Actions speak louder than words. I said that last week, didn't I? Goes to show just how true that statement is. If you want people to like your characters, it only makes sense to have them do good and benevolent things.
Save The Cat - used to establish a character as a hero, or one that we're supposed to like, by acts of kindness or by risking their life for another. This trope is known as Pet The Dog for "bad" characters.
This trope is the polar opposite of Kick The Dog.
Superman literally does this in the 1978 film (with a good example of Kick The Dog just seconds later).
Sounds simple enough, right? Save a helpless animal. Assist the elderly across the street. Slip some coin into a beggar's mug. Endless possibilities. But things get interesting when Pet The Dog comes into play. This is typically used to show the audience that a villain (or someone with bad intentions) has a soft side, and may redeem their wrongdoing by the end of the story.
Remember this? A thief watches a passenger plane go down, he goes inside to steal stuff, and ends up rescuing many of its passengers. The rest of the movie focuses on proving that this fellow did the rescuing, all because he gave his shoe to a hobo. I'd tell you more, but that would be a spoiler.
It's funny, if you think about it. Dogs are loyal, but we kick them. Cats are selfish, but we save them. Interesting times we live in, right?
Have you saved a cat in your writing? Or have you ever pet the dog? Was it a small thing or a big deal?
I'm David, and did I perpetuate animal stereotypes?
*DPK runs for the hills*