Cats and human history – as explained by Els Vink

Cats were considimg_0916ered a magic animal in many cultures, like Egypt and others. your cat is a descendant of that sacred and magical animal in human history.

Els Vink, a superb painter living in Italy, is inspired by the history of cats and shares with you here her take on this topic:

Our Cat ‘Pussar’

This wonderful tiny female cat was born in Denmark, her name means ‘sweetheart’. We adopted her, together with her brother, a red tom-cat in 2003 when we lived in Copenhagen. They were absolutely adorable, both very easy-going, lovely caracters, always playing together and so incredibly trusting – we could go out on the street and they would simply follow us: tales up!

img_0915When some two years later we had to move to Spain, something terrible happened. Just one month before departure, the brother called Thor (the Viking God) disappeared. We tried everything to find him, but to no avail. Perhaps he was caught by a fox, we had many around in our neighbourhood at the time. One will never know. I was heart broken.

Pussar moved to Barcelona with us, and after that, to Italy. Being a cat from the north, she can’t take the summer’s heat too well. It gives her all sorts of skin problems, lots of itching, you can tell by her behaviour she’s not at her best. Ah, but when winter comes…she always climbs on our lap, loud purring. She is a fantastic ‘mouser’ too! Keeps our house in the country mice and rat-free.

Cats in Art

img_0913We love our cats (and dogs!) All through the ages of mankind they have been our companions. This is often reflected in art. In Egypt 3000 BC, when the cat was highly respected and revered, they even mummified them after they died, to ensure an eternal afterlife.

In the Middle Ages the cat did not have such a good name. They associated the animal with witchcraft and the devil.


Leonardo Da Vinci, “cat drawings”, 1513, Royal Library of Windsor, Royal Collection Trust

Thankfully, after this dark period the cat is back on its pedestal, and is depicted in many glorious ways!

Leonardo da Vinci, who said that “even the smallest of cats is a masterpiece” (16th century) left this drawing study of cats.

The cat spread from Egypt to Europe, the Greek and the Romans brought them over to help battle with their rodent problem.


Judith Leyster, “young boy petting a cat”, 1635, Museumlandschaft Hessen Kassel.

Judith Leyster, painted “a young man petting a cat” in the 17th century. A time when cats were indispensable on the ships sailing to the new world and the


In China, the cat was in the beginning only for the Emperor. Later also for the nobility and much later also for the common people.
In the 19th century, one cannot miss out the paintings of Henriëtte Ronner-Knip. She was very trendy in her time, when it was very hip to have a cat painting in your ‘salon’


Pablo Picasso, “cat catching a bird”, 1939,

Pablo Picasso made “Cat with catched bird” in the 20th century. In our contemporary times, this fascinating creature is still a source of inspiration for many an artist.

Calvi dell’Umbria, September 2016 Els Vink

More Photos of CATS IN ART


. Gericault, “Dead cat”, 1820, Louvre Paris


Henriëtte Ronner Knip, “Tea time”


Dancing cats: artist unknown




painting by Paul Gaugin

11 comments on “Your cat – a descendent of the sacred and magic animal in history – by Els Vink
  1. It came out well, Els! It’s quite amazing how cats have been seen in different times and different places. Even now people have widely (and wildly!) diverging opinions of these fascinating creatures who have taught me so much about life…and death!

  2. sandra says:

    Very interesting history lesson! I wish all history was that interesting! “Even the smallest of cats is a masterpiece”. Is a wonderful quote. I love cats. I got one from the Humane Society when I was 5. I named him Mittens (Mitty for short). Unfortunately, I developed terrible allergies when I was 18 (Mittens had passed many years prior). I have never been able to be around cats since. It is so sad. I would love to have one again.

    • admin says:

      Hi Sandra, I agree that animals are a masterpiece of nature – and often also in art. Growing with a cat is certainly a wonderful experience for a child – which I didn’t have, but I got to love them later in life.
      You unfortunately got an allergy against cat hair. You are a ferrel lover. Is their fur different regarding allergies? Thanks for answering, I am curious!

  3. Kimberly Lewis says:

    I’m going to have to paint some cats for your site!

  4. evie says:

    The role of cats through history has always interested me. I was actually in the British Museum last Friday as I wanted to see the Egyptian displays. Cats were revered so much in that time especially when Bast (who was depicted as half female half cat) became a popular goddess (as most gods and goddesses in Egypt were not always revered as they went out of fashion).

    During Bast’s time it did become unlawful to harm a cat and killing a cat could result in the death penalty. Though some of the mummified cats have been found with neck trauma it seems as though it was possible that priests could kill cats (with probably the correct prayers and rituals) maybe to keep the cat population in check. They were then mummified and honored.

    Extremely fascinating

    • admin says:

      Hi Evie! Thank you so much for adding your knowledge about the Egyptian cats to this article. When I feel into my own cats I can resonate with the idea of the sacredness of these superb beings. At the end, all living beings are sacred, but cats emanate this majesty. So no wonder that they were considered as God-like.
      Maybe, for that, cats were sacrificed in temples? You suggest that priests might have been allowed to kill cats. Why would they do that if not for sacred reasons?

  5. Ella Fallgren says:

    Cats are divine in more sense than one. I have a book by Stefano Zuffi called Gatti nell’Arte which proves how artists have been fascinated by these creatures.

    • Heidi Hornlein says:

      If I were an artist I certainly would paint cats. They have such a dignity and expression and graciousness in their movements and posture! Thanks for commenting, Ella!

  6. NRosales says:

    Hi Heidi,
    You have beautiful images of cats, I love them.
    In our culture, Philippines, when we don’t have rain, my grandma will bathe the cat and a few hours afterwards, it will rain. Cats is our mighty defender against rats as our house is in the middle of the forest.
    Thank you for many information about cats.

    • Heidi Hornlein says:

      Yes, NRosales, cats are not only beautiful creatures, but also very useful. Their job in the past was to catch mice and that allowed them to be close to humans. What I love in them is the fact, that they have their own spirit, they can never be dominated by humans. It is very astonishing that your grandma was able to bathe a cat! Apart from the magical effect it seemed to have, it is very unusual that you can do it without getting wounded by their sharp claws!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *