9 Examples Of How Cats Have Shaped History

Written by: Adri Sandoval
Adri Sandoval is the Special Projects Manager for iHeartDogs and iHeartCats. Her work has deepened her love for animals, fostering a strong passion for rescue and animal advocacy.Read more
| Published on April 9, 2017

Cats are a huge part of our families and lives in modern days. But did you know that they’ve also left a huge impact on history? From being worshipped to being considered evil entities, here are 9 cat myths that can be found throughout the ages.


#1 – The oldest known animal-shaped sculpture is a feline.


The lion-headed, human-bodied figurine known as Löwenmensch was found in Hohlenstein Stadel cave in Germany. It was carved from wooly mammoth ivory with a flint stone knife and is 35,000-40,000 years old.

#2 – Siamese monks wrote and illustrated a book about their love of the temple cats.


The Tamra Maew, which translates as “Cat-Book Poems” or “Cat Treatises” was transcribed and illustrated from AD 1350 to AD 1767. Originally from the royal Siamese city of Ayudha, it can now be found at the National Library of Thailand in Bangkok.

#3 – Christians associated cats with witchcraft and satan.


As a result, they spent 1000 years killing cats, which resulted in diseased rat populations getting out of control and leading to plague outbreaks. The Catholic Church stopped killing cats long enough to control the plague, then promptly blamed cats for causing it in the first place.

#4 – In ancient Japan, cats were revered and kept in pagodas.


They were used to guard priceless manuscripts. In the 10th century, cats were considered so precious that only members of the nobility could own them.

#5 – A Polish legend involves a pussy willow tree saving kittens.

Two flowering male catkins from a goat willow tree (Salix caprea)


According to the legend, a mother cat was crying on the bank of a river where her kittens were drowning after falling in while chasing butterflies.  The willows at the river’s edge wanted to help, so they swept their branches into the water to rescue the tiny kittens. The kittens were safely brought to shore, and each spring the willow branches sprout tiny fur-like buds at their tips were the kittens once clung.

#6 – Viking goddess Freyja rode in a chariot pulled by cats.

Freyja, minus her cat-drawn chariot


Freyja was the goddess of love and beauty, a fertility goddess. She was protector of the weak, healer, granter of magic, and a source of love and peace. She was given power over the ninth world, which historians speculate may allude to the supposed nine lives of cats.

#7 – It was once believed cats could rob the breath of a sleeping child.


The story might have grown from Hebrew tales of Adam’s hated first wife, Lilith the vampire. She could turn into a huge black cat named El Broosha and her favorite prey was defenseless newborns.

#8 – In Ancient Asian mythology, cats were the guide and guardian of body and soul.

Image source: Lucas via Flickr


Legends from Thailand, Burma, and other Asian countries use cats as a vessel that transports a monk or royal person’s soul to heaven after death.

#9 – The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats

Did you know that they imposed the death penalty for killing a cat, even accidentally? They also forbade exporting cats out of the country.

Image Source: Gayer Anderson cat from the Egypt Archive via Wikimedia Commons


(Sources: Must Love Cats, Vet Street, and Modern Cat.)