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Do Cats Have Souls? What Science Tells Us

Written by: Codee Chessher

Last Updated on January 19, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat walks on the rainbow bridge in a cloud shape and catches a butterfly

Do Cats Have Souls? What Science Tells Us

If you’re a religious or spiritual cat owner, you probably believe that humans have souls, but things get fuzzier when it comes to our furry companions. Religions are often vague about whether animals have souls and precisely what a soul is, and it’s really down to your personal definition of what a soul entails.

What exactly is a soul? Is it an ineffable wellspring of identity, emotion, memory, and mental capacity? If so, surely cats have souls in a similar way that we do, with their unique personalities, fears, loves, and so on. If your definition of a soul is related to an immaterial divine force, it’s up to interpretation since science hasn’t discovered any hard evidence that souls exist. Broadly speaking, most religious doctrines regarding animals are more suggestions than hard dogma to be followed at all costs.

It’s hard to look into your cat’s beautifully expressive eyes and think there’s no light or soul behind them, but everyone has a different idea of what that means. Join us below as we get into what the major world religions say about cats having souls, whether they go to an afterlife, and more.

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How Do the Major Religions Feel About Cats? Do They Have Souls?

Religions are often vague about whether animals have souls, and some attribute souls to animals while others don’t. Even within the strict confines of religious doctrine, there’s a lot of leeway in interpreting whether your cat has a soul, and unsurprisingly, most if not all spiritual pet parents believe their pets have a soul. Let’s see exactly what the major religions have to say, as well as a section on the cat’s place in ancient Egypt, where they were most revered.

cat walking in egypt
Image Credit: Mountains Hunter, Shutterstock

Cats in Christianity

By the most literal interpretations, the official stance of Christianity on whether cats have souls is that they don’t. Humans are special in Christianity and the only beings blessed by God with a divine soul, while “lesser” animals like cats are here to provide us companionship.

More liberal interpretations admire cats and liken them to brave lions or emphasize their comforting presence while fully acknowledging that they have a soul. On an optimistic note, Pope Paul VI allegedly told a boy whose dog died that, “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.1

Cats in Judaism

There’s nothing that explicitly says cats have souls in Judaism, though some claim they possess a soul or divine spark like all living creatures. Cats are generally liked and associated with positive traits like contemplativeness, adaptability, and modesty.

According to the Talmud, cats have been kept by Jewish peoples since ancient times for their ability to hunt snakes and protect food stores. In general, Judaism has a far more charitable opinion on cats than dogs, which are considered savage and unclean. Multiple stories in both the Torah and Talmud closely associate dogs with demonic forces, so cats are definitely ahead in their book!

cat sitting in front of Temple Mountain in Jerusalem
Image Credit: Yevgenia Gorbulsky, Shutterstock

Cats in Hinduism

Hinduism doesn’t have any special love for the cat, revering creatures like the cow, elephant, dog, and crocodile instead. In fact, cats are often considered inauspicious in Hinduism and associated with undesirable traits, like aggression. Interpretations change, with some viewing the cat as a destroyer working for Shiva, the God of Destruction, and others simply seeing them as a lesser animal. While Hinduism respects all living creatures, cats aren’t really the type of animal they keep as pets.

Cats in Islam

Cats are holy creatures in Islam, with their prophet Muhammad supposedly owning a tabby cat named Muezza. The story goes that Muhammad awoke one day for prayer with Muezza sleeping on his sleeve, so Muhammad cut the sleeve off rather than disturb the cat’s slumber and went to pray. When he returned, Muhammad discovered that there was actually a snake in the sleeve and that his cat had saved his life! Muezza bowed three times to Muhammad and the prophet touched his forehead thrice, which Muslims claim gave Muezza the very first tabby M-shaped forehead wrinkle.

Ever since, cats are considered sacred in Islam, and their innate cleanliness makes them ritually clean and suitable to enter homes or even mosques.

Muslim/Islam man petting a cat in a mosque
Image Credit: – Yuri A, Shutterstock

Cats in Buddhism

Cats are well-liked among Buddhists because they hunt pests that threaten food stores and are clean creatures. They’re considered mindful creatures, which is easy to see if you’ve ever stared into their thoughtful eyes. According to traditional folklore, at the highest level of enlightenment, a soul will reincarnate into a cat for their final life before ascending to nirvana. As a fun fact, the modern Birman cat breed is actually descended from cats originally bred by Buddhist monks in Southeast Asia!

Cats in Ancient Egypt

Most people know that cats were sacred animals in ancient Egypt, but really, they were the sacred animal. Cats were thought to be magical servants of the cat-headed goddess Bastet, associated with fertility, bravery, slyness, justice, and power across every realm of their religion. When they died, cats were sorrowfully mourned, bedecked in jewels, and mummified both alone and with prominent members of the Egyptian nobility. To this day, there’s ample historical art depicting cats in all parts of Egyptian life, from hieroglyphs and amulets to sarcophagi—you get the picture.

cat in luxor temple in Egypt
Image Credit: JodieAndCan, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that souls exist, or that cats have them if they do, so it’s up to you to decide. Most religions have a positive view of cats, such as Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, but sometimes they’re considered unlucky, like in Hinduism. Maybe more folks just need to own cats. If they did, they’d surely see that cats are just as worthy as humans of having a soul.

Featured Image Credit: Elena Nechiporenko, Shutterstock

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