Medieval Musings

July (whoops!) August’s  Medieval Musings Blog is about… cats.

Cats. Our furry friends. Our pets who control us, love us, drive us crazy, eat our homework (mine did!)

So, when I had the idea of writing about cats because they feature so strongly in my novels. I was totally unprepared (as usual) for the amount of information out there – just on CATS.

What I found was the during the medieval period – get this – cats were hated!


William Caxton wrote, “the devyl playeth ofte with the synnar, lyke as the catte doth with the mous.”

And there you have it: the devil plays often with the sinner. like the cat does with a mouse.

So even when the cat was doing its duty and keeping down the vermin, the poor animal still couldn’t win.


The Middle East:

Evidence shows that cats were domesticated in Mesopotamia 10,000 years ago! That’s modern-day Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey and Syria. Farmers encouraged them to hang around to keep vermin from their stored crops.

Check out this great story from Brittney Boroweic, McMaster University

Cats are like tiny, judgmental camels…

The East has always maintained its affection for cats.

Why are there so many cats in Istanbul?

Check out this fascinating story.


Muhammad had a favourite cat called Muezza.

There are several well-known tales about Muezza. One says that the cat saved Muhammad from the deadly bite of a venomous snake. Another relates a time when Muezza was asleep on Muhammad’s robe when the call to prayers sounded. Although most people would have simply shooed away the cat, Muhammad instead cut off the sleeve of his robe so Muezza could rest in peace. He then stroked Muezza three times to grant him the ability to land on his feet under any circumstances, and also gave him seven lives.

The Egyptians:

Egyptians did not worship cats, but they did believe that cats held a bit of divine energy within them. The most widespread belief was that domestic cats carried the divine essence of Bastet (or Bast), the cat-headed goddess who represented fertility, domesticity, music, dance and pleasure. (Melinda Hartwig).

Killing a cat brought the death penalty.


Cats were even mummified.

You may be asking what does all this have to do with hated medieval cats.

We are getting closer – I promise.


This is the Viking Goddess Freya who features hugely in my second novel, ‘Sailing to Byzantium‘, not yet released.

Freya is the Goddess of love in Norse mythology, but she is also associated with sex, lust, beauty, sorcery, fertility, gold, war and death.
As shown in the picture, she loves cats and two large males pull her chariot.
In my story, Mistress Wistowe, witch and wise woman, calls on Goddess Freya a number of times to save them. She and Annie also use their cats, Bea and Rosamund to represent Freya’s cats.

And then along came…

Pope Gregory IX (13 century)

did not like cats. He believed cats embodied the devil, Lucifer himself. A member of his Inquisition had informed him that a heretic cult existed in Europe that used black cats in their ceremonies. This sect had taken its inspiration from the legend of the Nordic goddess of sexuality, Freya, written down in 1220. Goodbye black cats and any woman who owned one. Witch-hunting season had begun.

Cats were also blamed for causing The Black Death – the Plague. Goodbye again, cats. Pity, because they killed the rats that carried the fleas.

So now you know. Cats were hated so much in Medieval Europe that even in pictures they were ugly.

This hatred of cats lasted at least 300 years in the West.

But cat-lovers unite. Times have changed.




My two cats. Now deceased but much loved and missed. Tigerlily, on the left, came to us barefoot and pregnant – with Tigger. Tigerlily, having lived wild, never left the yard, never hunted. Tigger loved to go for long walks with me. Go figure!

That’s all Folks!

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