Self

Cat Symbolism & What It Means When You Dream About Cats (Or See One)

Photo: Unsplash / YourTango
cat symbolism

Cats are among the most common household pets in America. Many of us have interacted or seen cats before, but most aren’t aware of how special they are.

Wild cats date back all the way to 8000 B.C. and are native to the Middle Eastern areas Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. By 4400 B.C., these wild cats had spread to Asia and Europe.

Now, thousands of years later, it's estimated that there are roughly 220 million cats that are owned, and around 480 million that are strays. But cat symbolism goes much deeper than these creatures just being house pets.

Cat Symbolism & Spiritual Meanings Of Cats

Cats symbolize curiosity, companionship, independence, mischief, and elegance. But they also represent mystery and magic, good fortune, intuition, spiritual enlightenment and growth, and are a sign of good luck.

Cats have both good and bad connotations, and have been linked to darkness and witchcraft, but have also been revered as god-like.

Perhaps what cats are most known for is their mischievous behavior fueled by their curiosity for the world around them. Knocking items off the counter, eating things they shouldn't, getting stuck in tight spaces — these are all expected and normal for those with a pet cat.

But as symbols of independence and elegance, cats are known to go off on their own, which may appear unfriendly to others. Despite some believing cats to be rude, there's no denying that their balance, stealth, and grace are all unique traits.

RELATED: How Cats Protect You And Your Home From Ghosts And Negative Spirits, Based On Their Fur Color

Cat Encounters and Omens

While some cultures think cats are a bad omen and bring bad luck, others believe cats bring good fortune and protection. Because they are associated with magic, many also believe they have a connection to the spiritual world and have healing powers.

When you encounter a cat, whether in a good or bad scenario, pay attention to the deeper meaning behind the encounter, as there are spiritual messages associated with these creatures.

As mysterious as they are, seeing a cat, whether in the wild or in a domestic household, it can mean a few things.

Encountering a cat can mean that you must stop resisting change in order to benefit from it. An encounter can also symbolize that you or someone close to you is hiding something, or that you need to take more risks in life and forget about the fear of failure.

What Different Color Cats Symbolize

Most people are only familiar with black cats and their supposed "bad luck," but it's worth noting that cats come in all different colors: brown, gray, orange, white, amber, caramel, and everything in between.

But what a black cat predominately symbolizes is not the same as what a white cat symbolizes. The color of the cat plays a large role in what they are meant to convey to you.

Black Cat Symbolism

Despite the superstitions surrounding black cats, this color of cat actually symbolizes healing. With a black cat crossing your path, it is indeed a positive omen, and also suggests prosperity, success, fertility, good health, and spiritual growth.

Orange Cat Symbolism

Orange cats, also known as ginger cats, symbolize adventure, as well as masculine energy and financial success. Orange cats also represent change, leadership skills, and the beginning of a new chapter.

Gray Cat Symbolism

Gray is a color that symbolizes intellect and is associated with the spiritual and psychic realms. A gray cat represents harmony, receiving spiritual messages, and uncertainty.

Brown Cat Symbolism

The color brown symbolizes stability, wisdom, appreciation for life, and protection. Similarly, brown cats, also called tabby cats, stand for future good news, home life, femininity, practicality, and harmony.

White Cat Symbolism

White cats are symbols of purity, innocence, and have connections to the divine realm. Seeing a white cat relates to spiritual energy, spiritual awareness, personal freedom, and even psychic abilities.

Cat Symbolism in Dreams

To dream about cats can mean a plethora of things. The meaning is contingent on the color of the cat, what the cat is doing in the dream, and the overall feeling the dream evokes.

Cat dreams have different meanings, but, generally, are a sign that you need to be more daring and take risks.

Dreaming of a cat attacking you

If you dream of a cat attacking you, it relates directly to your real life hesitancy regarding disagreements with people close to you. You may have anxiety stemming from not getting along with someone, and must find a resolution to feel at peace.

Dreaming of a cat scratching you

To dream of a cat scratching you symbolizes unresolved problems in your close relationships, and how you'll eventually navigate those issues. Additionally, this dream stands for people in your life going behind your back.

Dreaming of kittens

Much like kittens make us think of innocence, dreaming of kittens represents our inner child. To dream of kittens means it's time to choose your life path, look at the road ahead, and try new things.

Dreaming of cats fighting

A dream about fighting cats symbolizes your own personal triumphs and success in the waking world. Despite the challenges you faced, you've overcome them!

Dreaming of an injured cat

An injured cat in your dream means you are facing your own inner turmoil and are in need of resolution. Whether it's feeling stuck in a relationship or career, or something else, consider it a sign to find stability and peace.

Dreaming of a cat dying

Though this can be quite a troubling dream, its meaning is important. A dying cat in your dream can symbolize overcoming issues in life, losing your independence, lacking confidence, or feeling stuck in place.

Dreaming of cat eyes

Cat eyes are gorgeous in the waking world and dream world, symbolizing confidence. A dream about cat eyes is also related to intuition and vision, serving as a reminder that you can get through anything life throws your way by listening to your inner voice.

Dreaming of multiple cats

A dream that involves more than one cat is a bad omen. This dream means that you may face harm or danger of some kind in the future, though it's unknown as to what it is. Be sure to remain prepared for whatever comes your way.

Dreaming of killing a cat

Another not-so-pleasant dream, killing a cat means you've overcome the ill intent of people in the waking world. Rather than letting them get to you, you've brushed them off and are now on your way to success.

Dreaming of a cat meowing

When a cat meows in your dream, it's a sign that someone in your close group of friends or family isn't being truthful. So, be sure to take this into consideration in the waking world.

RELATED: Spiritual Meaning And Symbolism Of A Black Panther

Cat Spirit or Totem Animal

A spirit animals is a spirit guide meant to keep you on the right path, while teaching you life lessons along the way. A totem animal is also a spirit guide, but totem animals are only invoked when you need guidance.

While you can't choose your spirit animal, you'll know if a cat is your spirit animal if you resonate with them in some way or have had a profound experience with one.

Those with a cat spirit animal are balanced, flexible, and able to bounce back from any difficult situation. For individuals who have a cat as a spirit animal, they are independent and have a strong sense of personal freedom.

If you have this spirit animal, cat teaches you the right time to act in any situation, when to listen to your gut instincts, how to become more confident, and when you need the strength to take a risk and push forward.

A cat totem is called upon when you are in need of adding magic, luck, and support to your life. Having a cat totem means thinking before acting, and fostering your own independence, curiosity, and intelligence in all areas of life.

With a cat totem, you are known for your sense of adventure, resilience, unique perspectives, unbridled self-sufficiency, and mystery. However, these individuals also tend to be a bit chaotic, risky, and hate being tied down in any way.

Photo: Unsplash / YourTango

RELATED: Research Shows That Owning Cats Can, Indeed, Heal You

Spiritual Meaning of Cats in Christianity and the Bible

While domestic cats aren't mentioned in the Bible, they are actually depicted as wild animals. This is because cats weren't native to Europe until Christianity spread during the Middle Ages. However, the Bible does mention big cats like lions, panthers and leopards; lions are akin to royalty and wisdom.

Because of their association with paganism, cats were thought to be demonic and were frequently killed; however, this led to an increase in rat populations, which made the impact of the Bubonic Plague much harsher.

Advertisement Need someone to talk to? Get support from a licensed therapist at BetterHelp. Sign up today and get 15% off!

In Christianity, as mentioned, cats were associated with the Devil, evil and were linked to witches, mainly because of their predatory behavior, hunting prowess, and "healthy disrespect of authority."

Cats were also depicted in the Last Supper painting, perhaps signifying deceit as it related to Jesus's betrayal. They are also mentioned in passing in certain religious passages.

Baruch 6:21: “Upon their bodies and heads sit bats, swallows, and birds, and the cats also." This passage from the Letter of Jeremiah in the Old Testament is related to the worship of false gods. If these same gods were humans, cats and other creatures alike wouldn't go near them.

Psalm 73:7: "Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish." The term "fat cats" is mentioned in other versions of this passage, meant to symbolize humans who manipulate the will of God for their own greed and wealth.

Spiritual Meaning of Cats in Islam

In a staunch contrast to the symbolism of cats in Christianity, in Islam, cats are considered holy animals, revered for their cleanliness, which is why they are allowed to enter homes and mosques. It is also permissible to eat or drink out of a bowl that a cat has drunk or eaten from, as this food or drink is considered halal.

Muhammad himself was also said to have loved cats, was called Abu Hurairah (Father of the Kittens), and had a cat companion of his own named Muezza.

As the story goes, one day when Muhammad was preparing to pray, he found Muezza sleeping on his prayer robe. Instead of waking the cat, Muhammad cut the sleeves off, and after returning from prayer, Muezza brought him a bow. Muhammad then stroked the cat three times.

Another belief in Muslim culture is that cats who have an M shape on their forehead were said to be blessed by Muhammad, who also prohibited the killing of cats.

Spiritual Meaning of Cats in Hinduism

In Hinduism and Indian homes, cats are used to hunt rodents, but they also hold a divine association, specifically to the goddess Shashthi. Shashthi is the protector of children and the goddess of reproduction. She's frequently depicted as riding a cat.

Because she is, essentially, the goddess of fertility, she is also said to resemble Bastet, the Egyptian goddess of childbirth and domesticity.

One tale about Shashthi tells of the youngest of seven daughters-in-law being a glutton who stole food and blamed it on a black cat, who was beaten by the family. The black cat pleaded to Shashthi for help, who agreed to avenge the cat.

When the gluttonous daughter-in-law gave birth to a son, the black cat stole the child and delivered it to Shashthi, repeating this for the next six sons the woman delivered. When she gave birth to a daughter, the woman caught the black cat stealing her child, wounding it, which left a trail of blood.

Following the trail, she ended up at the abode of Shashthi, and saw her sons playing around the goddess, who held the newborn daughter. On Shashthi's rallying, the mother asked for the cat's pardon and promised she would worship the goddess. The woman returned home with her children to spread worship of Shashthi, who blessed the home.

RELATED: Spiritual Animal List & The Symbolic Meaning Of Power Animals

Cat Symbolism in Mythology and Folklore

Native American Cat Symbolism

Native Americans generally view cats as mysterious, independent and esoteric, though some tribes associate cats with witchcraft and feared them. For example, the Mohave and Zuni tribes believed cats had healing powers, but the Oglala thought cats could curse members of their tribe.

Additionally, the Hopi tribes referred to men who disrespected women as "wildcats," and other tribes told stories that depicted cats as greedy. The Pawnee tribe associated cats with the color red, and likened this creature to their deceased ancestors, as well as celestial blessings by dressing their children in its fur.

Some traditional stories tell of Pogumk, which means "Fisher," though is sometimes referred to as "black cat." Chief of the Fishers, creatures resembling weasels, Pogumk defended his family and tribe from the witch Pitcher Woman, who wanted to kill Pogumk to become chief herself.

Far Eastern Cat Symbolism

In Japanese and Chinese cultures, as well as in other Asian countries, cats are symbols of good luck, blessings, home protection, and prosperity. The Beckoning Cat, a figurine depicted with its paw raised, is often displayed in homes and restaurants, meant to bring good fortune.

The Legend of the Beckoning Cat

Called Maneki-Neko in China, the story of the beckoning cat begins with an emperor.

As the emperor passed by a temple, he took shelter under a tree when it started raining. He saw a cat sitting outside the temple, with its paw raised. Intrigued, the emperor walked towards the temple. Just as he walked away, lightning struck the tree, saving the emperor's life.

In China, there are myths associated with cats, specifically related to the goddess Li Shou.

The Myth of Chinese Cat Goddess Li Shou

When the world was created, the gods decided the cat would oversee all other creatures and were given the ability to talk. Li Shou, the Cat Goddess, was chosen to represent them.

But because cats preferred to laze the day away, giving into the luxuries of life, the gods asked what the cats were doing to ensure the new world was running smoothly. In another visit, the gods saw the cats sleeping under the trees and questioned Li Shou's dedication, who replied that it's a great responsibility to oversee the world and time is much better spent being comfortable and having fun.

But by the third visit, Li Shou said the cats didn't want to run the world so they could spend more time enjoying life. The gods agreed to find another creature, but took away their ability to talk; instead, they gave this ability to humans and let them run the world, while the cats lay in the sunshine.

Celtic Cat Symbolism

In Celtic culture, cats were considered guardians of the Otherworld, or realm of deities; cats represented mystery, change, unpredictability, and an otherworldly sixth sense. Cats were also associated with the goddesses Ceridwen and Brigid.

The Legend of the Cat-Sìth

Celtic lore told of the cat-sìth, a fairy creature that resembled a black cat and had a white spot on its chest. Said to haunt the Highlands, this creature was also thought to be a witch who could shapeshift into a cat nine times. If the witch chose to become a cat more than nine times, they would stay a cat forever.

But the cat-sìth was also said to steal a person's soul before the gods could claim it. The Celts, therefore, performed the Fèill Fhadalach day and night to keep the creature away.

On Samhain, or Halloween, the Celts believed the cat-sìth would bless homes that left out a saucer of milk, and would curse those who didn't by making their cows' utters dry up.

Nordic Cat Symbolism

In Nordic lore, Freyja, the goddess of love, beauty, war, gold, and fertility, rode a chariot that was pulled by two cats. Cats were thought to have magical powers and were revered as symbols of femininity and female power.

Ancient Egyptian Cat Symbolism

Many are familiar with the Egyptians holding cats in high regard, believing them to be magical and possessing the ability to bless homes with good luck; cats were also protectors who prevented dangerous creatures from entering homes.

Egyptians considered cats to be their family members, mummifying them when they died to join them in the afterlife. In fact, skeletal remains of cats have been found in tombs of nobles. Theban tombs also had murals that depicted cats hunting.

Most notably, Bastet was an Egyptian goddess who was depicted as a cat. Bastet was the goddess of the home, childbirth, fertility, and was a protector from evil spirits. Other deities depicted as cats included Sekhmet, Mafdet, Mut, and even Isis, called "the soul of Bastet."

While some laws in ancient Egypt said that killing a cat was punishable by death, in earlier times, cats were bred to be killed, mummified, and presented as sacrifices to the gods.

Cat Tattoo Meaning

While people get tattoos for their own personal reasons — as creative expression, to honor a loved one, or as a reminder of something they have overcome — a cat tattoo has its own special meaning.

Getting a cat tattoo can be because you love and adore cats, or want your own cat forever inked on your body. Others may get this tattoo because of what they symbolize: magic, good luck, protection, elegance, and mystery, as well as femininity, spiritual enlightenment, or grace.

RELATED: Leopard Symbolism & The Spiritual Meaning Of Leopards

Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who has written hundreds of articles about relationships, trending news and entertainment, numerology and astrology. Follow her on Twitter for more.

Sign up for YourTango's free newsletter!