What Cats Represent in Different Cultures Around the World

Let the kitties come out to play and absorb the magic that they have to offer! Cats are loved far and wide, with some cat-themed online bingo games adorning our devices too. But beyond getting our paws around the joy of playing online bingo games, why are these creatures so loved and often integral to many cultures around the world?

Throughout history, cats have been loved, sometimes feared, held in high esteem, and even worshipped by people.

From being some of the most popular pets in the world to providing inspiration for Hello Kitty and many other feline characters that have captured people’s imaginations, it is interesting to see how many different parts of the world view cats. Let’s take a look at what cats can represent in various cultures.

Ancient Egypt

Although it is argued that Mesopotamians were the first to domesticate cats, the Ancient Egyptians were very much synonymous with cats, and this can be seen in their sculptures, which depicts everyday life. Cats were truly loved and adored and used as a helpful way to protect people from snakes and rats. Soon, the Ancient Egyptians began to worship these feline animals. Bastet, an Ancient Egyptian goddess who represented beauty and fertility, was shown to have a cat’s head. She symbolised both the sun and moon, as well as light and warmth.

Cats were loved and respected so much in Ancient Egypt that citizens would host state funerals for their dear friends when they died and would even perform ceremonies similar to those held for pharaohs. Now that’s some serious kitty admiration and appreciation!

Rome and Greece

It’s said that the Ancient Greeks coveted the Egyptians’ cats so much that they stole 12 of them so they could have their own. As the number of litters grew, cats gained in popularity as well as headcount, and the Ancient Greeks began to sell them to the Romans, the Gauls, and the Celts. Cats would soon spread across the entire Mediterranean and create a huge empire for their owners. But they were seen as luxury gifts for high-class courtesans rather than being viewed as pets. And the relationship that people shared with cats differed vastly in Greece compared to Rome.


People in China would often trade cats for fine silk. In fact, it was our furry friends’ hunting prowess and elegance that captured their hearts. In China, cats would go on to symbolise love, peace, and serenity. To date, these beguiling creatures have been purring in Chinese homes now for more than 5,000 years. (That’s enough to make you paws for thought.)


Hindu mythology associated cats with the goddess of fertility, Shashthi, who is shown with the face of a cat. Hindus would make small statues of cats to use as lamps and deterrents for rats. Some Buddhists, meanwhile, believe that cats keep bad spirits away, and also admire them for their calming and meditative nature.


In Japanese culture, cats are revered for their protective powers and the mysticism that surrounds them. The “Maneki Neko” (beckoning cat) is seen throughout the world with one paw up, as if it’s calling or saying hello. The Japanese believe that the Maneki Neko ornament is symbolic of bestowing blessings. Cats have played an important role in Japanese culture throughout the country’s history and can be seen in many shrines and temples dedicated to them.


In rural Thailand, cats are used in rain-making ceremonies. Similar to other parts of the world, Thai people enact rituals during the dry season or drought to conjure the rain. A specific Thai culture uses a female cat that is raised in the temple and becomes the central focus of the rain ceremony. The cat is then taken from house to house while the Thai people sing devotional songs to their gods. In each home, the residents welcome the singers and will throw water on the cat. After the house visits, the Thai people enjoy a feast while the poor soaked kitty is finally allowed to dry off.

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/ 29 June 2021