The desiccated bodies of cats are often found in the walls of older houses, hidden away behind lath and plaster or under floorboards. Cats were believed to be touched by the supernatural and to have a sixth sense which could be used for protection. This power was assumed to continue after the animal had died so they were used to ward off any evil spells and spirits that might have tried to gain access to a home.
Whether the cats were walled up alive or dead is unsure, but I pity the poor person who tried to get a cat to do something against its will. Try putting one in a cat basket and you’ll know what I mean.
Some of the bodies discovered had been posed in a hunting position, perhaps to be nothing more than a rat scarer, or, as some think, to scare away witches’ familiars that were on the prowl doing their mistresses’ bidding.
In 2011 in the shadow of Pendal Hill in Lancashire, England, a witch’s cottage was unearthed by archaeologists. It is believed to have belonged to one of the notorious Pendal Witches of the 17th century. In the building was a sealed room where the bones of a cat had been bricked into a wall.
Simon Entwhistle, an expert on the Pendal witches, said, ‘Cats feature prominently in folklore about witches. Whoever consigned this cat to such a horrible fate was clearly seeking protection from evil spirits.’
Next time you lay awake at night and hear the doleful song of a cat, maybe, just maybe, it’s not coming from outside but from somewhere a little closer.