The earliest record of the belief that cats are witches in disguise

It was believed that an evil spirit occupied the bodies of cats

It was believed that an evil spirit occupied the bodies of cats

Most of now know of the superstitious nonsense that cats are evil spirits because their bodies are occupied by an evil fiend . This crazy link between witchcraft – which itself is a fiction – and domestic cats blighted the lives of millions of cats for centuries.

The earliest record we have of this superstition dates from the 10th century in the city of Metz in France. It was the year 962.

‘Cat Wednesday’ took place on the second Wednesday in Lent. During the ceremony hundreds of cats were burnt alive because they were seen as witches in disguise.

This ghastly and desperately cruel human behavior was the beginning of 800 years of feline persecution with a period of respite following the Crusades. Crusaders brought black rats back to Europe in their ships and needed cats to control them. It did not last long. Worse followed.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, witches were legally executed in vast numbers and where possible their cats were killed with them:

  • Germany: 100,000
  • France: 75,000
  • Great Britain: 30,000

Source: Cat World by Dr Desmond Morris

P.S. I have said that witchcraft is a fiction. It is but there are millions of people who believe in it and still believe that the black cat brings back luck and worse. There is still a lot of cat cruelty rooted in superstition. The world has a long way to go before it is sensible, rational and coherent.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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