More on Cats

The Cat as a Soothsayer

Cats can forecast the weather: they predict the wind by clawing at carpets and curtains; rain is highly likely when a cat busily washes its ears.

In mythology, the cat was believed to have great influence on the weather. Witches who rode on storms took the form of cats. The dog, an attendant of the storm king Odin, was a symbol of wind. Cats came to symbolize down-pouring rain, and dogs to symbolize strong gusts of wind. This may be where the phrase "it's raining cats and dogs" originated.

Some people believed that if a cat washes its face and paws in the parlor, company's coming.

If a cat continually looks out a window on any day, rain is on the way.

Some cats can predict earthquakes (actually, there is some truth in this "folklore").

When a girl living in the Ozark Mountains received a proposal of marriage and was uncertain whether to accept, she folded and placed three hairs from a cat's tail into a paper under her doorstep. The next morning, she would unfold the paper to see if the hairs had formed themselves into a Y or N before answering her suitor.

Sailors used cats to predict the voyages they were about to embark upon. Loudly mewing cats meant that it would be a difficult voyage. A playful cat meant that it would be a voyage with good and gusty winds.

Some people believe that cats are able to see the human aura, the energy field that surrounds each of us.

Dream of a tortoise shell cat and you will be lucky in love.
Dream of a ginger cat and you will be lucky in money and business.
Dream of a black and white cat and you'll have luck with children.
Dream of a tabby and you will have luck with your home.
Dream of a multicolored cat and you will have luck making friends.

If early American cats sat with their backs to the fire, the owners knew it foretold a cold snap.

A cat sleeping with all four paws tucked under means bad weather is coming.

Some people believe that cats may be able to see the specter of death.

If a cat washes behind its ears, it will rain (no doubt this superstition began in some very rainy country!)

If you find a white hair on a black cat, you will have good luck.

One Roman dream interpretation was that dreaming of being badly scratched by a cat foretold sickness and trouble.

French peasants thought that black cats could find buried treasure, if they followed a specific ritual: find an intersection where five roads connected, then turn the cat loose and follow him.

Tortoiseshell cats were believed to be able to see into the future and could give the gift to a lucky child in the household.

Sailors believed that if a cat licked its fur against the grain it meant a hailstorm was coming; if it sneezed, rain was on the way; and if it was frisky, the wind would soon blow.

Sacred cats kept in a sanctuary in ancient Egypt were carefully tended by priests who watched them day and night. The priests interpreted the cat's movements — twitch of a whisker, yawn, or stretch — into a prediction of an event that would happen in the future.

The Pennsylvania Dutch place a cat in an empty cradle of a newlywed couple. The cat was supposed to grant their wish for children.

In Scandinavia, the cat stood for fertility.

It was a popular belief that cats could start storms through magic stored in their tails — so sailors always made sure that they were well-fed and contented.

The Hindu believed the cat was the symbol for childbirth.

Harming a Cat

If you kick a cat, you will develop rheumatism in that leg.

If you are a farmer and kill a cat, you can expect your cattle to die mysteriously.

If you drown a cat, you will fall victim to a drowning.

Sailors believed that the worst possible cat-related act, guaranteed to raise a storm and bring bad luck of all sorts, was to throw the cat overboard.

Some people who wanted to get rid of a cat but were afraid of the consequences went so far as to hire professional feline "hit men."

To end even one of a cat's nine lives was to risk being haunted by that particular cat for the rest of the murderer's life.

Cats and Luck

English schoolchildren believed seeing a white cat on the way to school was sure to bring trouble. To prevent the bad luck, they were to spit or turn around completely and make the sign of the cross.

Charles I, king of England, owned a black cat that he felt brought him luck. He was so afraid of losing it that he had it guarded day and night. As it happened, the day after the cat died, he was arrested.

A cat sneezing is a good omen for everyone who hears it.

Dreaming of a cat is sometimes regarded as a sign of bad luck in the future. On the other hand, American folklore has it that dreaming of a white cat is good luck.

In France, it is believed that if you find one white hair on a black cat, Lady Luck will smile upon you.

In Yorkshire, England, while it is lucky to own a black cat, it is extremely unlucky to come across one accidentally.

In the early 16th century, a visitor to an English home would always kiss the family cat to bring good luck.

In the Dark Ages, a cat was mortared, while still alive, into the foundation of a building to ensure good luck to the inhabitants.

Fishermen's wives kept a black cat at home to prevent disaster at sea.

Meeting a Cat

If a cat ran ahead of a sailor to the pier, it was believed that would bring good luck; if the cat crossed his path, it would bring bad luck.

Cats were often kept on board ships to bring good luck. If a sailor was approached by the ship's cat it meant good luck, but if the cat only came halfway, it meant bad luck would befall the sailor.

It is bad luck to see a white cat at night.

In Ireland, having your moonlit path crossed by a black cat was thought to foretell death in an epidemic.

In France, there is a superstition that it is bad luck to cross a stream carrying a cat.

When you see a one-eyed cat, spit on your thumb, stamp it in the middle of your palm, and make a wish. The wish will come true.

In Normandy, seeing a tortoiseshell cat foretold death by accident.

Cats and the Sick, Dying, and Dead

At one time, people believed that fur and blood drawn from various parts of the cat's anatomy cured all ailments.

Early American colonists believed that a broth made from boiling a black cat would cure tuberculosis, but no one wanted to risk the bad luck that would befall them if they killed the cat.

A common folk cure for a stye on the eyelid was to rub it with the tail of a black cat.

In Transylvania, if a cat jumps over a corpse, the corpse will become a vampire.

Early Christians believed that if a cat sat on a grave, the buried person's soul was in the devil's power. Another belief was that if two cats were seen fighting near a dying person, or on the grave shortly after a funeral, the creatures are really the Devil and an Angel fighting for possession of the soul.

In 16th century Italy, people believed that if a black cat lay on the bed of a sick man, he would die. However, they also believed that a cat will not remain in the house where someone is about to die — if the family cat refused to stay indoors, this was a bad omen.

Immigrants from Scotland believed that if a cat entered a room where a dead body was in state, the next person to touch the cat would be blinded. Therefore, the cat in such situations was immediately killed.

If a funeral procession encountered a black cat, they believed another member of the family would soon die.

The folklore that a cat has nine lives possibly came about because the number nine is the "trinity of trinities" and was considered lucky.

A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays. (an American and English proverb)

Cats and the Afterlife

In Japan, there is a myth that cats turn into super spirits when they die. According to the Buddhist religion, the body of the cat is the temporary resting place of the soul of very spiritual people.

Some people believe that cats engage in astral travel even in life. They also believe that if a cat adopts you, it will stay with you forever, even after death.

Cats as Sacred Beings

King Osorkon, of the twenty-second dynasty, placed a white cat in the center of a magnificent temple and ritually endowed it with supreme power.

During excavations in the ruins of Tell-Basta (the former Bubastis), a graveyard with 300,000 mummified holy cats was discovered. Though many were sent to England and sold as fertilizer, a few were sent to museums.

Mohammed cut off the sleeve of his robe rather than disturb his cat from resting on it.

A Thai legend tells of cats that guarded a temple from Burmese invaders. They saved the temple treasure, a golden goblet belonging to the Buddha, by hooking their tails around it and not letting go. This accounts for the kink at the end of the tail of almost all Thai cats. Another story is that when a certain princess went to bathe and gave her rings to a cat to guard, it kinked its tail so they wouldn't fall off.

Cats and Witches

Norse legend tells of Freya, goddess of love and fertility, whose chariot was pulled by two black cats. Some versions of the tale claim they became swift black horses, possessed by the Devil. After serving Freya for seven years, the cats were rewarded by being turned into witches, disguised as black cats.

Traits associated with cats include cleverness, unpredictability, healing and witchcraft, since in ancient times it was believed that witches took the form of their cats at night.

Folklore has it that if a witch becomes human, her black cat will no longer reside in her house.

It was largely in the Middle Ages that the black cat became affiliated with evil. Because cats are nocturnal and roam at night, they were believed to be supernatural servants of witches, or even witches themselves. Partly because of the cat's sleek movements and eyes that 'glow' at night, they became the embodiment of darkness, mystery, and evil, possessing frightening powers. If a black cat walked into the room of an ill person, and the person later died, it was blamed on the cat's supernatural powers. If a black cat crossed a person's path without harming them, this indicated that the person was then protected by the devil. Often times, a cat would find shelter with older women who were living in solitude. The cat became a source of comfort and companionship, and the old woman would curse anyone who mistreated it. If one of these tormentors became ill, the witch and her familiar were blamed.


In the 1500's, houses had thatched roofs — thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs." (Related bit of trivia: There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. So, they found if they made beds with big posts and hung a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem. Hence those beautiful big four poster beds with canopies.)

In ancient times, a criminal's punishment sometimes including have his tongue cut out; the tongue was fed to the King's pets. Hence, there is some historical truth to the phrase "cat got your tongue?".

Domesticated cats are not mentioned in the Bible.

According to legend, the 'M' marking on the forehead of the tabby cat was created by the prophet Mahomet as he rested his hand lightly on the brow of his favorite cat.

An American superstition: When moving to a new home, put the cat in through the window, not the door, so that it will not leave.

According to legend, cats were created when Noah's ark became infested with rats. Noah commanded the lion to sneeze and out came a cat!

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