Unlike dogs and horses they were said to be fond of ghosts and purr whenever they encounter them. They may also have the ability to forecast the weather: they predict the wind (or according to some accounts raise it) by clawing at the carpets and curtains; rain is certain to come when a cat busily washes its ears or sneezes. If a cat sneezes near a bride on the morning of her wedding then a happy marriage is forecast fore her. Black cats are most often believed to be lucky, although in Yorkshire, where it is lucky to own one, it is very unlucky to come across one by accident.

Witches were once said to disguise themselves as cats, and many people feared to talk near cats for fear that a witch would learn their secrets.

The cat does not play a large part in Celtic tradition but it was associated with chthonic powers and was thus funerary, also a prophetic animal. In Roman Gaul and in Irish lore there was a ‘Little Cat’ as a guardian of treasure; it turned into a flaming object and burned the thief to ashes. There was an island inhabited by men with cat-heads. In Celtic saga there were Monster Cats to be fought by the Hero, the cat taking the place of the Dragon. The Welsh Great Cat was born of the enchanted sow Henwen, originally a human; it could eat nine score warriors. Monster cats and sea-cats appear in Irish tradition of probably Celtic origin. In Irish myth the eldest son of a hog had a cat’s head and was known as ‘Puss of the Corner’.

The cat is now so domesticated it seems impossible to imagine mythical Britain being ravaged by a giant wild-cat, but so it was, until Arthur and Cai overcame it, according to an early Welsh text. Indeed the cat has not been necessarily appreciated for its virtues in British folklore where it often appears as the totem of black witches. One unpleasant form of divination among the Scottish Gaels was ‘taghgairm’, by which a live cat was spitted over a fire until other cats appeared to relieve its distress by answering the question set by the operator of this method. Among the Gaelic peoples it was a powerful totem of many tribes. Caithness is named from the clan of the Catti, or cat-people, while in Ireland, Fionn fought against a tribe of CAT-HEADS, possibly warriors with
catskin over their helmets.