ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • History & Archaeology

Cats Took the Rap for the Black Death

Updated on January 25, 2012

Cats were blamed for the Black Plague

It may seem insane today, but at the height of the Black Plague, the common cat took the blame for the horrible occurrence and suffered for this erroneous belief.The Black Plague--Also known as the Black Death--was the most deadly pandemic in human history. It reached its most virulent peak of lethality between in the mid 14th century (Around 1350.) It was likely an outbreak of bubonic plague that began in Central Asia and was carried to Europe by rats on Merchant ships.

As we know today, the rats carried tiny fleas, and these fleas were the true transmitters of the bubonic plague germ. Areas with more rats therefore had more fleas and thus a higher instance of plague outbreak. Cats were the first line of defense against the plague. Thus, the disease was able to rage unchecked once felines began to be persecuted and killed by superstitious people who assigned blame to cats.

Cats often got a bad rap in the Dark Ages. Christian religious leader had often pointed to cats as a source of bad luck or evil. Pope Gregory the 4th said domestic cats were "diabolical"! Black cats in particular were seen as 'familiars' of Satan. Cat owners were often accused of being witches merely for owning a feline. Many cats were destroyed during the Inquisition.

And so when the deadly plague first arrived, cats became a scapegoat. People back then didn't understand about germs and were looking for someone or something to blame for the plague. The feeling that God had abandon them was spreading and religious leaders needed to curb the loss of faith. They needed to blame Satan for the plague. As physical evidence of Satan's presence, cats were singled out as agents of the devil, who were 'vessels of evil', carrying death and sickness with them wherever they went.

The desperate people of the day, frantically searching for a way to fight this invisible scourge, were glad to have a visible enemy they could lash out at. The persecution of cats began in earnest. Felines were hunted and eliminated. Some were sacrificed to God in pyres of fire.

As the feline population decreased, the rat population increased dramatically. They began carrying their flea passengers into new areas where cats had formerly driven them out of. Without cats, rats started to appear everywhere, and the fleas went with them. It seems shocking today that someone would ignore a growing army of rats and kill a cat to stop disease spreading, but that was the thought process at the time. Rats were seen as nuisances and pests. Cats were seen as demonic agents of death!

As a result of the mass cat killing, the plague spread rapidly, reaching across Europe as the rats population traveled freely, unopposed by felines. Worse still, people suffered food poisoning due to rodent droppings in food supplies. Cats got blamed for that, too.

Europeans continued to destroy cats for almost 300 years. After the plague finally faded and the Enlightenment approached, the killing of cats finally stopped. There were relatively few cats left in Europe at that point.

The Black Plague is estimated to have killed 35-50% of Europe's population at the time. Approximately 40-50 million people died. (Reducing the population of the world at the time from almost a Half Billion to somewhere around 450 million.) It wouldn't have been nearly as catastrophic if the cats had been allowed to do their job and stop the rat population explosion. It took almost 200 years for Europe's population to recover from the plague. It took even longer for the feline population to rebound from the tragedy.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 6 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hi Flora; It's very true. What has been done to animals over the years in the name of everything from religion to science is detestable. The black cats got it the worst. Many supertitious people still consider them bad luck. People are stupid!

      Thanks for reading,

      Rob

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Black cats in particular get blamed for everything. I get very upset whenever I think of this. Horrible things have been done to them because of superstition. There are times when I really have no use for human beings. When they are cruel to animals is one of them.

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 6 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      I don't think cats were affected by the plague. Often human diseases and animal deideases do not affect each other. For instance, the plague didn't afeect the rats. I'll have to double check that one.

    • profile image

      thaddeus buttmunch 6 years ago

      The Medievals probably saw cats Dying of the Plague. They did catch the plague from rodents spread it thru fleas and Die

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 6 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hello Jeff; glad I could help with your report, but if you're going to quote for a world history project, you may want to get a peer reviewed source. Professors prefer that.

      Rob

    • profile image

      Jeff @ College 6 years ago

      FINALLY, a source I can quote for my report. I searched all kinds of academic sources and found absolutely NOTHING that supported this fact. I have known about the feline murders since long before high school, so I had thought that it would be easy to find a source to quote for my "webliography" project for World History. Your article has helped me immensely. Thanks.

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      You're welcome, HH.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      I never knew that. Thank you for your interestin hub.

    • Robwrite profile image
      Author

      Rob 7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      So true. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". Although in this case, I think it was just blind, stupid panic.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Ironic isn't it? So often attempts to do the right thing end up doing just the opposite of what is intended.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is used to quickly and efficiently deliver files such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisements has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)