Cats are mysterious creatures that are found throughout history in mythology and folklore. Ranging from God-like to downright evil, the classic tales of cats may leave you wondering what it is exactly you share your home with.
Though there is a seemingly endless amount of myths, legends, and stories surrounding our feline friends, we’ve summed up some of the most infamous mythological tales of cats and some of the most classic stories ever told.
The 20 Cats from Mythology and Classic Stories
Bakeneko is steeped in Japanese legend. This monster of a cat goes through a transformation once it has lived long enough to become part of the class of supernatural entities known as yokai. It is said that once a cat lives to old age, it will start developing its own supernatural gifts while still looking like your ordinary house cat. Over time they will make the full transition into the yokai and walk bipedally.
The Bakeneko will keep growing in size and power as they age until they reach the size of an adult human. It is said that Bakenko is always up to no good, but they may take well to their original family if all goes well during the transition.
Bastet is the Egyptian goddess of the home, women’s secrets, cats, fertility, pleasure, and childbirth. She was a diety, thought to bring prosperous health and provide protection of the home from disease and evil spirits.
Bastet was the daughter of Ra and the sister of Sekhmet. Because of her protective nature, she held several nicknames including Lady of the East, Goddess of the Rising Sun, and the Sacred and All-Seeing Eye. She is still worshipped to this day and is thought to have cast her protection all over modern-day cats.
3. Beckoning Cat
The Beckoning Cat is a beautiful story from Japanese folklore that follows the story of an impoverished boy named Yohei who sells fish door to door and works to provide medicine to his ill father. ON a rainy night, a white cat showed up at his door in need. Yohei showed compassion by taking in the cat, drying her off, and sharing his dinner with her.
As Yohei grows concerned about how he will continue selling fish and care for his sick father, a wave of people come from near and far to buy fish because they were beckoned by a white cat. Yohei’s father’s health improved and his business flourished, leading all to believe the cat was a bringer of good luck.
4. Cactus Cat
|Area of Origin:||North America|
The Cactus Cat is a mythical cat from the American Southwest. Cactus cat is said to look like a bobcat with thorn-like fur, a branched tail, and sharp bones for spines protruding from its front legs. The sightings have supposedly taken place throughout the Southwestern desert areas of the United States including states areas like California, Nevada, and New Mexico.
Cowboys and pioneers from the 19th century told tales of these cats coming out at night, slashing open cactus, and drinking the juice. Though it is said that the cats would become intoxicated and get a little rowdy with travelers, they were not considered a danger to anything but the cacti. They were supposed to have been distinguishable by the distinct wail they would let out during quiet desert nights.
|Area of Origin:||Scotland/Ireland|
Cat-siths are legends from Celtic mythology originating in Scotland but there are few tales told in Ireland as well. Supposedly these creatures were the size of dogs with black fur and a white spot on their chests. They are supposed to walk on four legs and act like animals when in the presence of humans but switch to bipedal walking when in the absence of humans.
Some theories describe Cat-siths as actually witches with the ability to transform back and forth between their human form and cat form. Legends say the transition can only be done 9 times before the transformation is permanent. It is said that Cat-sith would locate the corpse of the dead before burial and steal their soul before they could be claimed by the gods.
6. Cats of Islam
|Area of Origin:||Saudi Arabia|
Cats are highly respected and protected in Islam. Prophet Mohammed is believed to have loved cats. There is a story that when a cat fell asleep on the sleeve of Mohammed’s robe, the Prophet cut off the sleeve to keep from waking the cat. Mohammed’s favorite cat was said to be a tabby, and it was believed that the “M” marking on the tabby’s coat came to be when the Prophet laid his hand on his favorite feline.
7. Cha Kla
Cha Kla is a legend from Thailand of a ghostlike nocturnal cat with blood-red eyes and completely black fur that grows from back to front. Cha Kla is very fearful of humans and will immediately vanish into its hole to hide. Sorcerers were said to use Cha Kla to defeat their enemies because those that touched the cat would soon die.
Dawon is a sacred tiger of Tibetan folklore but later adapted into Hindu mythology. Dawon was offered as a gift to the goddess Durga for use in combat. She would ride Dawon into battle while holding ten weapons in each of her ten arms.
9. Devil’s Little Minions
It is no secret that black cats are often associated with witchcraft and devilish affiliation. What is now more of a fun association with Halloween, black cats used to suffer greatly due to beliefs of the Christian Church during the middle ages. They were truly believed to be associated with dark magic and were referred to as the Devil’s Little Minions.
The bite of a cat was said to be venomous and it was said that if you were to breathe a cat’s breath, you would become infected with tuberculosis. Cats were even blamed for the bubonic plague that swept across Europe. Many black cats were culled during these times because people truly believed they worked alongside the devil. Owners of black cats were even subject to persecution.
Freya is a goddess from Norse paganism. She is the ruler of love, beauty, fertility, sex, war, and gold. While Freya is not a cat herself, she rides a chariot that is pulled by two cats. Neither of these cats was ever named but they became constant companions of Freya wherever she traveled.
11. Hombre Gato
|Area of Origin:||Argentina|
Hombre Gato or Catman is a legendary creature from Argentina with both cat and human features. Hombre Gato is said to only come out at night and prey on both animals and humans. This legend is widespread across Hispanic literature through short stories and science fiction tales. A documentary was even made of Hombre Gato in a rural town named Navarro in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While it may be just a tale for some, Hombre Gato also strikes fear in many.
12. The Three Little Kittens
The Three Little Kittens is a beloved nursery rhyme that originated in England back in 1843. It’s a classic rhyme about three kittens that lose their mittens and begin to cry. Their mother refuses to allow them pie until they finally find their mittens and then gobble up the pie. After the pie was eaten they discover they have soiled their mittens and are forced to wash them and hang them out to dry. While the rhyme has changed a few times over the years, it ends with more pie.
In Greek mythology, King Lyncus of the Scythians was said to have been transformed into a Lynx by Demeter as punishment for his selfish, evil actions. King Lyncus was taught the arts of agriculture by Triptolemus but he then refused to pass along his knowledge and tried to kill Triptolemus.
Mafdet is a feline deity from the First Dynasty of Egypt. She was known as the Goddess of judgment, justice, and execution. She is the protector of Ra, the Egyptian sun god, and the Pharaoh. She is depicted just like other feline goddesses with a female body and a cat’s head. Mafdet most closely resembles the Cheetah and is said to protect against the bites of scorpions and snakes.
Matagots are legends out of France, said to be spirits that will take the form of a black cat. Matagots have also been described as taking on the appearance of rats, foxes, dogs, and cows. Matagots are typically viewed as evil spirits, but if well-fed in the home, they are said to bring great wealth to the household.
16. Puss in Boots
The story of Puss in Boots is all over fairy tales but the original was by Charles Perrault, a French author. The cat in the original stories went by the name Monsieur Puss, and of course, he used trickery to obtain power and riches. The story has been told differently throughout the years but the fame of Puss in Boots remains.
17. Pussy Willows
In an old Polish legend, a mother cat was crying at the bank of the river that her kittens had fallen into while chasing butterflies. The kittens were drowning and the willow trees at the edge of the water sought to help her, so they swept their branches into the water and brought the kittens safely to land. This is why the branches sprout tiny fur-like buds on the tips because this is where those tiny kittens once clung to life during their rescue.
Sekhmet is the Egyptian Goddess of war and destruction and the sister of Bastet. As it is told, she was born from the fire of the Sun God Ra’s eyes. The ancient Egyptians built at least 700 monuments in the worship of Sekhmet. In some tales, she is considered an alternate form of Bastet, rather than her sister because she is also associated with healing. Sekmet is depicted as a female body with the head of a lioness.
19. Stealing Baby’s Breath
Most people have heard the legend that cats will steal a baby’s breath. In England, it was believed for centuries that cats were capable of climbing into the crib of infants and sucking their breath away out of them out of jealousy.
This myth wasn’t considered a myth back in those days. People truly believed that cats were capable of this and to top it off, there was a documented court case documented from 1791 of a cat being found guilty of infanticide.
20. Wampus Cat
|Area of Origin:||North America|
Wampus Cat is an American folklore legend that is either evil or funny, depending on who tells the story. Wampus cat was believed to be a shapeshifter that went on a livestock killing spree during the 1920s and 1930s. Supposedly the killings went on for several decades.
Wampus Cat, also known as the Cherokee Death Cat as was also said to have been a tribal woman cursed for attending a sacred ceremony uninvited. She was caught by elders underneath the pelt of a wild cat and punished by the elders with a curse.
We could go on and on with all the classic cat tales and legends that are steeped deep in mythology from all over the globe. One thing is for sure, cats have made their footprint in history and have very similar associations throughout different cultures. It makes you wonder what kind of legends will be told of their time with us today.
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