Who is the protagonist in the novel The Underneath?

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The protagonist of Kathi Appalt's The Underneath is actually a calico cat; the story is about a cat and her kittens who move into the space under a Louisiana house. Their friend, a stray hound-dog, warns them that the owner will bait alligators with them, but they will be safe in the Underneath.

Early in the novel, the mother cat finds a place to sleep, in an abandoned nest:

...it's hard to tell when a nest has gone unused for a long time, and this one surely had. She was grateful to find it... she curled up in a tight ball and waited, purred to her unborn babies. And the trees, the tall and kindly trees, watched over her while she slept, slept the whole night through.
(Appelt, The Underneath, Google Books)

The language here sets the stage for the novel that follows, with elements of mysticism and magic realism. The theme of a secure hiding place continued throughout the book, with the Underneath itself and various other hiding places/prisons. The end is bittersweet as the kittens and the hound-dog escape from the abusive man living in the house, while the calico cat sacrifices herself to protect them.

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