Demonization of Cats

Evil Cats

Fact: Pope Gregory IX declared death warrants for cats, considering them an incarnation of Satan.

Abstract: Cats have played a large role in history whether you know it or not. Facts about cats can be looked at from the standpoint of different religions and different time periods. We may not think much of them now, but the Egyptians seemed to think otherwise. On the contrary, Pope Gregory IX, whose papacy lasted from 1227 to 1241, took serious action to demonize cats in the eyes of everyone. He issued an official church order to prosecute black cats in reference to witchcraft and interaction with the Devil. A century later, a major decline of the cat population could be seen, along with outbursts or what is called the Black Death. Some historians link this disease to be caused by the uncontrolled number of rodents because cats were no longer alive to play their role in the food chain. Although this is just a theory, we can see how this chain of events may have severe consequences, all because cats were demonized.

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When cats lost their power

A Chinese myth having to do with cats states that long ago, gods had put cats in charge of caring for the new world they had created. Nevertheless, cats remained cat-like, laying around and being lazy. When the gods spoke to the cats about the ignored problems of the new world, what they heard in response was that they did not want to look over the world. Instead, they told the gods to put humans in charge. At this moment the gods took away the power of cats to speak and blessed the humans with this ability in turn.

Evil cats?

In Medieval Europe, very often cats were killed and slaughtered in mass numbers. This was justified with the fact that cats were considered to have ties to witchcraft and be possessed by the devil. A wild theory persists that because cats were killed off during that time, rodents and fleas had a chance to reproduce in masses. This is said to have led to the plague of the Black Death. This is in fact ironic, because Christians who had decided to slaughter the cats in the first place claimed that cats themselves caused diseases.

Pope Gregory IX and his hatred of cats

In the year 1233, Pope Gregory IX issued an official document to the church known as Vox in Rama. This document stated that black cats take part in devil worship and therefore are to be associated with evil doings. From this stemmed the belief that witches carried around cats that we know as their “familiar,” a gift given to them from the devil. The witch’s cat would serve as a sidekick and help them to cast evil spells and practice dark magic.

The popular TV show Sabrina the Teenage Witch stars a black cat named Salem. In the show he used to be a witch, but was prosecuted by the witch committee and forever forced to live as a talking cat. Watch his best moments here.

An article from the Ancient History Encyclopedia titled Cats in the Ancient World takes us through the evolution of how cats were depicted starting from ancient to modern times. We can follow the timeline and read about when cats were worshipped, slaughtered, and thought of as common household pets (as today.) It is interesting to think – had Charles Dickens lived during the time of Pope Gregory IX, he would likely be prosecuted for his fondness of cats. Read the full article here.

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