2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 cups popped popcorn, unsalted
2 8 1/2-by-11 inch oval paper plates
1 6-inch dessert paper plates
Licorice strings or colored toothpicks (6 2-inch strips)
Licorice rope (1 15-inch strip)
Light corn syrup for assembly
Combine sugar, water, salt, 1/2 C. corn syrup and vinegar; cook to hard ball stage (250 degrees Fahrenheit); add vanilla. Pour over popped corn and mix well. Line paper plates with foil and press popcorn mixture firmly into them; allow to cool. Unmold.
With a sharp knife cut a wedge from one end of each large oval to form legs of cat. Trim each small round (head) popcorn shape to fit other end of oval (body). Cut licorice strings into six 2-inch strips and rope licorice into a 15-inch strip.
To assemble, heat corn syrup to a boil and brush over body and head shapes where they fit together; press together to form cat. Brush flat side of one cat with hot syrup; arrange 2-inch strips of licorice to make whiskers. Press second cat over first to give a three-dimensional effect. Cut ears from popcorn wedge scraps and attach to head with hot syrup. Shape licorice rope into a tail and attach to body.