The Long History of Cats in Art

Cat Artwork by Elegant Cats Art

Cat Artwork by Elegant Cats Art

Let’s face it. Cat lovers are a unique bunch, but there is more to our fascination with felines than simply a love of animals. In fact, the history of cats in art is as rich and varied as the feline species that inspires it.

With their mysterious nature and independent spirit, cats have long been the subjects of human curiosity and inspiration. From terrifying lions and tigers to cuddly house cats and everything in between, the cat has left its mark on art throughout history. From ancient Egypt to modern-day installations, these cunning creatures have inspired painters, sculptors, photographers, filmmakers, performance artists and many other creators beyond measure.


Ancient Egypt: Cats as Religious Symbols

The oldest surviving images of cats date back to ancient Egypt where they were depicted in hieroglyphics, statues, and paintings. As a symbol of fertility, cats were often buried alongside their human owners to help them get to the afterlife. One of the most famous pieces of art featuring cats is the “Great Sphinx of Giza.” This ancient statue of a man with the head of a lion is often depicted with two cats sitting on its shoulders. These cats, known as “the guardians of the pharaoh” were thought to ward off evil and protect the king. The ancient Egyptians also believed that cats could see into the future, so they were often employed by fortune tellers and gypsies. These travelling performers would tie a piece of thread around a cat’s paw, letting the animal run about with it still tied. When the string was caught, the fortune teller would read the pattern of knots to predict the person’s future.


16th to 18th Century: From Symbol of Luck to Indicator of Talent

After the fall of the Roman Empire, cats went from being a symbol of fertility to a symbol of good luck. In the 16th century, cats became popular as pets amongst the wealthy. This led to a rise in written works exploring the lives of cats and how they should be treated. Famous authors like Shakespeare, Milton, and Dickens wrote about the importance of loving and caring for cats. When the Bubonic Plague swept through Europe, killing thousands of people, cats were once again blamed and killed. This time, they were seen as a source of disease and death. In the late 1700s, the Chinese began to believe that cats were able to detect the presence of gold and gems by sensing the vibrations in the ground. This led to cats being employed by miners to hunt for precious gems and gold.


19th Century: Cat Lovers and Their Feline Friends

The 1800s were truly the “golden age” for the domesticated cat. This was when many rich and famous people began to keep cats as pets. Famous writers like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain kept cats as companions. Aristocrats from the British Empire and Russian Tsars also kept cats as pets. In the late 1800s, cats became popular in the United States. By the turn of the 20th century, the American public had fallen in love with cats. They were featured in books, films, paintings, and even as characters in children’s stories. In the early 1900s, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was formed. This organization was created with the mission of ending animal cruelty and neglect. The ASPCA soon established itself as a prominent organization dedicated to the care and protection of cats.


20th Century: Cats as Cultural Icons

The beginning of the 20th century saw the publication of several books on the importance of cats in society. These books were so popular that they are still widely read today. In the 1920s, there was a “cat craze” across the United States where people fell in love with cats, dressed as cats, and even wrote songs about them. One of the most famous cat-related songs from this time is “Silence of the Cat.” This song was written by an American named Albert Goldner in 1925 and tells the story of a woman who wants to keep a cat as a pet, but her landlord forbids it. Another famous song from the same era is “Meow, Meow, Meow” which was performed by The Three Stooges. Cats have appeared in many forms of popular culture over the years, including cartoons, films, and even video games. A famous cartoon cat from this era is Felix the Cat. Felix was a popular cartoon character whose films often featured fantastical plots and magical elements.

Cat Artwork by Elegant Cats Art

Cat Artwork by Elegant Cats Art


Cats have been a source of inspiration to artists and writers for centuries. While the ancient Egyptians used them as religious symbols, modern artists have depicted them as cultural icons. Cats are expressive, intelligent, and extremely playful creatures — all qualities that make them a unique source of inspiration to artists. While cats have often been depicted as symbols of good luck, death, or even witchcraft, they have also been used as symbols of human emotion. With a simple flick of their tail or a turn of the head, cats have been able to inspire creativity in humans for thousands of years.

Cat Artwork by Elegant Cats Art

Beautiful Cat Illustration, Cat Artwork / Cat painting - inspired by Japanese art and artists as well as by Folk Art and Nature. Each cat in the Elegant Cats Art Collection has been created by myself (Ricarda), and is one of a kind.

Each cat art is available as Cat Fine Art Prints, Cat Art Canvas, as Framed Artwork or/and Cat posters.