Written By: Liz Ronk, Olivia B. Waxman

In addition to the cats, these photos feature some familiar, feline-friendly humans: There’s a 1959 photo of Ernest Hemingway, who collected six-toed cats, with a cat helping itself to a glass of water. (Hemingway’s cats may have drunk more than water, with one letter suggesting the author fed one named “Friendless” whisky and milk when Hem was feeling lonely and wanted to drink with somebody.) And there’s Fred Astaire palling around in 1962 with the Siamese cat that fellow film star Kim Novak, also pictured, had given him. “Animals loved Daddy,” Astaire’s daughter Ava later told Vanity Fair‘s editor-at-large, Sarah Giles.

But it’s also clear that a cat can be a star, whether or not its owner is famous. For example, in 1958, Navy doctor Dietrich Beischer used magnet boots to train a kitten to chase a mouse upside-down—to get a sense of how humans would deal with weightlessness. Thus, the cat played an important role in the history of space travel. And as for a cat in a funny hat or a cat eating corn on the cob well, some things never change.

Here’s a look at 25 of the best feline photos in LIFE’s iconic archive of 20th century photography.

Kitten emerging from pot of milk after falling into it, 1940.

A kitten emerged from pot of milk after falling into it, 1940.

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Aspiring ballerina Edwina Seaver relaxing on sofa at home with Siamese cat Ting Ling, 1940.

Aspiring ballerina Edwina Seaver relaxed on the sofa at home with Siamese cat Ting Ling, 1940.

Alfred Eisenstaedt The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A cat in a carrier during an air raid, 1941.

A cat nestled in a carrier during an air raid, 1941.

John Phillips The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Portrait of Blackie, LIFE photographer Gjon Mili's cat, 1943.

Portrait of Blackie, LIFE photographer Gjon Mili’s cat, 1943.

Gjon Mili The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A husky Persian cat posing with his ribbions and trophy at the Atlantic City Cat Show, 1945.

A husky Persian cat posed with his ribbons and trophy at the Atlantic City Cat Show, 1945.

Jerry Cooke The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Rudy the Dachshund and Trudy the cat engaged in hide and seek or'pounce on the dog" in prelude to friendly roughhousing wrestling match between the pet housemates. 1946.

Rudy the Dachshund and Trudy the cat engaged in hide and seek or ‘pounce on the dog” in prelude to a friendly roughhousing wrestling match between the pet housemates. 1946.

Frank Scherschel The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Baby the Seeing Eye Cat, 1947.

Baby, the seeing-eye cat, 1947.

Loran F. Smith The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Cat on Wheels, 1948.

Cat on wheels, 1948.

Michael Rougier The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A cat named Monkey with a large hat collection, circa 1948/1949.

A cat named Monkey had a large hat collection, circa 1948/1949.

James Whitmore The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Nipper, the corn loving cat, 1951.

Nipper, the corn loving cat, 1951.

Allan Grant The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Russian-born American operatic mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel sings as a cat named Blackie sits on a piano, 1952.

Russian-born American operatic mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel sang as a cat named Blackie sat on a piano, 1952.

Gjon Mili The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sharon Adams, 10, playing in a snow drift as her cat maintains its comfortable perch atop her head, 1952.

Sharon Adams, 10, played in a snow drift as her cat maintained its comfortable perch atop her head, 1952.

A. Y. Owen The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Dutch billiards prodigy Renske Quax feeding cream to his cat, 1953.

Dutch billiards prodigy Renske Quax fed cream to his cat, 1953.

Nat Farbman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Cats Blackie Brownie catching squirts of milk during milking at Arch Badertscher's dairy farm. 1954.

Fresh milk at Arch Badertscher’s dairy farm. 1954.

Nat Farbman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Pets of the Lyng family, Mitten the cat, Tosen the dog and an unnamed mouse, 1955.

Pets of the Lyng family: Mitten the cat, Tosen the dog and an unnamed mouse, 1955.

Jytte Bjerregaard Muller The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Composer Alan Hovhaness, working in score littered studio with a black cat nestling amongst the papers on the piano, 1955.

Composer Alan Hovhaness worked in a score-littered studio while a black cat nestled among the papers on the piano, 1955.

Gordon Parks The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Kim Novak playing with some Siamese cats that were used in one of her movies, "Bell, Book and Candle," 1958.

Kim Novak played with Siamese cats that were used in one of her movies, “Bell, Book and Candle,” 1958.

Eliot Elisofon The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Naval researcher Dr. Dietrich Beischer testing effects of being upside-down for prolonged periods of time on a cat and mouse, 1958.

Naval researcher Dr. Dietrich Beischer tested effects of being upside-down for prolonged periods of time on a cat and mouse, 1958.

Grey Villet The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Ernest Hemingway sitting while a cat drinks out of a water glass on the table, 1959.

Ernest Hemingway sat while a cat drank out of a water glass on the table, 1959.

Tore Johnson The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Otto Preminger looking at stray cats on Venice street while attending Venice Film Festival at which his film "Anatomy of a Murder" was shown, 1959.

Otto Preminger looked at stray cats while attending the Venice Film Festival, at which his film “Anatomy of a Murder” was shown, 1959.

Gjon Mili The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Black cats and their owners in line for audition and casting for movie "Tales of Terror," 1961.

Black cats and their owners lined up for an audition for the movie “Tales of Terror,” 1961.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Ordinary striped tabby cats waiting on beach as a man goes out into the water to catch fish, 1962.

Ordinary striped tabby cats waited on a beach as a man went into the water to catch fish, 1962.

Carl Mydans The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Fred Astaire dancing with his Siamese cat on his shoulder, 1962.

Fred Astaire danced with his Siamese cat on his shoulder, 1962.

John Swope The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Manipulation of light to create emotive and visual effects with a cat, 1963.

The manipulation of light created emotive and visual effects, 1963.

Nina Leen The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Poet Rod McKuen playing record on stereo set while pet Siamese cat nuzzles his face affectionately, 1967.

Poet Rod McKuen played a record on his stereo set while a pet Siamese cat nuzzled his face affectionately, 1967.

Ralph Crane The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

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