9 Tales of Cat Mythology and Folklore

Cat lovers know what playful, independent, and agile pets cats can be and it’s great that they don’t need too much grooming, but they have received a bad rap throughout history.

Due to its mysterious nature, history has produced many cat mythology and folklore stories from cultures all over the world. People held some of these beliefs in such high regard that they often mistreated or harmed cats out of fear.

Because people believed cats possessed supernatural abilities, they developed odd beliefs such as “one must not let a cat get near a corpse” and “when a cat leaps over a coffin, the corpse inside the coffin will wake up.”

Fortunately, times have changed, and cats are no longer in as much danger from superstition, however, they can be vulnerable to illnesses or accidents. Due to the fact that we have become so invested in caring for our pets, pet insurance is now a reality and thanks to this, you don’t have to worry in the unfortunate event that anything happens to your feline friend.

Getting back to the mythology surrounding cats, it wasn’t all bad.

Here are 9 Tales of Cat Mythology and Folklore

1.     The Kasha

The Kasha or “monstercat” is a supernatural Japanese spirit (which they call a yōkai) that is believed to steal the corpses of the wicked from funerals and cemeteries. Legend has it that cats that grow old would turn into this yōkai. Over the years, people from Japan have developed customs to keep this demon at bay during funeral processions, such as chanting special words or hosting two funerals (one decoy and one real).

2.     Bakeneko

Bakeneko is another type of Japanese yōkai that is believed to possess shape-shifting abilities that allow them to frequently disguise themselves as smaller cats or humans and sometimes even their own masters. The reason that cats are seen as yōkai in Japanese mythology is attributed to many of the characteristics that they possess.

For example, the way the irises of their eyes change shape depending on the time of day, or the way their fur causes sparks when you pet them Then there’s the way they can walk without making a sound, their nocturnal habits, their speed and agility, as well as how sharp their claws and teeth are.

Some of this particular yōkai’s disturbing abilities include speaking human languages, eating things that are much bigger than they are (like their own masters so they can take on their form and continue living on in their place). It is also said that if they do not kill their owners, they often bring down great curses and misfortune upon them.  They can also summon ghostly fireballs and reanimate fresh corpses which they use like puppets.

Read more: How Cats Communicate with Each Other (and You!)

3.     Lilith

One of history’s earliest “evil cat” superstitions can be traced back to Hebrew tales of Adam’s first wife, Lilith. Believed to be a goddess of the night. She is often referred to as the Mother of Vampires in folklore. One of her abilities enabled her to shapeshift – usually into a black cat.

This story also asserted that felines were vampires capable of robbing the breath of a sleeping child.

4.     Bastet

Also often referred to as Pasht or Bast, she was an Egyptian Goddess of warfare in Lower Egypt and was associated with happiness, pleasure, dancing, and the warmth of the sun. Bast was first depicted as a lioness throughout most of Egyptian history, but she was later changed into a cat (Bastet) with the body of a woman when domesticated cats became popularly kept as pets.

5.     The Zodiac Cat

In the 12-year cycle of the Vietnamese zodiac, the cat has replaced the Chinese Zodiac’s rabbit as the fourth animal symbol. The same traits associated with the Rabbit are attributed to the cat. There is even a legend about why the Chinese did not include the cat in their Zodiac animal symbols.

Because the cats are in direct conflict with rats, the rat tricked the cat into missing the banquet with the Jade Emperor. The cat had no idea that the banquet was going on and was not given a year, fuelling the hostility between cats and rats.

6.     Hombre Gato

The Hombre Gato which translates to Catman, is a legendary creature in South American folklore that is basically a werecat, in other words, it possesses both feline and human features. The Catman is thought to come out at night, roaming neighbourhoods and preying on both people and animals.

Discover: 8 Strange Cat Behaviours and Their Meaning

7.     The Sphinx

The sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion. It is portrayed as treacherous and merciless because those who cannot answer its riddle are often killed and eaten by it.

Although the Greek sphinx was believed to be a malevolent woman and the Egyptian sphinx is typically shown as a benevolent man, both were thought of as guardians, often found outside the entrances to temples. There are also versions of this creature in mythology from South and Southeast Asia.

8.     The Yule Cat

The Yule Cat is a huge and vicious cat in Icelandic folklore believed to lurk about the countryside during Christmas time and eat people who have not received any new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve. Farmers used the threat of being eaten by this cat as an incentive for their workers to finish processing the autumn wool before Christmas.

Those who worked would be rewarded with new clothes, and those who didn’t would thus be preyed upon by the monstrous cat. The legend later changed to depict the cat as merely eating the food of those who didn’t get new clothes by the prescribed time.

9.     Sastht or Shashthi

This Indian deity of maternity is often depicted as a cat or as a woman riding a large cat. She is the benefactor and protector of children, as well as a deity of vegetation and reproduction. She is thus believed to bless people with children and assist mothers during childbirth.

Although some of these tales of cat mythology and folklore may be a bit gruesome or disturbing, we hope this blog gave you some interesting insight into how cats have been perceived throughout history and the folklore surrounding these majestic creatures!

Yours in Not-so-average Pet Advice,

The Petinsurance.co.za Team