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When Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson moves into a new house in season one (two?), she discovers a cat that has been living in the home already, whom she names "Kitty".

"Kitty" is a she, but Brenda keeps referring to her pet as a "he," despite being constantly corrected by her significant other. While her initial ambivalence towards the cat changes, this incorrect gender identification does not.

In the beginning of season five, the cat passes away. She grieves and carries the cat's ashes around with her, first as a mistake, and then as a remembrance. The ashes are finally placed on the mantle in a fancy urn, despite Brenda's opposition to such practices earlier.

In literature, cats carry a symbolic value, for things like cleanliness and good fortune (see Wikipedia). It seems as though for being such a minor "character" this cat gets a lot of attention in the series to not mean something to the plot or character development.

Is there a deeper connection between Brenda and the cat that the writers and director are trying to establish? Are they comparing Brenda's strong skills in interrogation to "catching a rat"? If she's so close with the cat, why does she maintain this distance with the name "Kitty" and referring to she as a "he"? (drawing on any hints from official sources or evaluations from critics if possible)

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In this interview with executive producer James Duff, he says:

Though Brenda is not a "pet person" she adopts the cat, simply calling it "kitty," and begins to develop a relationship with her. "A pet is usually not a part of the procedural aspects of a crime show, but it is a part of everyday life for a lot of people and we wanted to show Brenda as an ordinary person," says Duff.

As for the death of kitty:

Kyra Sedgwick broke down weeping when she arrived on set to begin filming the fifth season of TNT's hit show "The Closer" and learned that her character, Deputy Police Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, would be grappling in ensuing episodes with the serious illness of Kitty, her pet cat. Unbeknownst to the show's creator and executive producer, James Duff, Sedgwick had just lost her real-life cat.

"We didn't feel like we had a choice," says Duff, explaining why he decided to make Kitty's illness a major storyline. The cat that played Kitty had, in real life, been diagnosed with a serious kidney condition. "We could replace the cat and keep filming, or we could accept the cat was seriously ill and write it into the story."

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It's good to know some of the backstory. If you happen to run into anything on the symbolism in your travels, don't hesitate to add it in. I'll mark this as the answer for now, though. –  jonsca Jul 15 '12 at 17:15
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