Perrault's "The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots" is the most renowned tale in all of Western folklore of the animal as helper. However, the trickster cat was not Perrault's invention. Centuries before the publication of Perrault's tale, Somadeva, a Kashmir Brahmin, assembled a vast collection of Indian folk tales called Kathā Sarit Sāgara (lit. "The ocean of the streams of stories") that featured stock fairy tale characters and trappings such as invincible swords, vessels that replenish their contents, and helpful animals. In the Panchatantra (lit. "Five Principles"), a collection of Hindu tales from the fifth century A.D., a tale follows a cat who fares much less well than Perrault's Puss as he attempts to make his fortune in a king's palace.
In 1553, "Costantino Fortunato", a tale similar to "Le Maistre Chat", was published in Venice in Giovanni Francesco Straparola's Le Piacevoli Notti (lit. The Facetious Nights), the first European storybook to include fairy tales. In Straparola's tale however, the poor young man is the son of a Bohemian woman, the cat is a fairy in disguise, the princess is named Elisetta, and the castle belongs not to an ogre but to a lord who conveniently perishes in an accident. The poor young man eventually becomes King of Bohemia. An edition of Straparola was published in France in 1560. The abundance of oral versions after Straparola's tale may indicate an oral source to the tale; it also is possible Straparola invented the story.
In 1634, another tale with a trickster cat as hero was published in Giambattista Basile's collection Pentamerone although neither the collection nor the tale were published in France during Perrault's lifetime. In Basile, the lad is a beggar boy called Gagliuso (sometimes Cagliuso) whose fortunes are achieved in a manner similar to Perrault's Puss. However, the tale ends with Cagliuso, in gratitude to the cat, promising the feline a gold coffin upon his death. Three days later, the cat decides to test Gagliuso by pretending to be dead and is mortified to hear Gagliuso tell his wife to take the dead cat by its paws and throw it out the window. The cat leaps up, demanding to know whether this was his promised reward for helping the beggar boy to a better life. The cat then rushes away, leaving his master to fend for himself. In another rendition, the cat performs acts of bravery, then a fairy comes and turns him to his normal state to be with other cats.
It is almost certain that Perrault was completely unaware of the tales that antedated his tale.