Little Mary MacDhui loves her cat Thomasina more than anything in the world. She even dresses the cat up in baby doll clothes and totes her around town in a buggy (this is bad lesson number one). Thomasina contracts tetanus and Mary begs her widower father, the town veterinarian, to make the cat well again, but her father euthanizes Thomasina instead. (This is depicted as a callous act committed only for the sake of expedience, which made me distrust all veterinarians as a child, convinced they all secretly wanted to kill my pets.)
In retaliation, Mary declares her father to be "dead" and refuses to acknowledge him. Feeling remorse, he tries to win her affection back by giving her a puppy. (Message received: Hey kids, treat your parents like crap and you can get a brand new puppy! Done and done.)
She has a lavish funeral for Thomasina, but before the cat is buried, their proceedings are interrupted by Lori MacGregor, the beautiful town "witch." Lori is friend to all wild animals, even keeping some of them in her house. At one point we see her pry a badger's mangled foot from a trap, explaining that wild animals would never hurt her because they know she loves them. (As a child, I thought this would be true and approached all wild animals unfazed while declaring my love. "Stray pit bull, I love you!" "Rabid raccoon, I love you too!" Luckily I never found a badger in a bear trap.)
Thomasina, meanwhile, is in Cat Heaven, which is a trippy place that features statues of Bastet, the ancient Egyptian cat goddess, and is apparently where only Siamese cats--and Thomasina--are good enough to wind up. Lori calls Thomasina back from the hereafter and keeps her as a pet.
The town children then seek Lori's help to stop the terrible animal abuse at an evil gypsy circus that has just come to town. We see horses and bears whipped, and somehow, Lori winds up in a cage with some dogs. Mr. MacDhui saves Lori, a fire breaks out (no word on whether the animals ever escape), and they fall in love. Then, after a harrowing scene in the pouring rain where Thomasina miserably climbs up to the window of the deathly-ill Mary--Thomasina, Lori, Mr. MacDhui and Mary all form a happy family.
Your beloved pet will never really die. Just take its body from the grave and it will be alive again!
The Three Lives of Thomasina. Dir. Don Chaffey. Perf. Patrick McGoohan, Karen Dotrice, Susan Hampshire. Buena Vista, 1964.
The Three Lives of Thomasina
(See Cat Heaven on YouTube here)