Why Pope Gregory IX Declared War on Cats

black cats
Black cats arent bad luck
Fueled by superstition, the Middle Ages was a time when Europe was plunged into demographic, cultural, and economic deterioration. For these reasons, it was called the Dark Ages and in general, it wasn’t a great time to be alive - especially for our feline friends.

The Dark Ages was the period when Pope Gregory IX issued the Vox in Rama declaring that Satan was half-devil and half-cat and that often Satan would transfigure into a black cat during satanic masses. At a time when superstition was the norm, this then caused massive fear among the people and led to the massacre of countless cats.

a cat in a tree, being harassed by a man and his dogs
a cat in a tree, being harassed by a man and his dogs

As a result, Catholics around Europe then began slaughtering any feline that entered their village as they feared the devil and wanted to ward off the bad luck that it brought. Sadly, the slaughtering of cats during those times was so rampant that some speculate that this explains why there is only a small population of black cats in Europe today.


Throughout the middle ages, the church’s squabbles with cats didn’t stop with Gregory. The cat-hating tradition was carried on by Pope Innocent VIII in the late 1400s. This time though, it was made worse by witch crusades in Western Europe, and the view that cats and witches always go together. Consequently, cats were officially excommunicated by the church, and cat burning and other forms of cat-hating have survived the centuries since.

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