As is often the case in the stories of Ernest Hemingway, "Cat in the Rain" finds American ex-patriots living in Europe. A husband and wife are in their hotel room in Italy, a room that faces the sea. On another side, the room faces a war memorial which the Italians visit to honor those killed in the war. Isolated in their room from the rain and from the Italian tourists, the American wife and husband speak to each other, but do not really listen. When, for instance, she says that she wants to save the wet kitten outside, he offers to get it, but makes no effort to get up. And, when he compliments her on her hair, she, in turn, makes no response. So, this isolation of the room extends to the personal isolation of the couple.
This American way of living, staying inside the hotel room in a state of ennui and desiring material objects such as silver and candles and new clothes, is set against the Italian way of vacationing in which the people are involved in the ideas of their location rather than in owning things from it. As exemplified by the padrone of the hotel who senses the wife's desires more than her husband, the Italian way of life is more communal than the isolated life of the American couple who will not go out into the rain of life.