Cats would have saved Europe from the plague

By Gina Shahbander

Cats would have saved Europe from the Plague. Europe in the 13th century did not understand the concept of an allergy caused by cat’s dander. They accused the cats of stealing people’s breath, they also did not know about the cat’s eye anatomy, when the extra lid in the cat’s eye closes to protect its pupil from bright light the cat was accused of being inhabited by evil that looks at them through the cats eyes hence the term: Evil eye depicted as a cat eye with a narrow opening of the vertical lids.

Black death bubonic plague

All this led to the killing of cats, cats were burned alive and people who had cats were accused of witchcraft and were prosecuted with their cats and kittens. In the absence of cats, rodents found a safe heaven in Europe to populate and it wasn’t long before invasions by rodents into Europe took place. By the third invasion, at least half the population of Europe was claimed by the bubonic plague. Some historians say 2/3 of the population was gone in what they called the black death for its painful effects on human and animals.

After the third invasion Europe realized the connection between the rat’s appearance and the plague, and realized that it had killed its savior the cat, which is when the Pope issued a decree acquitting the cats of evil doing.

He ordered the nuns and priests to allow cats into church lands and in convents to encourage people to overcome the phobia they inherited of cats. Unfortunately, the only cat that did not escape the evil accusation is the black cat which kept the evil dogma. The black cat did not escape the evil doing!

All the literature and fairy tales from that medieval era depict cats as an evil holding a trident, or as a pet to a mean character. It was not until 1894, when a French bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin isolated the bacillus virus responsible for the plague and it was named Yersinia pestis after him.

Another Frenchman, Paul-Louis Simond, 4 yrs later discovered the role of the flea carried by rodents in transmitting the disease. A vaccine was developed but it had limited success. The cat was re-introduced to Europe by stealing the cats off the Egyptians and Syrian alleys, the French soldiers would steal the Abyssinian Egyptian cats, the Tabby from Iraq (Toby), the Persian, Siamese, Turkish and Himalayan from Syria, and send them back on the ships to Europe.

Cats regained its respect in Europe and became Europe’s favorite pet. The pilgrims brought the cat with them to the new world “America” to protect them during their trip and on the new land.

Feral cats are domesticated cats who got lost or stayed behind as the new immigrants advanced in land, these cats revert to their domestic nature when fed and treated nicely by people. Here is an excerpt I found: Cats Took the Rap for the Black Death.

It may seem insane today, but at the height of the Black Plague, the common cat took the blame for the horrible occurrence and suffered for this erroneous belief. The Black Plague — also known as the Black Death — was the most deadly pandemic in human history. It reached its most virulent peak of lethality between in the mid 14th century (around 1350.) It was likely an outbreak of bubonic plague that began in Central Asia and was carried to Europe by rats on merchant ships.

As we know today, the rats carried tiny fleas, and these fleas were the true transmitters of the bubonic plague germ. Areas with more rats therefore had more fleas and thus a higher instance of plague outbreak. Cats were the first line of defense against the plague. Thus, the disease was able to rage unchecked once felines began to be persecuted and killed by superstitious people who assigned blame to cats.

Cats often got a bad rap in the Dark Ages. Christian religious leaders had often pointed to cats as a source of bad luck or evil. Pope Gregory the 4th said domestic cats were “diabolical”! Black cats in particular were seen as ‘familiars’ of Satan. Cat owners were often accused of being witches merely for owning a feline. Many cats were destroyed during the Inquisition.

And so when the deadly plague first arrived, cats became a scapegoat. People back then didn’t understand about germs and were looking for someone or something to blame for the plague. The feeling that God had abandon them was spreading and religious leaders needed to curb the loss of faith. They needed to blame Satan for the plague. As physical evidence of Satan’s presence, cats were singled out as agents of the devil, who were ‘vessels of evil’, carrying death and sickness with them wherever they went.

The desperate people of the day, frantically searching for a way to fight this invisible scourge, were glad to have a visible enemy they could lash out at. The persecution of cats began in earnest. Felines were hunted and eliminated. Some were sacrificed to God in pyres of fire.

As the feline population decreased, the rat population increased dramatically. They began carrying their flea passengers into new areas where cats had formerly driven them out of. Without cats, rats started to appear everywhere, and the fleas went with them. It seems shocking today that someone would ignore a growing army of rats and kill a cat to stop disease spreading, but that was the thought process at the time. Rats were seen as nuisances and pests. Cats were seen as demonic agents of death!

As a result of the mass cat killing, the plague spread rapidly, reaching across Europe as the rat population traveled freely, unopposed by felines. Worse still, people suffered food poisoning due to rodent droppings in food supplies. Cats got blamed for that, too.

Europeans continued to destroy cats for almost 300 years. After the plague finally faded and the Enlightenment approached, the killing of cats finally stopped. There were relatively few cats left in Europe at that point.

The Black Plague is estimated to have killed 35-50% of Europe’s population at the time. Approximately 40-50 million people died (reducing the population of the world at the time from almost a half a billion to somewhere around 450 million). It wouldn’t have been nearly as catastrophic if the cats had been allowed to do their job and stop the rat population explosion. It took almost 200 years for Europe’s population to recover from the plague. It took even longer for the feline population to rebound from the tragedy.

Each year the World Health Organization registers thousands of new cases and the number continues to rise. New strains of the disease have been discovered that are resistant to treatment. Unless we put cats back on the streets to control rodents before they over populate, the plague remains a threat to mankind. Read the book ” Pourquoi la peste? Le rat, la puce et le bubon (Why the Plague? The Rat, the Flea, and the Bubo), edited by Jacqueline Brossollet and Henri Mollaret. The writer concludes that the plague is a disease of the future. We can change that with education and with giving the cat the respect and love it deserves for protecting our streets and guarding our fields.



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About Michael Broad

Michael is retired! He retired at age 57 and at Aug 2018 is approaching 70. He worked in many jobs. The last job he did was as a solicitor practicing general law. He loves animals and is passionate about animal welfare. He also loves photography and nature. He hates animal abuse. He has owned and managed this site since 2007. There are around 13k pages so please use the custom search facility!


Cats would have saved Europe from the plague — 24 Comments

  1. BTW: Cats DO steal a human’s breath. Every time a cat infects a pregnant woman with Toxoplasma gondii and their child is still-born, born with hydrocephaly or microcephaly. It’s not an “old wives’ tale”, it’s a FACT. Stick your head up your ass even further. You look your best that way.

    • Some sort of nasty worm has wriggled and drilled into your cranium and made your brain (what’s left of it) its home. This has left you perpetually angry and certifiable bonkers. Tell me how many pregnant women have been infected with T, gondii (official stats). You won’t find any figures. All the vets say it is safe for a pregnant women to keep her cat provided certain sensible precautions are followed. Rant on HeyMORONS – you are the moron.

    • Hey Moeons,
      If cats are safe to roam outside we wont have any needs for indoor litter box, cats like dogs would be using outside to relief themselves, with one difference: Cats dig and hide their urine and feces, and don’t leave it exposed to insects and flies. I grew up with cats in our house, my children grew up with cats. We have healthy children who love cats. I wish you Peace, you seem to have anger issues. I am sorry you feel that way.

    • Hey Morons,
      If cats are safe to roam outside we wont have any needs for indoor litter box, cats like dogs would be using outside to relief themselves, with one difference: Cats dig and hide their urine and feces, and don’t leave it exposed to insects and flies. I grew up with cats in our house, my children grew up with cats. We have healthy children who love cats. I wish you Peace, you seem to have anger issues. I am sorry you feel that way.

  2. One can only hope that the present wave of “The Black Death” that is infecting everyone who “loves cats” will wipe-out the most stupid and ignorant on the planet. That be YOU Michael. LOL

    You will ensure this by not publishing this information because you choose to remain an ignorant bliss-ninny by poking your own eyes out. ROFLMAO!!!

    How’s that mommy’s-basement reality working out for you so far, Michael? Do you still think it will prevent you from contracting plague from your free-roaming cats? LOL!

  3. Please explain to the class how an animal, the domesticated cat in this case, which is perfectly capable of carrying and transmitting the plague all on its own could have prevented the plague in Europe.

    For just one of the earlier examples of hundreds in the last 3 decades: “Cat-transmitted fatal pneumonic plague in a person who traveled from Colorado to Arizona” (1994 July) ncbi D0T nlm D0T nih D0T gov SLASH pubmed/8059908

    Yes, the plague is alive and well today, and BEING SPREAD BY CATS. People have already died from cat-transmitted plague in the USA.

    Or Google for: Oregon man suffering plague; or: Taos cat has plague; or: (hundreds of others).

    Totally disproving that oft-spewed LIE cat-lickers love to tell about having more cats in Europe could have prevented the plague. No rats nor fleas even required if you have cats around. Cats themselves carry and transmit the plague all on their own. Now add in the fact that cats attract rodents right to them if the cats infect the rodents with their Toxoplasma gondii parasite ( scitizen D0T com SLASH neuroscience/parasite-hijacks-the-mind-of-its-host_a-23-509 D0T html ), and you’ll see a plague the likes of which have never existed before. Especially when you breed super-strains of plague with your overuse and irresponsible use of antibiotics.

    If a cat contracts the plague from any flea or other animal, it then spreads it to all other cats in its colony, other animals that come in contact with them, or any humans that come in contact with them. Hence: no fleas nor rats required after the initial infection. The very act of a cat killing a plague carrying rat will actually cause the cat to contract the plague from the rat or its fleas and spread it to those that come in contact with it. There is ZERO advantage to having a cat kill a plague-carrying rodent. And in fact, much disadvantage, the cat then bringing the plague right to everyone’s doors.

    The plague in Europe was actually spread the most by human to human transmission. The distance and speed with which it spread cannot be accounted for by fleas, rats, nor cats. But they ALL played their parts in transmitting it to humans initially.

    This doesn’t give ignorant, manipulative, and deceptive cat-lickers any kind of license whatsoever to run around screaming their scare-mongering tactic of, “IF WE DON’T LET CATS ROAM FREE WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE OF THE PLAGUE!” When, IN FACT, the absolute reverse of that could come to pass.

    abcd-vets D0T org SLASH Guidelines/Pages/EN-Other-Zoonoses-Feline-Plague D0T aspx

    “Recommendations to avoid zoonotic transmission

    Cats are considered the most important domestic animal involved in plague transmission to humans, and in endemic areas, outdoor cats may transmit the infection to their owners or to persons caring for sick cats (veterinarians and veterinary nurses).”

    Spread some more of your manipulative lies and ignorance. Another person who is more intelligent than you will make you look like the blathering cat-licking fool that you are.

    • Hi Woody,

      Cats are considered the most important domestic animal involved in plague transmission to humans

      That may be true but it needs to be verified but it refers to “domestic” animals and the rat (a wild animal) is far, far more important an animal in the transmission of the disease. I don’t know the actual stats but I would guess the rat is a 100X more hazardous. The cat may become a transmitor because it attacks rats: the flea carrier.

      • I love the way that you try to squirm your mind away from reality all too often. “Domesticated cats” *ARE* “feral cats”. Don’t you comprehend this yet? Feral cats are genetically identical to the ones you sometimes keep in your homes. And then when you let it outside it will find the nearest plague-carrying rodent it can find for its hourly play-toy, then lick you on you face when it comes home. LOL I hope it happens soon in Europe, so all of you self-deluded UK cat-lickers die of the plague.

        • “Domesticated cats” *ARE* “feral cats”

          Wrong as usual. The difference is socialisation which is a massive difference as it leads to domestication and domestication leads to the cat being dependent on human caretaking.

        • If the cats are allowed to roam the streets as God intended to them to do, it would control rodents population and prevent the spread of bubonic fleas carried by rats. They could be some cases of involved in coming in contact with a cat that contracted the disease but this could easily be contained before it goes out of hands, meanwhile, when the streets are cleared off cats, the rodents find safe heavens to overpopulate, then it become impossible for cats to face an army of rodents with unlimited number. When cats marked their territories, they sent messages to other cats and to rodents to go away, the message for other cats is: This land is under control and guarded, go find another one and colonize it; for the rat, the message is: This land is under surveillance, you will be killed if you come close. I understand that some people inherited cats phobia and what it is extremely hard to eliminate fear with logic.

          • Thanks Gina. I think we (meaning people in the USA and in some parts of Europe) need a different relationship with what I call “community cats”. In Israel they are accepted for example. But in the USA people in general (not everyone) tend to see them as pests. It is all based on misconceptions I believe. The human is the world’s biggest pest 😉

            • Indeed Michael, human can be the worst pest, it seems that the Jewish people do sympathize with cat; they both, the Jewish people and the cat suffered because of people’s ignorance and prejudice. Jewish scientists and philosophers who escaped the Spanish inquisition led the Renaissance in Europe. It seems to me that well read people are prone to appreciate cats.

    • today you can put a flea collar or flea drops on a domestic cat and you will be protected, feral’s can easily be trapped and collared so they are protected too. you can’t do that with a rat

  4. Its sad and terrible that the prejudices against the cat had its origins from the Industrialized World of Western Europe.Worse , Religion played a important role in defaming the common cat as a agent of the devil and the cause of bad luck.Sadly, in the 21st century a few of these prejudices still exist and the common cat phrases still common in everyday life and living. “Did a black cat cross your path” ! ?

    • Christianity has done a lot damage to the world and the cat. The history of Christianity is appalling in its depth of ignorance, bigotry and cruelty. Now the Islamic faith is doing similar damage.

      • I agree Micheal, Islam is now going through the same phase Christianity had in the Medieval Ages. Radical Muslims hijacked the religion and stripped it from its Spirit of Compassion and Tolerance. Have you read Karen Armstrong “The Battle for God”?

        • No I have not read that book but I have read a couple about Christianity and the Bible. An unpleasant history. It seems to me that a part of the world is hundreds of years behind the “leading” part which makes it impossible for the planet to be harmonious. Add to that fear, intolerance, bigotry, ignorance and greed and you have organised chaos which is what we have.

  5. Michael,
    Thanks ..last word should have been “fields” 🙂
    Also the part: “It may seem insane today… until rebound from the tragedy” is verbatim of the link Cat took the rap for the Black Death” the writer is Robwrite.
    Thanks again for allowing me to share my opinion on your wonderful website.
    All the best

  6. Mother Nature has no pity on idiots. It’s just part of the survival of the fittest who’s aim id to weed out the unfit and those who just don’t get it. . If you get everything wrong and continue to make mistakes those mistakes will affect your ability to survive.
    Pretty much the same is happening in Europe and America right now and it’s not only about cats. It’s political correctness which short-circuits the ability and the right to think logically and address a problem rationally. No though or critical analysis is involved. You just follow the party line in true Kremlin style.
    This is a pretty stupid thing for a human being to do.
    It is the formula for the disintegration of civilisation.
    What’s the connection?
    In both cases it is the mindless uninformed following of an agenda and policy dictated by, in the first case the Church, and in the second case your own government which is supposed to represent your interests, but does no such thing. So much have we progressed.

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