To give equal treatment to our fine furry friends, I’m following last month’s Blog post on dog symbolism with a discussion of the spiritual and symbolic meaning of cats. Although I have occasionally had a dog in my life (including our brand new GSD, Looch), I have always had cats. With the exception of the time I spent in college (and would go home to my beloved pets during breaks), I have had a feline familiar by my side through all the stages in my life, including now. We recently said goodbye to our two 17-18 year-olds, leaving Milo as our one and only (for now). I can’t imagine my life without one.
Cats as we know them today were likely domesticated when humans tossed them some food to get them to stick around their settlements and perform vermin-eradication duties. We all know that the ancient Egyptians kept cats as pets from circa 3100 BCE (and even worshipped a cat goddess, Bastet), but recent research has shown that they were kept as pets in Western Asia as early as 7500 – 7200 BCE. So we as a species have been picking cat hair off of our clothing for ages!
If a cat loves you, they will tell you so with slow motion blinks of their beautiful eyes; eyes that know you from all your (and their) lives. They have many different vocalizations, some of which are specific to individual cats. My daughter, for example, has a cat who hails from China (she brought her home on the 23-hour plane ride – don’t ask), who makes incredibly unusual sounds that are more like rattles and clucks than “meows.” Our cat Milo is quite adept at communicating his moods through his tone of voice. Sometimes it’s clear he’s “talking” to us. He also snores. If we’re wise enough to listen, our feline friends will tell us the secrets of the ages. Aside from their legendary agility, ability to see in very low light conditions, and independent nature that leaves them perfectly suited to survive just fine without humans, thank you very much, cats are spiritually powerful creatures, having a paw on each side of the veil, and the ability to live in both worlds.
Because of this wisdom, cats have been seen as either/both sacred and evil, depending on the historical era and the culture in question. In earlier times, some cats (especially black cats, a prejudice that survives to this day) were seen as tools of the devil, and were often treated the way accused “witches” were – abused and even burned alive. This may be due to the fact that many older wise women in the community kept cats for company – they were “familiar” – i.e. like family – with them. Other cultures worshipped the cat as a guardian and guide to the underworld, and to the promise of the next life. Symbolically, they represent agility (mental and emotional as well as physical), the ability to “land on one’s feet,” and the ability to see and even dwell across the dimensions. We see cats as secretive, mysterious and deep. They may also be fierce and protective, and are known to stand their ground, even with a very formidable adversary. Despite their ability to fend for themselves, most of them love to be close to humans, and they tend to be very loving and affectionate with the right people. They can also turn suddenly and become impatient and biting (literally!). They do what they want, nothing more or less. Cats represent the ability to be in two places at once. They also represent Spirituality, everlasting life and understanding the mysteries of the Universe.
Cats are seen as having a special affinity with females, or those with feminine energy, and words and phrases including cat imagery are often used to describe certain women (not to mention, of course, a nickname for certain lady bits). Women who say mean things about others are called “catty,” for example. “Catwoman” works a lot better than, say, “Catman.” Women who dress up in slinky cat costumes are seen as attractive and alluring – sex kittens or cougars. “What’s new, Pussycat?” And let’s not forget the “Crazy Cat Lady” – though I see nothing crazy about loving cats! In fact, long ago I dated a guy who really disliked cats. When I asked him why, he smiled coyly and said, “They’re too independent.” I knew then and there it would never work out.
Like dog symbolism in my Bone set, I also have a few cat Bones that tie in to cat lore when they arise in a reading:
The Cat Charm. I have a few Bones that I’ve had for a very long time. I didn’t realize that so many of the crazy and weird little things I’ve been saving since childhood would someday find a purpose in helping Spirits communicate with the living. The Cat Charm (along with the Mouse Charm, also in my set, and a few other animals lost to the void) was part of a bracelet I received as a gift when I was about 5 years old. This Bone has varied meanings, depending on the person receiving the reading. The Cat Charm usually signifies a woman, or someone who identifies as female, in the querent’s life who doesn’t treat the person very well. It could be someone who is back-stabbing and manipulative, or jealous of the person’s success and therefore tries to put obstacles in his or her way. She may be a gossip, or two-faced – friendly to the person’s face, but who tears the person down behind her back. This is an especially potent symbol when it refers to the person’s boss, parent, or some other woman with authority over the person. The other meaning comes into play when the person receiving the reading is a strong “cat person.” You know who you are. In that case, this Bone represents the comforts and support of a loving female friend or companion (or it could be a literal cat, if you feel especially supported by one), whether already present in your life, or soon to slink into it on little cat feet.
The Cat Tooth. This tooth once lived in the mouth of one of my grand-cats (some of whom are pictured throughout this blog), and had to be removed due to decay. It can symbolize a few things, as well, but related, unlike the opposing meanings of the Cat Charm. Because of the circumstances of it coming into my set, it can signify a vexing problem that needs to be extricated from your life – one involving another person rather than a situation. This problem involves some essential aspect of your life, which has fallen into disrepair either through neglect or abuse. It could also be someone (most likely a woman or someone with a feminine energy) who is working against your interests – someone who’s not just “biting” from afar, but is actively trying to bring harm to you or to one of the aspects of your life, whether it be a relationship, in your work life, family well-being, your health, etc. It’s important to try to distance yourself from this person, even if it means a relationship or job change. The temporary discomfort of removing this person from your life will far outweigh the pain of keeping her a part of it.
The Cat Claw. Amazingly, despite this being one of the smallest and lightest Bones in my set, it still comes up in a reading when needed. Similar to the Cat Tooth and Cat Charm, this signifies someone, usually a woman, who is “clawing” at your life in a vexing way, but is more of an annoyance than a real danger. Just as this claw had been shed, you should consider shedding this person from your life.
Cats are a “love ‘em or leave ‘em” animal – they are an integral part of some peoples’ lives, while others find them vexing, frightening or even malevolent. I believe that those who don’t love cats simply don’t understand them, or that felines bring up some uncomfortable feelings about themselves that they aren’t willing to confront yet. Upon inspection, it’s easy to see that the personality differences between cat-people and non-cat-people are deep. Which type are you? I’d love to hear your opinion!