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Mythical Cats: Exploring 14 Cats from Ancient Mythology

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 24, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Cat walking on the background of the Egyptian pyramids in Cairo

Mythical Cats: Exploring 14 Cats from Ancient Mythology

There’s nothing more interesting than diving into myths and legends that have been told throughout history. For cat lovers, you will find that our beloved felines’ history dates back to ancient times. These myths and legends are derived from places all over the globe. Here are 14 different cats that have held a place in ancient folklore and mythology.

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The 14 Cats from Ancient Mythology

1. Bakeneko

Bakeneko is a cat monster from a Japanese legend that has lived long enough to become yokai (a class of supernatural entities in Japan) and gain supernatural powers. It is said that when cats live to a ripe old age they will begin developing supernatural powers and fully transform into yokai.

Bakenekos start off resembling regular house cats but then evolve to walking on only their hind legs. As they age, they grow much larger and their powers intensify. They are described as reaching the size of full-grown adult humans. Another myth, Nekomata, is very similar to the Bakeneko but has two tails and is said to live in the mountains.

2. Bastet

Bastet is a feline deity and the Egyptian goddess of the home, women’s secrets, cats, fertility, and childbirth. She was thought to be a bringer of good health and protected the home from evil spirits and diseases, especially those affecting women and children.

3. Cactus Cat

The Cactus Cat is a mythical creature from the American Southwest. The Cactus Cat is described as resembling a bobcat with thorn-like fur, a branched tail, and sharp bones protruding from its front legs. This mythological cat is said to have been sighted in the Southwestern desert areas of the United States, including states like California, Nevada, and New Mexico. Some sightings have even been reported in Colorado.

4. Cat-sith

Cat-siths are legendary felines from Celtic mythology that are said to be the size of dogs with black fur and a white spot on their chests. It is said these creatures walk on four legs and act like animals in the presence of humans but shift to humanoid cats when in the absence of humans.

Some are even described as wearing clothes. In most of the myths surrounding cat-siths, they are indistinguishable from regular cats until they are caught standing upright.

5. Cath Palug

Cath Palug was a cat monster from French and Welsh mythology. This creature was said to inhabit the Isle of Anglesey, where it ate a number of those that attempted to slay it. Cath Palug was said to have been slain by King Arthur after wreaking havoc across the land.

6. Cha Kla

Cha Kla is a legend out of Thailand. It is said to be a mystical cat with blood-red eyes and completely black fur. Cha Kla is described as nocturnal and so fearful of humans that it will immediately hide in its hole in the ground.

It is said that if a person were to see it or touch it, they will eventually die. Sorcerers were said to use Cha Kla to defeat their enemies.

7. Dawon

Durga riding on her lion killing a demon watercolour drawing
Durga riding on her lion killing a demon. Watercolour drawing. (Image Credit: Wellcome Collection, CC Public Domain Mark 1.0 Universal)

Dawon is of Hindu mythology and is also known as Gdon. Dawon is a fierce tigress given to the goddess Durga for combat. Durga would ride Dawon into battle with 10 weapons in her 10 arms. Dawon would also take part in battle using her teeth and claws.

8. Devil’s Little Minions

Black Smoke American Shorthair cat
Image Credit: marumaru, Shutterstock

Cats, especially black cats, used to be despised by the Christian Church during the Middle Ages and were referred to as the Devil’s Little Minions. Cats were directly associated with witchcraft and dark magic. The cat’s bite was said to be venomous, and legends were told that if you breathed in a cat’s breath, you would be infected by tuberculosis.

They even took some blame for the bubonic plague that swept over Europe during the 14th century. Sadly, many black cats were rounded up and killed during this time for being in cohorts with the devil. Even black cat owners were persecuted.

9. Hombre Gato

The Hombre Gato, also referred to as Catman, is a legendary creature from South America, more specifically Argentina, that has the features of both a cat and a human.

Hombre Gato was thought to only come out at night and preyed on humans and animals and became such a widespread legend that it has been captured in Hispanic literature through short stories and science fiction tales. A documentary was made about Hombre Gato in a rural town named Navarro in Buenos Aires.

10. Lyncus

Lyncus Johann Kraus
Krauß, Johann Ulrich – Metamorphose durch Ceres (Luchs) – 1690 ( Image Credit: Johann Ulrich Kraus, WikimediaCommons, Public Domain {{PD-US-expired}})

In Greek mythology, King Lyncus of the Scythians was known for being turned into a Lynx as punishment for his actions. Triptolemus taught King Lyncus the arts of agriculture, but he then refused to spread the agricultural arts to his people and tried to kill Triptolemus. It is said that Demeter is the one that turned Lyncus into the Lynx.

11. Mafdet

Mafdet is a deity from the First Dynasty of Egypt. She was known as the goddess of judgment, justice, and execution. She is said to be the protector of Ra, the Egyptian sun god.

Mafdet’s description is most relatable to the Savannah Cat or Cheetah. It was said she could protect against the bites of scorpions and snakes.

12. Matagot

The Matagot is a legend from southern France. Matagots are said to be spirits that take an animal form, mostly presenting as black cats. Matagots have also been described as taking on the appearance of rats, foxes, dogs, and even cows.

Matagots are generally seen as evil spirits, but some are believed to bring wealth into a household if they remain well-fed.

13. Sekhmet

Sekhmet is the Egyptian Goddess of war and destruction. It is said that she was also born from the fire of the Sun God Ra’s eyes. The ancient Egyptians built at least 700 monuments to worship Sekhmet. In some tales, she is considered an alternate form of Bastet, and in others, she is referred to as Bastet’s sister.

14. Wampus Cat

The Wampus Cat is a legend from American folklore that has also been referred to as the Cherokee Death Cat. In some regions, the Wampus Cat is a frightening and evil feline, while in others, it’s viewed as more comical.

In Cherokee mythology, this monster cat is the embodiment of a female cursed by the tribe’s elders that were punished for hiding under the pelt of a wild cat and bearing witness to a sacred ceremony she had no business attending.

Some southeastern Native American tribes believed the Wampus Cat to be a shapeshifter. It was said that Wampus Cat went on a livestock killing spree during the 1920s and 1930s, and reports of the creature stretched across the southeastern states into the 1960s.

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Felines have always captured our imagination, and we have developed several extraordinary tales about them. No matter where you are from, cats are heavily steeped in mythology and have made their mark on our hearts and history through legend and folklore. One thing is undeniable; cats have a long history with humans, and they continue to fascinate us.

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Featured Image Credit: Mountains Hunter, Shutterstock

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