People have had some bizarre notions over the centuries, because of fear-based claims made from wives tales, religious leaders, haunting mythology, and coincidence. Cats are mysterious creatures, about which there are many myths, here are some of the historical superstitions that have existed about cats.

  • So thick were the superstitions about cats that prominent world leaders in the past would even set to trembling if a cat ominously crossed their paths. England’s King Henry III (1207-1272) was said to faint if he ever saw a cat, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) courageously led armies to conquer most of Europe, but when he saw a cat lost in his royal court, the emperor called for help. Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Benito Mussolini, and Adolph Hitler were all famed for being fearful and superstitious about cats. The word for such an irrational fear of felines is ailurophobia.
  • A book published in 1584 called Beware of the Cat claimed that black cats are witches. A few centuries before in the 1200’s, Pope Gregory claimed that black cats were a creature of Satan, and would often carry messages from witches to the devil.
  • During the Dark Ages, builders would occasionally put a live cat into the mortar of a building to ward off bad spirits and ensure good luck.
  • In the Chinese Zodiac, the cat is missing from the twelve animals selected to represent positive and desirable characteristics. This is said to be the case since Buddha witnessed the way a cat toyed and tortured mice and rats, and did not think this a commendable quality.
  • Cats were worshipped in Ancient Egypt (inspiring the culture to paint their eyes to have the pronounced cat-like shape of the goddess Bastet), and in Hinduism and in Scandinavian countries, a cat represents childbirth.

Cat Walk

  • In different countries, a cat walking by, around, up to, and away from someone all signify different things.
  • If a cat approaches a sailor, it meant he would have a safe voyage. But if the cat started walking toward the sailor, but then changed his mind and walked away, this signified bad luck.
  • In France, holding a cat while cross a bridge over a river was considered bad luck (probably since most cats despise being near water).
  • A black cat walking across your path in Ireland and England was thought to bring good luck, while a white cat foretold danger. Irish people also believed that seeing a cat walk in the moonlight meant an illness would come to plague everyone in the village.

Cat Behaviors

  • Cats are known for sitting perfectly still and staring off at something; it is said that this is attributed to their ability to see ghosts. Some cultures even believed that the gaze of a cat could drive someone to madness or cause illness.
  • Certain philosophies from New Age religion say that cats can see auras, and forces of life. They also believe that cats can show predictions of death or disease.
  • A person who found a white hair on an all-black cat was believed to have good fortune in the future.
  • Sailors believed if they witnessed a cat grooming himself by licking against the grain of the fur, that a violent hailstorm was impending.
  • In the Medieval times, French peasants believed that black cats knew how to find buried treasure, and would let them loose at a crossroads to see where the feline would lead.
  • A cat sneezing was historically believed to foretell rain, but if the pet sneezed three times in a row, it meant someone in the house was about to get sick. (However, Italian folklore says that if someone hears a cat sneeze, he is lucky and may have wealth!)  Cats sleeping with their paws snuggly hidden under their bellies was thought to indicate forthcoming rain.

Wishful Thinking

  • As tradition goes, a cat was born in May or June they were believed to be a witch. (Though there is little evidence why this claim makes any sense or where it originated.)
  • If you dream about a tortoiseshell colored cat, some believe this means you will have a happy love life. (Conversely, if you dream about getting scratched, the Roman culture believed it meant that sickness and trouble was coming.)
  • One-eyed cats were once thought to be lucky. If you came across one, if you were to spit on your thumb and hold it in the middle of your opposite palm, your wish would come true.
  • Early American settlers used to believe that if you rubbed a cat’s tail-tip over your eye, it would cure a sty.
  • Fishermen’s wives would often opt to have a black cat as a pet, as a talisman against their husbands drowning at sea.
  • Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch communities believed that newly married couples who want to conceive should put a cat in the crib. If the cat stays in the crib, it was to be a sign that they would have a baby soon.
  • The North American pilgrims once thought that if a cat looked at someone in a crowd of people after just washing his face, that person would be soon to get married.