What's Your Sign

Animal Symbolism: Meaning of the Cat

animal symbolism of the Cat

A Look at the Symbolic Meaning of Cats

Cats. Whether you love 'em, or hate 'em...there is no denying cats are cram-packed with symbolic meanings. Almost every culture has some kind of myth or story to tell that features the feline. The myths are just as rigid in good vs. evil as people's opinions about cats. Some cultures villainize them, other cultures worship them. No matter personal opinion, or stance in myth - the cat is a worldwide icon. Cats have influenced humankind's imaginations and made themselves an anchor in legend and lore told over campfires for centuries.

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 feared, 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. Witches and cats go together like traffic and weather. Much of this connection may be due to the unpredictable and cagey nature of the cat (in general). In old European lore, the cat was an unsettling sight to some. And as with all symbolism, once an understanding of something is accepted, word spreads, and a whole people or tribe will adopt the meaning. Same with cats. A segment of the population established the cat as nefarious, a bunch of other people bought the bad rap, and superstition about cats went viral. Witches got a bad rap too. Their beliefs were not easily explained, just as cat behavior can be baffling. So the two made great bedfellows.

animal symbolism of the Cat

In some cultures, the cat has a tarnished reputation. This is often due to a superstition formed around mysterious, unusual or even feral feline behavior.

But there are plenty of segments in human population that adore and even worship the cat. 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
  • Selective
  • Secretive
  • Mysterious
  • Intuitive
  • Intelligent
  • Independent
  • Supernatural
  • Watchfulness
cat animal symbolism cat meaning

Cats mean a lot of things to a lot of different cultures and people. But the cat's clear cunning and cleverness always remain a constant symbolic feature.

Cats tend to be quite resourceful and commonly 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 as mentioned. 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 magic and psychic power because of its sometimes unorthodox and surreptitious behavior. In essence, the cat teaches us a lesson about being the value of being unique. Often it's the bold, unpredictable and a little crazy among us that reap the broadest benefits in life.

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.

May all your cat encounters enhance your wisdom.



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Avia Venefica

About the Author: Avia Venefica has an undergraduate degree with a focus in anthropology and art. She has also been an understudy in several tribal and spiritual organizations around the nation. Avia is the author of several publications concerning esoteric wisdom, and makes herself available for public speaking/presentations on symbolic topics.