Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Saturday 02 December |
Saint of the Day: St. Bibiana
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

How cats became symbols of evil


KT Photography | CC

Philip Kosloski - published on 08/28/17

And how their victimization may have led to the plague.

Unlike dogs, cats were consistently seen as symbols of evil throughout Europe of the Middle Ages. This seems to have arisen at least in part because of cats’ apparent laziness.

Often in religious art, cats represented lust and could be seen in depictions of the Fall of Adam and Eve. This was then extended to cats being a symbol of Satan. Black cats were especially viewed by medieval Christians as representations of the demonic. The association of black cats with witchcraft only compounded this symbolism.


Read more:
The surprising symbolism of dogs in Christian art

Unfortunately this was taken to the extreme and cats became targeted creatures in Europe. Their presence was unwanted because of the religious associations, and they were frequently killed on account of it. They were almost driven to local extinction.

As a result, rat populations increased throughout Europe with cats nowhere to be seen. Cats weren’t keeping the population of rats down and the plague, spread by the rats, claimed thousands of lives across Europe.

It was eventually discovered that rats were the problem and laws against cats were repealed as their presence was suddenly desired.

However, even though cats became a welcome addition to the household, black cats still retained their association with evil — which continues to today. They are a permanent fixture of the annual celebration of Halloween and superstitions regarding black cats continue to be passed on to the next generations.

Read more:
The surprisingly Catholic origins of Halloween

Support Aleteia!

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Thanks to their partnership in our mission, we reach more than 20 million unique users per month!

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting and transformative Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Support Aleteia with a gift today!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Entrust your prayer intentions to our network of monasteries

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.