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Are cats holy in Christianity?

Cats have long held a special place in human civilization. Their mysterious nature, independence, and physical grace have inspired affection and even reverence across many cultures. In Christianity specifically, views on cats have varied widely – from association with witchcraft to admiration of their cleanliness.

Cats in the Bible

There are a few mentions of cats (Hebrew: חָתוּל‎ ḥāṯûl) in the Old Testament, but no clear overall message regarding their spiritual status. Some verses associate cats with danger and destruction:

  • Isaiah 13:21 – Desert creatures will meet with hyenas, and goat-demons will call out to each other. There also Liliths will settle, and find for themselves a resting place.
  • Baruch 4:35 – Whoever sacrifices a human being or animal that was not sacrificed by your ancestors – will be uprooted like a tree.

However, other verses suggest cats were simply one of many common domestic animals at the time:

  • 1 Kings 14:11 – Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat, and those who die in the field the birds of the sky will eat; for the LORD has spoken it!’
  • Job 30:29 – I have become a brother to jackals, and a companion of ostriches.

The New Testament does not mention cats at all. So while the Bible acknowledges cats as part of daily life in ancient Israel, it does not designate them as either holy or unholy creatures.

Early Christian Views on Cats

In the first few centuries AD, Christian views on cats started to diverge from their typical domestic role in Jewish communities. On one hand, the cleanliness and hygiene of cats was admired. The 3rd century theologian Athenagoras stated that God “made cats clean” in order to patrol houses and limit vermin. And St. Gregory of Nyssa in the 4th century even used the term “cat” as a metaphor for purity in his writings.

However, by the Middle Ages another perspective on cats had begun to dominate. As Christianity expanded beyond the Mediterranean, it encountered pre-Christian cultures in Europe that revered cats for their mysterious qualities and affiliation with the occult. This association was viewed warily by the Church.

Cats as Demonic Figures

Several factors led to cats being linked with witchcraft and demonology:

  • Their nighttime wandering and stealthy hunting were seen as occult behaviors.
  • They were often kept as pets by solitary elderly women on the fringes of society.
  • Pagan cat deities like Freya, Bastet, and Isis entered Christian demonology.

By the medieval period, cats were reviled as agents of Satan by many theologians and clerics. The Christian worldview shifted to see cats as impure creatures associated with vanity, trickery, and evil.

Witch Hunts and Cat Massacres

This religious association of cats with witchcraft led to mass killings of cats throughout Europe in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period:

  • Pope Gregory IX declared in 1233 that Satan camouflaged himself as a cat, so killing and tormenting cats was justified.
  • The Spanish Inquisition asserted that black cats were instruments of Satanic power.
  • Cat ownership was formally banned in some European locales as a deterrent to witchcraft.
  • On holy days like St. John’s Eve, cats were captured and burned alive in bonfires across medieval cities.

This religious fanaticism around cats lasted for centuries, and the massacres may have numbered in the millions. Today, this remains an extreme and regrettable chapter in the history of Christian-cat relations.

Modern Christian Perspectives

After the Enlightenment era of the 18th century, violent superstitions around cats declined. But ambivalence toward cats has persisted in some denominations.

Positive Views

Most mainstream Christian groups today consider cats as acceptable domestic pets and guardians of the home. Several religious factors contribute to their rehabilitation:

  • Modern Christian animal welfare teachings denounce cruelty toward any creature.
  • Some sects now regard the divine present in all the natural world, including cats.
  • Positive symbology remains around feline cleanliness, patience, resilience, etc.

Notable cat-lovers among Christian leaders have also improved their image – like Pope Benedict XVI, who personally cared for strays around the Vatican.

Remaining Suspicions

However, the legacy of feline mistrust persists among some conservative denominations. Reasons for continued wariness include:

  • Belief that the Dark Ages view of cats as satanic familiars was fundamentally correct.
  • Adherence to older proof-text Bible interpretations linking cats with occult forces.
  • Concern about cats as a gateway to neo-pagan New Age religions.

So opinions on whether cats are impure or evil creatures varies greatly between different Christian traditions as well as individuals.


The question of whether cats are holy in Christianity does not have a definitive yes or no answer. Scripturally, cats have a neutral status – neither holy nor unholy. But varying cultural views developed over centuries that swung between admiration and demonization of felines.

Today, ask ten different Christians for their perspective on cats and you may get ten different answers. Positive regard for cats as clean domestic animals is mainstream. But residues of superstition around cats as occult agents still persist in some denominations. Ultimately, the holiness of cats depends on the eye of the beholder.

Time Period Christian View of Cats
Old Testament Era Neutral – Cats described as ordinary household animals
Early Christian Era (0-500 AD) Positive – Cats admired for cleanliness
Middle Ages (500-1500 AD) Negative – Cats seen as demonic and killed en masse
Early Modern Era (1500-1700s AD) Negative – Cats still associated with witchcraft
Modern Era (1700s-today) Mixed – Growing positive regard, but some lingering suspicion