Cats already feared as being vampires in Japan and China and in some Baltic countries were soon accused of such activity in Europe. Antonia Guaineri, a respected physician, claimed in 1440 that witches could assume the form of cats, and these witches became vampires that drank the blood of infants (Waddell, 2003). Later on, cats would be known to suck blood from varying places on their mistresses’ bodies. Marks of this kind found on the body of an accused witch invariably lead to a trial, torture, confession and perhaps execution.†
As early as 1211 Gervase of Tilbury claimed that from his own experience women prowled around at night as cats and, if hurt in any way, showed those wounds on their bodies (Summers, 1926). A German, Johann Hartleib, in 1456 recounted a story of a cat that had attacked a child and escaped even though stabbed by the father. Later, a woman was found to have a wound in the same place as the cat (Trachtenberg, 1939) indicating that the woman was able to shape shift; consequently, she was accused of being a witch. Another such story is of a haunted mill that had been set on fire three times until a travelling tailor offered to keep watch over it. The tailor drew a circle in white chalk inside the mill and wrote the Lord’s prayer around the sides of the circle and sat within it for protection. At midnight, cats started to enter the mill carrying pitch, and after heating it, tried to tip the pot over in order to set the mill afire. The tailor, still within his circle of safety, somehow managed to scare the cats away. However, one cat tried to attack him, and the tailor, in self defense, cut off its paw. The next day the mill was still standing, but the miller’s wife was in bed with a bleeding stump (Reppeler, 1901).
In a story from Ireland a fisherman’s wife in Connemara always had an abundance of fish. However, every night she noticed that a huge cat would come in and eat all her best catch. So she lay in wait for the cat, and one night it appeared. A huge black cat broke into the house and moved toward the fire where it turned around and growled at the old woman. The cat annoyed at how she had maligned him, jumped upon her and scratched and bit her. A man confronted the cat in the doorway as it was making its escape and beat it with his stick. As a result, the cat jumped up at him and scratched his face and hands. The cat then said, “It is time for my dinner. Where is my fish?” The woman screamed at the cat to get out and leave, but instead the cat sat and ate to his heart’s content. The woman tried to beat him without success, as each time she tried the cat would jump upon her and scratch and bite until blood flowed. Finally, she brought a bottle of holy water and threw it on him, and the cat shriveled up into nothing† (Speranza Wilde, 1887).
† The same fate was experienced by the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz.