Cats are one of the world’s most popular pets. But they’ve also been held to have mystic symbolism around the globe and through the centuries.
In the west the lion is most widely known as the king of Beasts. In the East that role is taken by the tiger and in the Americas by the jaguar.
The shared history of cats and humans dates back nearly ten millennia. Cats appear in the myths, legends and art of cultures across the world. So it’s not surprising that they have their own rich symbolism.
The ancient Egyptians revered cats, perhaps because they protected their grain stores by killing rodents. When household cats passed away, they were mummified and taken to Bubastis, a sacred city dedicated to their burial. In Egypt it is the emblem of Osiris, god of the underworld and vegetation so its symbolism was again linked to fertility. The Ancient Egyptians revered cats and worshipped the cat goddess, Bastet.
The Norse goddess Freyja had two cats as companions. Scandinavian farmers would seek her help in protecting their crops, leaving saucers of milk for her cats in their fields.
The Picts, who lived in parts of what is now northern England and Scotland, had a Kingdom of the Cat. For the Chinese Song dynasty, cats were favored pets. And to this day, cats are seen as lucky in Japan. In China they are regarded as symbols of courage, speed, power & beauty. The Hindu Goddess Durga rides a tiger symbolising her mastery over animal passions and Shiva wears a tigers skin for similar reasons.
The jaguar is the incarnation of the supreme Aztec deity Tezcatlipoca and Mayan reliefs depict priests wearing jaguar skins costumes during sacrificial ceremonies.
The link between cats and luck isn’t always positive, however. Black cats are generally considered lucky in the United Kingdom. But elsewhere in western Europe, cats are associated with ill fortune.
Cats also appear in religious stories, though usually in the oral tradition rather than religious texts. One legend has it that the new-born baby Jesus was lulled to sleep by a purring tabby cat who jumped into the manger. The Virgin Mary shared the gratitude felt by any new mother towards something that stopped her baby crying. She is said to have petted the cat, leaving the distinctive “M” marking shared by all tabbies on its head.
An Islamic legend tells that the Prophet Mohammed also loved cats. He was so devoted to them, he wouldn’t disturb a cat to retrieve the cloak it was sleeping on.
The spiritual meaning of animals is usually determined by those characteristics which are most obvious to us. For cats, these are independence, self-love, sensuality, freedom, patient observation and curiosity. Few people who have a cat as a pet will be surprised by that list!
The Cat As A Spirit Animal
Do you feel a connection with cats? Perhaps you feel energized when you see them. Perhaps you sense an affinity with their behavior and outlook.
Or maybe you’ve been seeing cats a lot in your day-to-day life. That might include real, flesh and blood cats. But it could also encompass other types of appearances – in illustrations, in books or movies, even hearing them at night.
If any of this strikes a chord, it’s possible that the cat is your spirit animal. In some cultures, it’s believed that particular animals can act as our spiritual guides and protectors. These are spirit animals, and cats are among them.
If you have a cat as a spirit animal, they may appear at times when you need their help or guidance. That can be when you’re facing a period of change or some other kind of challenge.
Simply seeing the cat can give you fresh energy and motivation. And the encounter may also remind you of your own feline characteristics, which could help you to tackle your problem.
If you’re feeling let down by someone, for example, the cat could remind you of your independent spirit. You may be upset, but you have all the inner resources to cope on your own.
Or perhaps you’re anxious about how a difficult situation will be resolved. In that case, the cat may be a reminder of the benefits of patient observation. Sometimes it’s best to wait for more information before deciding how to respond.