Cats are no strangers to being literary characters, from casual mentions in Romeo & Juliet to Stephen King’s Pet Sematary’s starring role. But what about one of the longest (1,000+ pages), best-selling (over five billion copies sold), and oldest (3,000 years old) books in the world — the Holy Bible? What does the Bible say about our four-legged feline pals?
The Bible only mentions cats in passing, such as in Psalm 73:7 (“Their eye bulges from fatness”) and the Letter of Jeremiah 1:22 (“Upon their bodies and heads sit bats, swallows, and birds, and the cats also”). The Bible mentions lions more often, 145 times, and refers to their ferocity.
The Holy Bible might not dedicate entire verses, chapters, or books to domestic cats. However, the feline kingdom certainly makes its presence known in this worldly religious scripture. To learn about what the Bible says about cats, read on!
Domestic Cat References in the Bible
The Holy Bible pays homage to more than 120 different Middle Eastern species, ranging from camels and sheep to oxen and moles. When Moses penned the scripture (about 3,000 years ago), cats held the highest honor in nearby Ancient Egypt, symbolizing virtues like power, luck, and justice. Yet, cats went entirely unnoticed in the Protestant version of the Bible.
Other versions of the holy scripture include our furry feline friends, though mostly undetailed and typically metaphorical. Here’s what the Bible says about domestic cats:
Letter of Jeremiah 1:22 (Baruch 6:21)
“Upon their bodies and heads sit bats, swallows, and birds, and the cats also.”
The Letter of Jeremiah in the Old Testament is an argument against worshipping “false gods.” In it, Moses describes their lack of authenticities, such as being unable to defend themselves with an ax or the buildup of dust on their eyes (statues). The mention of birds and cats is self-explanatory: If these gods were living, breathing humans, critters wouldn’t come so close.
“Their eye bulges from fatness; The imaginations of their heart run riot.”
Psalm 73:7 is a literary masterpiece, and, unfortunately, the glaring cat reference (“fat cats,” in other versions) is little more than a metaphor. This fat, bug-eyed creature isn’t your kitty’s long-lost relative — it’s the greedy townsfolk who manipulate the impoverished, doubt the will of God, and still crave more wealth.
Interestingly, Psalm 73:7 is the only Bible passage involving cats in the New Living Transition (NLT) version.
Big Cat References in the Bible
The Holy Bible shunning domestic cats is somewhat ironic, as it’s clear America’s second-favorite pet didn’t “miss the boat.” Instead, the Bible paid more attention to Fluffy’s distant cousin, the lion. The now-extinct Middle Eastern cat species earned 145 special mentions and endless praise for its courage and ferocity.
Given the genetic link between regular domestic cats and their fierce older cousins, we’ll lump them into the same “feline” category. Here’s what the Bible says about big cat species:
A Few Examples of Lions & Leopards in the Bible
- Daniel 7:6: “After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it.”
- Psalm 10:7-9: They are always searching for helpless victims. Like lions crouched in hiding, they wait to pounce on the helpless. Like hunters they capture the helpless and drag them away in nets.”
- 2 Timothy 4:1: “And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.”
- 1 Peter 5:8-9: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
- Jeremiah 5:6: “Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities.”
- Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.”
- Hosea 13:7-8: Hosea 13:7-8: “So I will be to them like a lion; Like a leopard by the road I will lurk … I will devour them like a lion. The wild beast shall tear them.”
- Proverbs 30:29-31: “There are three things that walk with stately stride — no, four that strut about: the lion, king of animals, who won’t turn aside for anything, the strutting rooster, the male goat, a king as he leads his army.”
- 2 Samuel 1:22-23: “Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.”
What’s the Consensus?
From the Wizard of Oz to the Lion King, this big cat species is a “fan favorite” in modern-day television shows and movies. But few literary pieces mention lions as much as the Holy Bible does (well over 100 times). Almost every lion reference in the Bible pays homage to this species’ virtues. The lion is now extinct in the Middle East, the primary setting of the Bible.
However, here’s a look at how the Bible portrays this once-roaming species in its scripture:
- Courage: Unwilling to waiver, turn its back, or cower in fear in the face of resistance
- Bold: Refusing to flee or sacrifice their integrity for selfish desires
- Strong: Taking possession of their prey without hesitation or willingness to sacrifice
- Devilish: Relentlessly looking for its next unsuspecting victim (be “on guard”)
- A Godly comparison: God loves all of His creatures, including lions, and you
The Bible describes lions from two opposing viewpoints: as courageous, bold, and strong creatures, yet also boasting an underlying devilish side. As a cat owner, you probably relate to the above passages and descriptions quite well. Let’s face it — your kitty is willing to:
- Face your 100-pound (45-kg) dog in a head-to-head battle.
- Battle your neighborhood cats for an acre-wide territory.
- Tear its favorite mouse or crinkle toy to shreds.
- Run laps around the bedroom at 3 a.m.
- Intentionally knock items off of countertops.
- Bite your toes as you snuggle up in bed.
- Break open an unsupervised back of treats with its teeth.
- Snuggle close to you in bed as you catch some Zs.
So, even though your kitty isn’t a lion genetically, she sure meets the species’ standards in the holy scripture. It’s possible that Moses was referencing cats (in general) when lions made their Biblical appearances in the book.
Do you want to learn a little more about Fluffy’s distant cousin? The video below will overview this often unnoticed wild species:
Most-Mentioned Animal Species in the Bible
Though domestic cats (and even lions) gain little credit in the scripture, there’s no shortage of animal species in the Holy Bible. The following modern species hold the titles for the “most-mentioned animal species in the Bible”:
- 577 times: Sheep, lambs, and rams
- 172 times: Goats
- 171 times: Bulls
- 166 times: Horses
- 145 times: Lions
Of course, the precise number of references by species depends on the version you’re reading. It’s not that Moses didn’t see wild animal species as “important” enough to include. It’s more likely that the average domestic cat didn’t deliver the same virtues and life lessons as lions, leopards, and wildcats.
Cats were little more than background characters in the Holy Bible compared to sheep, goats, and bulls. Yet, the cat/human relationship predates the Bible by more than 4,000 years. It’s almost certain that domestic cats existed in the Middle East in 1,300 B.C.
So, what gives?
Although the Bible gives more of a supporting role to lions than cats, the explanation is likely simple. Most Bible references paid homage to work animals, food sources, or species that taught virtues — like courage, strength, and bravery.
In other words, domestic cats merely didn’t make the cut!