
June 12, 2020
at 17 "pages," this is one of the longest tor shorts i have found. being as long as it is, it also has the benefit of having several illustrations throughout, and who doesn't like pictures? like this one:

and this one:

i am a sucker for a good "epic animal adventure," particularly those involving cats. Tailchaser's Song, Rama, the Gypsy Cat, The Incredible Journey - all of these were favorites of mine when i was little, read over and over again and completely owning my wee heart.

this one definitely deserves to be shelved alongside those childhood faves, despite being so much shorter and somewhat quieter in its telling.

small cat lives in the gardens of an abandoned and decaying old house in japan, along with a number of other cats. together, their group makes up its own fudoki; a shared mythology developed by cats who band together - their individual stories and pasts mashed up into a collective narrative that is passed down and expanded from one generation to the next. small cat is young and has not yet earned a grander name, but she absorbs the existing fudoki and yearns to make a name for herself that will contribute and enrich the larger oral tapestry. She knew she would have a story worth telling someday.

after an earthquake and subsequent fire destroys their home and the cats scatter, small cat is left on her own, with no protection, and with the burden of the fudoki on her tiny cat-shoulders.

The stories were all she had left. But the stories were not enough without the garden and the other cats. They were just a list. If everyone and everything was gone, did she even have a home? She could not help the cry of sadness that escaped her.

It was her fudoki now, hers alone. She had to find a way to make it continue.

her favorite tale in the fudoki had always been the story of the cat from the north, a distant relation who had joined small cat's fudoki from far away, whose adventures were unlike any other - wild, foreign, alluring. small cat decides to go north herself, to find the cat from the north's people and join them.

The Cat From The North must have come from somewhere, before she became part of Small Cat’s fudoki. And if she came from somewhere, Small Cat could go there. There would be cats, and they would have to accept her—they would have to accept a fudoki that included one of their own.

this is the story of her journey, the animals and humans she meets along the way, the dangers and comforts and adventures she experiences as she does indeed make a name for herself, very far from where she began.

it's a great story with a rich mythology and really makes me want to read the full-length Fudoki.

and more of these wonderful tor shorts.

read it for yourself here:


come to my blog!
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
September 18, 2017
A charming, quiet fable about finding your own story, set in historic Japan. Recommended ... especially if you love cats.

This cat was the smallest of her litter of four. Her fur had been dark when she was born, but as she grew it changed to black with speckles of gold and cinnamon and ivory, and a little gold-colored chin. Her eyes were gold, like a fox’s.
I fell in love with Small Cat as soon as I read this lovely description.

This Small Cat shares a home with many aunts and cousins. They also share their fudoki:
The fudoki was the collection of stories about all the cats who had lived in a place. It described what made it a home, and what made the cats a family. Mothers taught their kittens the fudoki. If the mother died too soon, the other cats, the aunts and cousins, would teach the kittens. A cat with no fudoki was a cat with no family, no home, and no roots.
When an earthquake and the resulting fire destroy her home and scatter her family, Small Cat sets off on a long journey to find the home of her ancestor and the main character in her favorite fudoki, the Cat From the North, and to create her own name and story.


Free online at Tor.com: http://www.tor.com/stories/2009/07/th...
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
March 11, 2011
3.0 stars. This story (as well as this review) is for all of my fellow CAT LOVERS out there ...
...just kidding... DOG LOVERS and ANIMAL LOVERS and just plain LOVERS are all welcome as well.
Whether you love SMART cats...

Whether you love HAPPY cats...

Whether you love cats who LOVE DOGS...

OR…cats who DON’T
Whether you love cats who LOVE PEOPLE...

OR...cats who DON’T.
Whether you love COMPASSIONATE cats...

OR...PSYCHO cats with GUNS.
Whether you love cats with MAD SKILLS...

OR...Jabba the Hutt cats that are just MAD.

...then this story might be just what you are looking for to satisfy your "inner cat."

Taking place in ancient Japan, Kij Johnson tells the charming, whisical story of Small Cat. At the beginning of the story Small Cat lives with a group of other cats who act like a family and share a common history. This shared history (called “fudoki”) is passed down and taught to each new generation of cats and gives the group a sense of continuity. Small Cat longs to have his name added to the fudoki like the great cats of his lineage (with such names as “The Cat From The North,” “The Cat Born The Year The Star Fell” and “The Dog-Chasing Cat”).

Well disaster strikes and Small Cat finds herself alone and unsure of what to do. The rest of the story is Small Cat’s trials and adventures as she meets new people while looking for a new place to call HOME. Sweet, well written and certainly worth reading. PLUS, it is available for free at www.tor.com which is certainly a bonus.

February 6, 2017

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THE CAT WHO WALKED A THOUSAND MILES is one of the longer free stories on the Tor.com website, but well worth it. It's a story about a cat, named Small Cat, who lives with a whole bunch of other cats in a garden. After an earthquake and a fire, the cats scatter, and suddenly, Small Cat is left utterly alone.

Small Cat immediately goes out into the greater world of Japan to search for other cats. Her quest is driven by her desire to be part of a "fudoki": an interesting concept, which, from what I understand, consists of the collective stories of your ancestors, your family members, and you, that form your identity and give you a place in the world with which to carve out your niche.

Small Cat's quest to find a fudoki result in a long journey. There are bears and boats; monks and Shinto shrines; snow and fire; wolves and dogs; she even meets a few other cats, although many of them are unfriendly or have no place for her in their fudoki.

Reading this book made me want to hug my own cat extra tight. Small Cat's loneliness is the driving force behind this book, and it was really sad that no matter where she went, or how good her situation was, she never completely felt as though she were completely at home without having the stories of others like her to define her life and make a home.

Also, if you like the cover, you're in luck, because this is the first story I've seen on the Tor website that's illustrated. The art work is beautiful, and really captures the je ne sais quoi that is cat. I feel sure that both the author and the artist have cats of their own, because they really managed to capture the temperament and personality of that furry little animal that's an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a fudoki.

4 to 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Trish.
2,015 reviews3,433 followers
May 10, 2019
A delightful tale taking place in Japan where a bunch of cats live together in the garden of an abandoned house.

Unfortunately, as happens frequently in Japan, disaster strikes in form of an earthquake and a subsequent fire so one of the younger cats gets separated from the others. Thus begins her epic journey north, through fields and forests, where she encounters people as well as all kinds of animals.

It's a story about the importance of stories and memory and what makes a place HOME. However, it's also about finding out who you are yourself, your identity that either gets shaped by your home or that determins what/where your home is.

Just like (some) humans, Small Cat (the protagonist) can be many things: hunter, companion, hermit, ... but that isn't necessarily who she truly is. The musings on what makes us what and who we are were wonderfully interwoven with the adventure story of this little cat that travelled so far to finally find her home.

There are many true stories of pets (dogs and cats and sometimes even others) taking incredible journeys and I've always liked them. This story, however, had an added bonus: we got to follow on a long trip through Japan through several seasons, thus seeing the country and its different facets. We therefore experience the dry hot summer as much as the colourful autumn, harshly cold winter and change-inducing spring and learn a few little details about Japanese culture (such as Shinto and Buddhism) on top of all that.

You can read the story for free here: https://www.tor.com/2009/07/14/the-ca...
Profile Image for emily.
254 reviews2,187 followers
December 9, 2021
I will not hesitate to cry about a fictional cat trying to find her place in the world.

*Edit: You can read this lovely short story for free here! I loved it so much and highly recommend it to lovers of cats and/or Japan or anyone who is feeling a little lost in the world right now. If you're trying to find comfort beneath words or reassurance that everything will turn out okay........ look no further. Read this and weep with me (joyfully).
February 26, 2015

j, is for Johnson *snicker*

4 Stars

The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles is a shortie about a kitty who goes on a grand adventure. Johnathan Swift himself (circa Gulliver’s Travels NOT A Modest Proposal) would be quite proud of Small Cat’s adventures.

The other cats had started calling her Small Cat. It wasn’t an actual name; but it was the beginning. She knew she would have a story worth telling one day.

And, boy did she EVER. Small Cat deals with an earthquake, a fire, an abduction and many other mishaps and adventures on her way “North” in search of her future.

This is a fun little shortie, guys. I really enjoyed Johnson’s writing in this one, as well as the lovely images added to each page. There were many fun little Catisms that made me chuckle, also!

Profile Image for Sara.
1,122 reviews362 followers
August 24, 2021
A charming little story about a cat who must find their own place in the world, and gain their own fudoki, by travelling a thousand miles. Along the way they meet animals and humans with their own fudokis to tell, including a Buddhist monk, wolves and a tavern cat.

The story is extremely atmospheric and wide ranging, spanning the spiritual foothills of Mt Fuji to a forgotten house in a city. We see the constant hustle and bustle of people and oxen traversing the busy roads, all the while ignoring this little cat on an epic adventure.

Highly recommend for cat lovers. Small cat is full of spirit, boldness and tenacity and I highly enjoyed reading about their journey.
Profile Image for Kerri.
987 reviews368 followers
May 13, 2019
A really lovely story with gorgeous illustrations.
Profile Image for Dennis.
658 reviews276 followers
July 4, 2022
A decent story about a cat that loses her home because of an earthquake and subsequent fire.

Small Cat gets seperated from her feline friends which make up her fudoki, their shared history and mythology passed along between them and from generation to generation. So far she had not been able to make a proper name for herself, as she didn’t have such exciting stories to tell as say The Cat from the North or The Cat Who Bargained With A Flea or The Cat Who Swam.

Now that she’s all on her own she has to create her own fudoki and find a new home for herself. She decides to try to make her way to the north in search of the place where The Cat from the North came from, but is going to learn that the concept of home is as much about yourself as it is about the place and the people (or cats).

On her way across ancient Japan and through the seasons (it’s quite a long journey) she comes across several other animals, and people as well, and learns of their very own fudoki. Some of these „stories within a story“ did a good job of emphasizing the point of how different people need different things to call a place home. But frankly, a lot of it was also rather boring.

This story is much longer than I thought it would be. At around 14,000 words it’s really more of a novelette than a short story. And it did drag quite a bit in several places.

It does a very good job though of capturing the character of cats. Small Cat‘s behaviour felt pretty real to me and, not surprisingly, I found her rather cute. That’s pretty much why I’m rounding up to three stars here and don’t really have a problem to recommend this to fellow cat lovers.

There are some beautiful illustrations too.
Read it for yourself here.

Recommended by Trish
Profile Image for Prabhjot Kaur.
1,052 reviews155 followers
August 27, 2022
The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles is a story about a small cat who survives earthquakes, fires, abductions and cold weather among other things. It was also a story about belonging and finding your place in the world. The small cat is in search for her fudoki and she goes from one place to the other and eventually makes her way to the North.

I loved the illustrations more than the story itself and the writing was good but not as engaging for me as others have found. I liked it but didn't love it.

3 stars
Profile Image for Lata.
3,764 reviews205 followers
December 27, 2016
#27 short story read from tor.com

Loved this quiet story about a young cat trying to find a place to call home, where she can share her mother's and aunts' and ancestors' stories (fudoki) with other cats. One fudoki in particular impels her to make a massive journey.

Liked the peaceful tone throughout, and the general cat-ness. The illustrations are beautiful, too.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,309 reviews20 followers
May 21, 2019
A rather lovely short story about the importance of stories and how they inform everything we do. It’s also beautifully illustrated. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Phoenix2.
859 reviews101 followers
March 28, 2020
The Cat who walked a thousand miles was an okay read, but not one of my favorites so far. Somehow, it failed to engage me to read it. Though, I did like the illustrations and the division of the story into parts. The final conclusion was pretty good as well.
Profile Image for GoldGato.
1,157 reviews40 followers
September 6, 2018
At a time now past, a cat was born. This was not so long after the first cats came to Japan, so they were rare and mostly lived near the capital city.

And so begins the Tor story about a cat searching for her very own story, her fudoki, which is a Japanese oral tradition combining myths and folklore.

Mothers taught their kittens the fudoki. If the mother died too soon, the other cats, the aunts and cousins, would teach the kittens. A cat with no fudoki was a cat with no family, no home, and no roots. The small cat’s fudoki was many cats long, and she knew them all—The Cat From The North, The Cat Born The Year The Star Fell, The Dog-Chasing Cat.

But Japan is a treacherous place to live especially when an earthquake and fire obliterate the little cat's home. She remembers the story of The Cat From The North and so she sets out to find just where that may be. In essence, she is out to find herself and all of the adventures she experiences along the way will define her.

I really enjoyed this e-read, alas it finished far too quickly for me. It made me think about the various cats who have lived with me. O'Malley - The Cat Who Chewed Dog Noses. Mamselle - The Cat Who Walked The Beach. Tucker - The Cat Who Drank From Water Hoses. Cobweb - The Cat Who Worships Litterboxes. Many more, each with their own fudoki. And, as usual with Tor, lovely artwork.

Loved the story and loved the little cat who shows that disaster may have a silver lining.

Book Season = Spring (blue pottery tiles)
Profile Image for Daiva.
199 reviews1 follower
May 19, 2018
For all the cat lovers, this is a perfect adventure tale with few really amazing pictures thrown in between.
Profile Image for Maya.
260 reviews85 followers
May 13, 2019
This is just a short story about a cat going on a road trip through ancient Japan, a story about losing your home and searching for a new place to belong, which takes maybe ~30 minutes to read. It’s not bad but neither particularly memorable.

And I’m too cynical to not nitpick at the setting being more like the author’s romanticized idea of ancient Japan than the actual place and also, I have a love-hate relationship with cats. Yet, it’s such a short text and an authentic setting is really not the point, so only read on if you really need to know completely unimportant errors, that stood out to me, but ultimately don’t matter at all.

December 4, 2014
I loved the imagery and the story of this one, but compared to some others I've read, it was very solid, but very middle of the pack. The best part were the beautiful illustrations

and this one:



This one was about a cat, which I don't like as much as I like the canine variety of domesticated animal, who loses her home and family and begins the search for a new home and family. I enjoyed reading about the cat's travels, the people and creatures she encounters, and the way she finds what she's looking for. The backdrop is imperial Japan which I love, so that was an added bonus to the story, and probably what made it stand out as much as it did. The whole story read as a Japanese folk tale, and I just wished that there was some kind of a mystical or magical element to it which would have added depth and made the read just a little more interesting. I liked the story a lot but just kind of found it to be a bit generic, and I fear that this story will fade from my consciousness a little more quickly than some of the other shorts I've read. Also, since I'm not as much a cat person, I didn't relate to the poor little kitteh main character as much as I would have if say the title were alternately called "The Dog Who Walked a Thousand Miles." But all in all, a solid and entertaining read.

Read it here!
Profile Image for Doris.
395 reviews35 followers
August 20, 2018
Sweet little novella about a cat who goes looking for the home of one of her legendary ancestors, the Cat from the North. She has various adventures in the process of establishing her own legend as the Cat who Walked a Thousand Miles.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,806 reviews417 followers
March 30, 2019
Thank you Tor for sharing this free online. Lovely as a short story. Too bad I've no interest in more by author or artist.
Profile Image for Ancita☆ .
236 reviews22 followers
July 3, 2021
- First and foremost, Goni Montes has done a fabulous job! The illustrations are GORGEOUS! And those colors and shapes of characters and places and things are breathtakingly beautiful!

- A Small Cat trying to create a special life for herself so that she can have a fudoki told in her name in future. Holds potential, right? But the story got lost in the plethora of details strewn across every page.

- The text seems to be a romanticised idea of the author of several settings that happen in its plot. After a fire that spread quickly, the author quips about people who take all of their belongings on a cart? The discrepancies such as this are too many to recount here.

- I was especially put off by the 'stupid' birds that came within the cat's reach for food. That Language!

- Not a recommended read
Profile Image for Rinaldo.
259 reviews52 followers
January 1, 2020

Everyone had a fudoki, Small Cat knew now. Everyone had their own stories, and the stories of their families and ancestors. There were adventures and love stories, or tricks and jokes and funny things that had happened or disasters. Everyone wanted to tell the stories, and to know where they fit in their own fudokis. She was not that different.

This was a rather short adventure story about Small Cat, a young female cat who went an adventure to the North of Honshu Island in Japan after her home was destroyed by an earthquake.

I thought this book was quite cosy and Gaimanesque; in a sense that it featured the magic in the mundane things and how the communities and their members are built around shared stories and lore (referred as fudoki in this book). There was also a sense of coming of age as Small Cat grew in her travel.

Overall, it was a rather good and light introduction for readers who are interested in Japanese folklore. The only quibble I had was how Mt. Fuji was written as Mt. Fuji-san (san means mountain so it was a redundant naming).
Profile Image for Divine.
335 reviews167 followers
May 30, 2018
I really loved the illustrations in this one, it elevated the whole story in another level. Although, if it weren't for that element I would have rated this only w/ a 2-star rating.
Profile Image for Breña.
475 reviews6 followers
January 26, 2020
I like the focus on some topics, for example that everyone has (and needs) their own stories. A slow paced and sometimes shallow, but nonetheless enjoyable story itself. And please take your time to let the illustrations unfold their beauty.
Profile Image for Uva Costriuba.
348 reviews12 followers
May 21, 2021
a long and detailed account of a cat's point of view in the world. it is a little longer than I would like it to be. but it was nice to read. it was like a trip into the countryside... and in quarantine times, it was a nice experience.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 158 reviews

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