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Is Your Cat an Old Soul? Feline Myths 

Written by: Dr. Lauren Demos DVM (Veterinarian)

Last Updated on April 9, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Prominent “M” markings on tabby cats are said to represent more than meets the eye.

Is Your Cat an Old Soul? Feline Myths 


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Hi, I’m Dr. Lauren! Read my introduction to learn more about me and my two adventurous cats, Pancake and Tiller.

This week’s topic is a light-hearted look at the myths about cats, and what makes them old souls. Cats at home are stoic, steadfast creatures. Sometimes to their own detriment.

As a vet, I’ve seen cats in great pain, accomplish great things. From dental disease, where people might find it difficult to comprehend that their cat is in pain due to how well they are still eating (top pointer: cats can eat just fine, even when they have some horrible dental issues!), to patients that have been hit by cars in sub-zero temperatures, crawled home without being able to use their back legs, and lived to tell the tale. (Of course, it took a few weeks’ of hospitalization, and a lot of TLC, as well). Or the cat who just showed up with 60% of her abdomen covered in third degree burns: like nothing had happened. No one even knew how she’d gotten them! (She also survived, with over a month of bandage changes, and intensive surgeries to clean the wound, removing dead tissue after every few days and slowly closing the wound back upon itself).

Such heroic stoicism might mean that cats are perceived as old souls. Is there merit in this belief?

Dr. Lauren and Pancake on the sailboat 2
Pancake pondering the world from the deck of my sailboat.

What Is An Old Soul?

An old soul is defined as someone who demonstrates a maturity, understanding, or seriousness that is typical of someone much older.1

Some consider old souls to be synonymous with past lives. Cats are certainly believed to have 9 lives, but can cats be old souls? (And for what it’s worth, we don’t actually seem to know where the myth that cats have 9 lives comes from, though it may be linked to Ancient Egypt…)

Cats are believed to have begun living with humans around 10,000 years ago, based on a mutual need for food and vermin control. A wonderful Just-So story by Rudyard Kipling, author of the Jungle Book, puts a semi-lighthearted take on the matter, describing how dog became man’s best friend, while the cat remained useful, but aloof, preferring his independence to a life of certainty. Entitled The Cat That Walked By Himself, it is an allegorical tale on many levels, and well worth a read if you’re a cat fan.

Closer to home, one apocryphal tale was told to me, unexpectedly, on a Friday night.

Some say they were sent for us…suggesting they are indeed old souls with a purpose.

I was driving to my sailboat on a Friday after work. Both Tiller and Pancake were with me, and as we stopped briefly at the last grocery store en route, I bought a few cans of cat food and some fresh chicken as treats for them during the weekend ahead.

Tiller sitting on the edge of the kitchen table
Tiller is always ready for a chicken treat.

The cashier looked knowingly at my cat food and enquired about my cats. We had a brief conversation about the two and their antics, which included plans to go sailing with me that weekend. To which she asked me a question that I would never forget.

Are they tabby cats?

Yes, they are, I replied.

She smiled knowingly and told me I was indeed a lucky person. Tabbies, she went on to explain, were sent to people for very specific reasons, by the powers that be. The M mark on their forehead was proof.

Her story went like this: When Jesus was a baby in a manger, at the night in the barn that fateful Christmas, he was cold, despite all attempts to keep him warm. The cat jumped up to sleep next to him, purring to comfort him, and keeping him warm. As a result, Mary marked all cats with a M on their forehead, to thank and bless them for what they had done. Thereafter, any cat sent with a special purpose came marked with the tabby M.

It’s stuck with me, ever since.

Either way, the tabby markings, and indeed cats in general, make for some great legends.

Pancake and Tiller spend the majority of their day sleeping

Are Cats Old Souls?

I read once that seagulls are actually the souls of dead sailors, come back to rest at the seaside, never truly to be parted from the ocean that will always call to them. I’d like to think that cats are not that far off. Whether they’ve lived some of their 9 lives, or are a tabby that’s been sent back for some greater purpose, they certainly are more than meets the eye.

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