From sacred animal to source of bad luck to cuddly companion, the cat has experienced his share of ups and downs throughout the course of history.
But through it all, a cat’s contribution to scariness and fright has stood the test of time, serving as his most memorable attribute. In many ways, the black cat – both alone and accompanied by a witch – has become synonymous with Halloween itself.
The universal scariness of cats has resonated through different generations and across various entertainment mediums, including folklore, cartoon, and film. At one point or another, cats have made a “scaredy-cat” of all of us.
In the spirit of Halloween, here’s our list of scary cats throughout modern history:
Scary Black Cat
The Halloween cat – a black, arched-back, hissing creature – is as scary a symbol as there is in childhood mythology. While some ancient cultures believed black cats possessed magical powers and treated them as sacred animals, the Middle Ages saw the cat’s reputation decline considerably. These “demonic animals” became a symbol of bad luck throughout Europe, serving as a scapegoat for the Black Plague.
This reputation planted the seeds for the cat’s subsequent association with witches. Accused witches were typically single women who kept cats for companionship. During witch trials, a legend evolved that witches could change shapes and transform themselves into cats. The lasting link between witches and cats was born. Today it’s difficult to envision a wicked witch without an accompanying feline.
Scary Big Cats
- The Tiger: The largest of the cat species, tigers prefer to bite the throat and use their powerful forelimbs to hold onto their prey, often remaining latched onto the neck until its target dies of strangulation.
- The Lion: The “King of the Jungle” usually hunts in coordinated groups while stalking its chosen prey, and male lions also sport an intimidating mane.
- The Jaguar: This carnivorous and opportunistic hunter has a diet consisting of at least 80 species.
- The Leopard: This camouflaged cat represents an agile, stealthy predator.
Scary Cats of Pop Culture
In honor of a cat’s nine lives, we present our nine scary cats from pop culture (in alphabetic order):
Cheshire Cat (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) – Known for his distinctive grin that lingers even after his body has disappeared, this mischievous cat takes great pleasure in misdirecting Alice when she encounters him while lost.
Church (Pet Sematary) – Resurrected from the dead after being run over by a car, this smelly cat acts ornery and zombie-like, hunting mice and birds then ripping them apart without eating them.
Lucifer (Cinderella) – The devilish pet of Lady Tremaine, this cat is portrayed as a sneaky, wicked, and cheating predator who loves nothing more than eating mice.
M.A.D. Cat (Inspector Gadget) – Dr. Claw’s fat cat helps him scheme evil plans, snickering when Dr. Claw is pleased and screeching a terrible yowl when Dr. Claw is displeased.
Mr. Bigglesworth (Austin Powers) – Dr. Evil’s cat is hairless after being cryogenically frozen for 30 years. As Dr. Evil, himself, described it: “I’m angry and when I get angry, Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset, and when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset, people die.”
Mrs. Norris (Harry Potter Series) – A pet of Argus Filch, the caretaker of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, this cat is described as having an unusually strong connection with her master, alerting him to any students misbehaving inside the school grounds.
Scar (The Lion King) – The conniving uncle of Simba and jealous brother of Mufasa, this cat remains evil until his fate is sealed and is recognized as one of Disney’s best villains.
Si and Am (Lady and the Tramp) – Aunt Sarah’s two trouble-making Siamese cats trick her into thinking that Lady made a mess of the house. In actuality, these sneaky cats love to make messes for their own amusement.
Sylvester J. Pussycat, Sr. (Looney Tunes) – This mischievous feline has a distinctive lisp and is constantly trying to catch Tweety Bird or Speedy Gonzalez.
What does the future hold for cats? It’s hard to say for sure, but modern humans find the cat’s quirky personality and independent streak endearing. One could say we find these animals frighteningly interesting.