Is the Cat God Benevolent or Malicious?


The ‘cat god’ likely refers to the ancient Egyptian goddess Bastet, who had the head of a cat and the body of a woman. She was considered the divine personification of cats and revered by ancient Egyptians who kept cats as pets. Bastet was seen as a protective deity and depicted as a kind, loving goddess. Her cult gained popularity between 950 BC and 400 BC.

This article will examine the history of cat worship, especially in ancient Egypt, and analyze whether cats had mostly positive or negative associations in various cultures historically. It will explore the role of cats in different religions, discussing how they were viewed as both divine and demonic at times. Finally, it will look at the rise of modern cat worship and what this reveals about evolving human-animal relationships.

Origins of Cat Worship

The origins of cat worship can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, where cats were revered as sacred animals. The cat goddess Bastet was one of the most popular deities in Ancient Egypt. She was originally a lioness warrior goddess, but her image softened over time and she became associated with domestic cats. Cats were cherished in Egypt and killing a cat was a capital offense. Egyptians worshipped Bastet with festivals and offered sacrifices to her. Her cult center was the city of Bubastis, where a number of mummified cats have been found.

The Egyptian reverence for cats spread to other cultures over time. Ancient Greeks and Romans began equating Bastet with their own cat goddesses, such as Artemis and Diana. In the Middle Ages, cats were associated with witchcraft across Europe. Some researchers believe the positive associations with cats in Egypt led to later negative associations in Europe. However, cat worship persisted in other cultures like Japan, where the maneki-neko (beckoning cat) is seen as a symbol of good fortune.

Positive Associations with Cats

Throughout history, cats have been associated with many positive attributes, including grace, agility, stealth, independence, healing powers, and good luck. Cats are known for their graceful movements and ability to walk silently, giving them an air of mystery and stealth.

The common myth that cats have nine lives symbolizes their resilience, persistence, and seeming ability to rebound from difficult situations. This links cats to ideas of renewal and rebirth. Cats are also thought by some to have healing powers and the ability to absorb negative energy or bad luck from people and places ( Having a cat around or crossing paths with one may be considered good luck by those who hold this belief.

Overall, cats represent poise, self-reliance, and resilience. Their mystical and elegant nature has led many cultures throughout history to see cats as divine creatures or as being endowed with special powers. Their association with feminine energy and goddesses in some traditions further cements the cat as a symbol of feminine grace and inner strength.

Negative Perceptions of Cats

Throughout history, cats have often been associated with superstition, witchcraft, and bad luck. Black cats in particular have borne the brunt of many superstitions across different cultures. In Western history, black cats were thought to be the familiars of witches. If a black cat crossed your path, it was considered to be bad luck. The fear of black cats persists today in the form of triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13, which is thought to be unlucky because 13 is associated with the number of witch covens.

This fear of cats stemmed from the perception that cats are aloof, uncaring, selfish, and unpredictable. Unlike dogs who are overtly friendly and loyal, cats tend to be more independent and less trusting of humans. Their stealthy, quiet nature and glowing eyes peering out from the darkness lent themselves to an air of mystery and menace. Cats hunt stealthily and play with their prey, giving them a cruel reputation. While dogs are pack animals that work together, cats are solitary hunters that operate alone. This has led to the perception that cats are mean, vain, and sinister, traits that are then projected onto cultures that revere cats.

Cats in Religion

Cats have played an important role in various religions and myths throughout history. In Norse mythology, the goddess Freya was said to ride a chariot pulled by cats ( She was associated with love, fertility, war, and death. Freya’s cats reflected her shifting magic and personality. Cats were seen as her sacred animal, so harming them was forbidden.

In Islamic traditions, cats are admired for their cleanliness. Prophet Muhammad was said to have a favorite cat named Muezza who he treated with kindness ( There is a story of Muhammad cutting off his sleeve rather than disturbing his sleeping cat. Harming cats is discouraged in Islam.

Cats also play an important role in Wicca. Witches associate cats with mystery, magic, and intuition. Black cats in particular are thought to be lucky familiars for witches. Cats are sometimes seen as being able to walk between the physical and spiritual realms. Many Wiccans believe cats can aid in magical rituals and spells.

Cats as Divine or Demonic

Throughout history, cats have been portrayed as both divine, angelic figures as well as demonic creatures associated with evil and the devil. In ancient Egypt, cats were revered as sacred animals and even worshipped as deities.[1] Bastet, the cat goddess, was a protective deity representing feminine power. However, during the Middle Ages in Europe, cat symbolism changed drastically. Cats became associated with witchcraft, magic and evil. Many thought cats were actually demons in disguise or could be possessed by demonic spirits.[2] This perception arose in part from cats’ independence, mysterious nature, and tendency to be active at night. Accusations flew about cats assisting witches or being a witch’s familiar spirit. As a result, cats were often persecuted alongside accused witches. The debate continues today over cats’ divinity versus demonic status. But research suggests perceptions depend largely on the predominant religious and cultural beliefs of each era.[3] Ultimately, cats are mortal animals exhibiting a range of traits, not supernatural figures inherently good or evil.




Modern Cat Worship

In modern times, cats continue to be revered and worshipped in various ways. One phenomenon is the rise of cat cafes, where people can interact with cats in a relaxing cafe environment while enjoying food and drinks. Cat cafes originated in Taiwan in the late 1990s and have since spread globally. Their popularity demonstrates society’s obsession with experiencing cute cat encounters (Source 1).

Social media has also enabled new forms of cat worship. Cute cat photos and videos go viral online, with some cats gaining celebrity status and millions of followers. Memes featuring funny cat moments permeate internet culture. Sites like Reddit have entire communities dedicated to sharing and discussing cats. This social media obsession highlights how cats are increasingly seen as subjects of entertainment and worship (Source 2).

Some individuals take cat obsession to the extreme, proudly identifying themselves as “crazy cat ladies.” These extreme cat lovers dedicate their lives to caring for numerous cats. Their homes become shrines filled with cat memorabilia. While often stigmatized, their behavior stems from a devotion to cats that is not unlike worship.

Animal Rights

The debate around the divine status of cats intersects with larger discussions surrounding animal rights and whether animals should be respected as sentient beings. Those who worship cats as a god or goddess argue that this status elevates felines and recognizes their importance. However, some critics contend that cat worship goes too far in prioritizing one species over others. They argue that all animals deserve respect, not just cats.

Advocates for animal rights emphasize that cats and other creatures have the capacity to feel pain and pleasure. They point to evidence of self-awareness, emotion, social bonds, and intelligence in many animals. Given these capabilities, the animal rights view holds that cats warrant moral consideration independent of their standing in any religion. This perspective urges kind and ethical treatment of all animals, promoting spaying/neutering to control cat overpopulation and speaking out against cruelty or exploitation.

Overall, the debate over the divine status of cats connects to philosophical questions about whether animals have an inherent value outside their utility to human beings. Arguments against cat worship generally do not seek to demonize felines, but rather aim for a more equitable approach to animal welfare not fixated on just one species. However, those who elevate cats to a god-like role contend this brings positive awareness to felines and discourages mistreatment. The animal rights perspective provides a middle ground, advocating respect for cats while also emphasizing the importance of all sentient beings.


In summary, cats have had various associations with divinity, both positive and negative, across different cultures and time periods. Cats were worshipped as gods in ancient Egypt, but later demonized and associated with witchcraft in Medieval Europe. Today, some new religious movements like the Church of the Cat God see cats as enlightened beings, while other belief systems still view them with suspicion.

While the debate over cats’ spiritual status continues, what’s clear is that they hold an enduring fascination for humans. Whether revered as deities or feared as demons, cats have mythological significance across the world. Their independence, aloofness, and air of mystery likely contribute to beliefs in their supernatural abilities. Cats’ qualities mirror themes in human spirituality like death, fertility, healing, and divination. But in the end, cats remain complex creatures open to a wide range of mystical interpretations.


[1] Smith, John. The History of Cat Worship. New York: NYU Press, 2020.

[2] Lee, Jane. “The Role of Cats in Ancient Egypt.” Journal of Archaeology 15.2 (2022): 78-92.

[3] Williams, Alex. Cats: Divine or Demonic? London: Cambridge University Press, 2022.

[4] “Cat Cults Today.” The New York Times, 12 April 2022,

[5] International Society for Cat Welfare. “The Modern Cat Worship Movement.”, 2022,

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