Animal Symbolism: Meaning of the Cat

animal symbolism of the Cat

A Look at the Symbolic Meaning of Cats

As an ancient symbolic Celtic animal, the cat represents the guardian of the Otherworld (or Underworld, depending which texts you read from various regions). Stoic, silent and mysterious, cats fit the bill of Otherworld guardians quite well. They keep the secrets of the Otherworld eternally to themselves, as they gaze with guile upon a world that does not see or understand the depth of their knowledge. However, black cats in Celtic lore were considered evil, and were sacrificed.

In Western tradition, black cats have been associated with witchcraft. This is due to black being associated with supposed perils of the night, and the cat is associated with transformation just as the veil of night shifts our perception of reality.

However, in Ancient Rome the cat was sacred to Diana, the moon goddess. Here the cat was also considered a guardian of homes and a symbol of domestic goodness.

In Muslim lore, the cat is honored for saving Mohammad from an attack by a fierce snake. Here it is believed the "M" marking on the forehead of many tabby cats is the mark of the prophet ("M" for Mohammad).

In Norse legend the cat is depicted drawing the chariot of their fertility goddess, Freyja, and therefore the cat is thought of as a blessing upon newborns and a good omen for those increasing their family ranks.

In ancient Egypt cats were sacred and were even depicted on the head of their lunar goddess, Bastet which was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. In her honor, cats were even mummified along with mice for them to eat.

Symbolic Cat Meanings

  • Astute
  • Clever
  • Secretive
  • Mysterious
  • Intelligent
  • Intuitive
  • Supernatural
  • Watchfulness
  • Selective
  • Independent

Cats themselves are quite resourceful and tend to give us messages of change, flexibility of adaptability. Often, when a cat makes an uncommon appearance in our lives it is a message for us to shake up our habitual routines and make some fresh changes in our lives, as well as be more flexible in our thinking.

Cats can also be quite aloof, and this too is often a message for us to distance ourselves from people or situations. Sometimes the best cure for a problem is to step away from it - the cat inherently realizes this, and we would be wise to recognize this need as well.

Lastly, the cat animal symbolism is about mystery. Unfortunately, its unpredictability has given the cat a bad name in some areas of folk lore, specifically witchcraft. When, in actuality, this is an asset that can be harnessed by us humans.

Sometimes displaying very strange behavior and antics, you can never really pin a cat down. Simply put, the cat animal symbolism is synonymous with creativity and psychic power because of its sometimes unorthodox & "mysterious" behavior. This is also reflected in the Tarot, as we see the cat in the Queen of Wands card.

The good news is, this mystery is a message to us that we have the power over illusion. Cat animal symbolism reminds us to not fall prey to false beliefs, to not be a fool out of ignorance and derive understanding from our own internal wisdom. The cat beckons us to realize that when we turn within to our own hearts, minds and souls, and trust in ourselves we will always be shown the truth of matters.

Avia's Recommended Reading

If you found this article interesting, you may also like my post on cat prints - thoughts on cat animal symbolism by observing their paw prints. You may also like my post on cat tattoo symbolism.

Special thanks to David J. Crotty for the use of his cat photo shown at the top of this page.

An Important Note About Signs, Symbols and Their Meanings

Signs and symbols cultivate their meanings according to culture, context, passage of time in society as well as mass societal opinion. What's cool and highly important is that signs and symbols earn their most powerful meanings from our own personal perspectives.

This website strives to provide you with the best, time-honored information when defining signs and symbols. However, in the final analysis, "Beauty (and symbolism) is in the eye of the beholder."

Having said that, it's in our best interest to invest the time to do personal research on symbolic events happening to us. This website is just one perspective in an ocean of variety and diversity in the realm of symbolism. So dive in! There is a whole universe of deeper meanings to explore! You can start your research by clicking on the links at the end or to the side of this page. Odds are good I've got a follow-up article about this symbolic topic. ;)

As always, thanks for your willingness to learn more about the language of symbolism. It's a language that is universal and everywhere. It's super-groovy to travel with you on your symbolic path, and maybe offer a little translation along the way. Thanks for reading and exploring!


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