ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Symbolism of Cats Throughout History

Updated on May 10, 2012
Depiction of the ancient Egyptian goddess, Bast
Depiction of the ancient Egyptian goddess, Bast | Source
Norse goddess, Freya, on her chariot that is drawn by her cats
Norse goddess, Freya, on her chariot that is drawn by her cats | Source
My cat, 'Stray-Stray', who is anything BUT the devil
My cat, 'Stray-Stray', who is anything BUT the devil | Source

Out of all pets and animals in general, cats have been one of the most intriguing to me. I have had the privilege of growing up with cats, and from observing the grace, cunning, and amazing agility that they possess, they have sometimes appeared as almost supernatural to me.

Throughout history, cats have also been believed to be supernatural beings and have been thought of as gods to being the devil in disguise. The following is a list of what people felt was the cat's true identity.

Cats as gods

The Ancient Egyptians had two cat goddesses, the first one being Mafdet, who had the head of a lion and represented justice. Eventually Bast replaced Mafdet, and over time her image softened to having the appearance of a domestic cat rather than a lion. Bast became the goddess of fertility, protection, and motherhood.

The Ancient Egyptians showed their respect to the cat not only while the animal was living, but even after its death. As they did with people, they mummified cats when they died. The Greek historian, Herodotus, wrote that after the death of a cat, the family would go into mourning as they would when a human relative died and would usually shave off their eyebrows to show their loss.

Cats were considered so sacred that if someone killed one, even if they did it accidentally, the individual would often be punished with the death penalty.

Cats as spiritual guardians

Particularly the Pagans who existed prior to the Christian age believed that cats were spiritual guardians that were sent to protect people from evil deities and energies. Others who felt similarly about cats were the Vikings as well as the Norse, who often traveled by ship and brought along cats to catch rodents and to bring fortune to those on board. Even Freyja, the Norse goddess of beauty, love, and fertility is depicted as riding a chariot that is drawn by cats.

Cats as the devil

During the medieval ages, cats were thought of in a much more negative light. They were thought to possess evil powers and were believed to really be agents of the devil or witches. People who kept cats were also believed to be witches, and if they were caught, both the individual and the animal would be put to death.

If a village or town came across a cat, the people would often beat or kill it, to the point where cats in Europe were almost at the point of extinction. The Black Plague, which was spread by fleas carried by infected rats, is believed to have occurred because there were no cats to hunt the rats. As a result, their numbers multiplied dramatically.

Once the practice of witch hunting disappeared, the cat population returned, and they once again became loved and popular household pets.

Cats as omens

Throughout time, a variety of superstitions have been created that have been associated with cats, and therefore their presence had been thought to foretell both positive and negative events to come (see also, Feline Legends). Besides the well-known myth of black cats being bad luck, others have included that a sneezing cat will bring good luck to all who hear it and that a white cat that is seen at night is foretelling misfortune.

Read More About The History of Cats


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, 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:

Show Details
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 a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate 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 or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
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 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)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (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)
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)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
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 advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
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)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)