History of the Cat in Christianity and Judaism:

No doubt due to the cat’s association with the devil, evil and Paganism, only one obscure reference to the cat appears in the Bible. The Letter from Jeremiah contains one mention of the cat when referring to Pagans in the Book of Baruch.  There are yet other references to cats in The Gospel of the Holy Twelve published in 1924 by Reverend G.J. Ouseley.  Even though condemned by the church, this gospel, which Ouseley claimed had come to him in dreams, closely coincides with the Essene Gospel of Peace only released from the Vatican in 1940.  Both depict a much more compassionate, vegetarian ChristThe Gospel of the Holy Twelve includes an account of the birth of Jesus somewhat different from the one recorded in the Bible. In addition to the other animals in the stable, the gospel adds that a cat with her kittens lay beneath the manger (Ouseley & Udny, 1924 p.7). The mention of the cat and her kittens was perhaps deleted because of the cat’s association with Paganism, but makes perfect sense to be included in the scene since the cat has always been a symbol of fertility and motherhood.  Another section of the gospel proves Christ’s compassion for the cat.  While he was walking through a village, he noticed a group of boys tormenting a cat.  Jesus asked them to stop, but they did not listen. After unsuccessfully trying to persuade them to stop, he drove them away with a whip, saying: “This earth, which my Father-Mother made for joy and gladness, ye have made into the lowest hell with your deeds of violence; and cruelty…”(Ouseley & Udny, 1924 pp. 38-39)   Yet another incidence of Jesus’s kindness to cats is recorded, “And as Jesus entered into a certain village he saw a young cat which had none to care for her, and she was hungry and cried unto him; and he took her up, and put her inside his garment and she lay in his bosom.  And when he came into a village he set food and drink before the cat, and she ate and drank and showed thanks to him.” (Ibid, pp.56-57)

The Talmud, the Jewish book of law, refers to the cat as having magical powers because it is able to see demons.  The Talmud goes on to detail how this ability is gotten from the cat by taking the placenta of a first born black female cat and roasting it in a fire and grinding it to powder.  Once a tiny bit of powder is put in the eye, it causes demons to become visible.  Hebrew legends also mention the cat. When God was deciding how each animal would make its living, he asked the cat, ‘From where do you wish to receive your daily bread; the shopkeeper, the peasant or the pedlar?’ The cat replied, ‘Give me my daily bread from an absent-minded woman who leaves her kitchen door open!’ In another reference to the cat in Hebrew folklore, Lilith, Adam’s first wife, was unruly and refused to obey him.  After being expelled from Eden as a punishment, Lilith haunted the night. In Spain, Jews believed that she became a vampire cat called La Broosha who victimized babies by sucking their blood.   According to custom, for a period of nine days after a birth, a mother and her new born child should never be left alone. In one story, a nurse unwittingly leaves the mother and baby alone. When the nurse returns, the mother tells her she had had a dream of a huge black cat that had come into the room and changed into a jar.  Just then the mother could hear a meowing from the street, and the cat who had become a jar, returned to being a cat again.  At that point, it went to the bed and took the baby, and threw it out of the window to another cat.  Horrified, the nurse realized that it had not been a dream because she could see from the window the cat carrying the baby in its mouth as it crossed a nearby field.

The story of Noah and the creation of the cat come to us from the Egyptian naturalist and scholar Ad-Damiri, who began Hayāt al Hayawān, The Life of Animals in the 9th century AD.   “When Noah made a couple of each kind of animal enter the Ark, his companions, as well as the members of his family, said to him, ‘What security can there be for us and for the animals so long as the lion shall dwell with us in the same vessel?’ The patriarch betook himself to prayer and entreated the Lord God. Immediately fever came down from heaven and seized upon the King of the beasts, so that tranquility of mind was restored to the inhabitants of the Ark.  But there was in the vessel an enemy no less harmful—this was the mouse.  The companions of Noah called his attention to the fact that it would be impossible for them to preserve their provisions and their clothes intact.  After the patriarch had addressed renewed supplications to the most High, the lion sneezed, and a cat ran out of his nostrils.  From that time forth the mouse became timid so that it contracted the habit of hiding itself in holes.” (Simpson, 1903, p.1; Hoey, 2005) 

16th century Noah and the Flood, Mogul

Noah and the Flood
16th Century, Mogul


[20]Their faces are blacked through the smoke that cometh out of the temple.[21] Upon their bodies and heads sit bats, swallows, and birds, and the cats also.[22] By this ye may know that they are no gods: therefore fear them not. Letter from Jeremiah, Book of Baruch, Chapter 6.


Ouseley, G. J. & Udny, E. Francis. (1924/2004). The gospel of the holy twelve. Kessinger Publishing.

Simpson, Frances. (1903). The book of the cat. Cassell and Company.


Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 

Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats

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