The Cheshire Cat is the cat of the Duchess. Alice first meets it in chapter 6 from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, when she leaves the Duchess house, and finds it in a tree. It constantly grins and can disappear and reappear whenever it likes. Sometimes it disappears and leaves its grin behind. In chapter 8 she meets it again in the Queen’s croquet garden.
In “The Nursery ‘Alice'”, Alice notices that the cat has ‘lovely green eyes’.
The Cheshire Cat is the only character in Wonderland who actually listens to Alice. With his remarks, he teaches Alice the ‘rules’ of Wonderland. He gives her insight in how things work down there.
It is not 100% clear why Carroll named this character ‘Cheshire Cat’. “To grin like a Cheshire Cat” was a common phrase in Carroll’s day. Its origin is unknown, but it may have originated from a sign painter in Cheshire, who painted grinning lions on the sign-boards of inns in the area.
Another source may be the following: when you take a good look at the ‘Alice Window’ in Christ Church, Oxford, you can see 3 grinning animals at the top of the Liddell’s family arms. Perhaps this is what inspired Dodgson.
Also, at one time, Cheshire cheeses were molded in the shape of a grinning cat.
Finally, the Cheshire Cat might be inspired by a sedilia in Croft Church.
In Tim Burton’s 2010 movie, the Cheshire Cat’s name is ‘Chessur’.
Famous Cheshire Cat quotes:
“`Cheshire Puss,’ [Alice] began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. `Come, it’s pleased so far,’ thought Alice, and she went on. `Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
`I don’t much care where–‘ said Alice.
`Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
`–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
`Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'”
“`But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
`Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: `we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.’
`How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
`You must be,’ said the Cat, `or you wouldn’t have come here.’
Alice didn’t think that proved it at all; however, she went on `And how do you know that you’re mad?’
`To begin with,’ said the Cat, `a dog’s not mad. You grant that?’
`I suppose so,’ said Alice.
`Well, then,’ the Cat went on, `you see, a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags its tail when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.'”
(Want to dress up as the Cheshire Cat? Check out my Cheshire Cat costume ideas!)