Feline Companions in Norse Mythology: The Role of Cats

norse cats

Cats have always held a special place in human culture and mythology, and Norse mythology is no exception. These furry feline companions played an important role in ancient Norse culture, serving as symbols of power, cunning, and grace. In this article, we will explore the significance of Norse cats in mythology, including their roles, symbolism, and influence.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cats have always been important in human mythology, and Norse mythology is no exception.
  • Norse cats played an important role in ancient Norse culture, serving as symbols of power, cunning, and grace.
  • Throughout Norse mythology, cats appear in various forms and roles, including as familiars, protectors, and symbols of the goddess Freyja.
  • Skogkatts, a specific breed of cat, were believed to be guardians and protectors in Norwegian folklore.
  • Today, Norse cats continue to influence popular culture and art, showcasing their enduring appeal.

Cats in Norse Mythology

Cats played a significant role in Norse mythology, often serving as companions to the gods and acting as symbols of power, wisdom, and mystery. In many myths and stories, cats were portrayed as both helpful and cunning, embodying both light and dark aspects of the world.

One of the most well-known myths featuring cats is the story of Thor and the giant Thrym. In this tale, Thrym steals Thor’s hammer and demands the goddess Freyja as his bride in exchange for its return. As Thor and Loki plot to retrieve the hammer, they come across a group of cats, whom Loki attempts to catch. One of the cats they encounter is none other than the goddess Freyja in disguise, who ultimately helps to retrieve the hammer.

Cats in Norse Mythology

Another myth featuring cats involves the goddess Freyja and her two sacred cats, Bygul and Trjegul. These cats drew Freyja’s chariot and were said to possess the ability to both travel great distances and render themselves invisible. Cats were also associated with the goddess Freyja due to their connection to fertility and childbirth.

Odin, the king of the gods, was also known to have a feline companion in the form of his horse, Sleipnir. This horse was believed to have supernatural abilities, including the power to travel between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Cats were also featured in Norse mythology as evil creatures associated with the god Loki. In one story, Loki transforms himself into a cat to sneak into Thor’s hall and cause chaos. This portrayal of cats as deceitful and malevolent further highlights their dual nature in Norse mythology.

“Cats played a significant role in Norse mythology, often serving as companions to the gods and acting as symbols of power, wisdom, and mystery.”

Freyja’s Sacred Cats

Freyja, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, was one of the most prominent figures in Norse mythology. She was also closely associated with cats, which were considered sacred to her. In fact, Freyja was often depicted with her two cats, Bygul and Trjegul, who pulled her chariot.

The cats themselves were believed to possess mystical powers and were regarded as sacred animals. They were said to have the ability to navigate the spiritual realm and act as a connection between the mortal and divine worlds. For this reason, they were highly prized by the Norse people and were often kept as pets and companions.

In addition to their spiritual significance, cats were also associated with Freyja’s other qualities, including her sensuality and independence. Just as Freyja was a powerful and self-assured goddess, so too were her feline companions.

Overall, the connection between Freyja and her sacred cats illustrates the deep reverence and respect that the Norse people held for these animals. It also speaks to the intricate relationship between humans and the natural world in ancient Norse culture.

The Cat Guardian: Skogkatt and Norwegian Folklore

In Norse mythology, cats were revered as mystical creatures with magical powers. Among the many breeds of feline companions celebrated in Norse culture, Skogkatt, a Norwegian Forest cat, holds a significant place for its portrayal as a guardian and protective creature. Skogkatts are known for their thick, luxurious coats and bushy tails, which allow them to brave the harsh winters of Norway. They are also known for their fierce loyalty and affectionate nature, making them popular pets around the world.

In Norwegian folklore, Skogkatts were believed to have supernatural powers and were revered as guardians. They were often depicted in artwork as protectors against evil spirits and other malevolent forces. Their mystical attributes have made them a popular subject in literature and contemporary art, and they stand as a symbol of Norway’s cultural heritage and traditions.

Mythical Attributes Beliefs Surrounding their Protectiveness
Skogkatts were thought to have the power to see into the future and predict upcoming events. It was believed that Skogkatts could sense danger and protect their owners from harm.
They were associated with fertility and prosperity, and it was believed that owning a Skogkatt would bring good luck and fortune. They were also believed to have healing powers and could help cure illnesses or injuries.
Skogkatts were often portrayed as spiritual beings that could communicate with other animals and spirits from the underworld. They were also thought to be able to guide lost travelers and protect homes from evil spirits.

Today, Skogkatts are recognized as a distinct breed of cat, and their legacy in Norse mythology and Norwegian folklore continues to influence popular culture. As a cat guardian and protective creature, the Skogkatt holds a special place in the hearts and minds of cat lovers around the world, and its rich history and mythology make it a beloved cultural symbol.

Cats as Omens and Familiars

Cats have been revered in Norse mythology for their mystical powers and abilities to foretell the future. They were often seen as omens, signaling impending danger or good fortune. According to Norse folklore, if a cat was observed washing behind its ears, it was an omen of rain. If a cat sneezed, it foretold the arrival of guests. If a cat licked its fur against the grain, it was a sign of an approaching storm.

Furthermore, cats were believed to be powerful familiars, serving as companions and assistants to witches and sorcerers. They were said to possess magical abilities and were often depicted as shapeshifters capable of taking human form. In Norse folklore, cats were also associated with fertility and were sometimes used in magical rituals to ensure a healthy harvest or successful childbirth.

It is important to note that while cats were respected and revered in Norse culture, they could also be seen as unpredictable and dangerous. Some believed that they were capable of stealing a person’s soul or causing illness and misfortune. Despite these beliefs, cats remained a popular and important symbol in Norse mythology and continue to hold a special place in modern culture.

Mysterious Jormungandr: The Cat Serpent

One of the most fascinating connections between cats and Norse mythology is their association with the mythical serpent, Jormungandr. According to legend, Jormungandr was a massive serpent that encircled the world, biting its tail to form a never-ending circle.

Curiously, Jormungandr was sometimes depicted as a serpent with a cat’s head. Some scholars believe that the cat symbolized the serpent’s ability to see in the dark, or that it was a reference to the goddess Freyja’s association with felines. Others suggest that the cat may have been added to the serpent’s image in later retellings, as the two animals were popular symbols in Norse culture. Whatever the interpretation, the combination of cat and serpent creates a fascinating and mysterious figure that continues to captivate us today.

Cats in Norse Art and Symbolism

Cats have long been a staple of Norse art and symbolism, with their presence found in a variety of different forms and representations. From runes to carvings, these feline companions have played an important role in Norse culture throughout history.

One of the most common forms of Norse cat art is found in the intricate carvings that can be found throughout the region. These carvings depict cats with a variety of different attributes, ranging from playful and curious to fierce and protective.

In addition to their portrayal in carvings, cats have also played an important role in Norse symbolism. The cat was often associated with Freyja, the goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, and believed to be one of her sacred animals.

Cats were also believed to possess mystical powers, with their presence often serving as a good omen or protector during times of danger. This belief is reflected in the many different forms of Norse cat art, with these feline companions often depicted in poses that suggest strength, power, and protection.

Cats in Norse Runes

Another area where cats have played an important role in Norse art and symbolism is in the use of runes. These ancient characters were used as a form of writing and communication throughout the region, and were often carved into everyday objects such as tools, buildings, and weapons.

Many of these runes depict cats, with their playful and curious nature often serving as an inspiration for the designs. In addition to their playful nature, cats were also associated with wisdom and mysticism, with their presence believed to help guide and protect those who carried the runes.

The Cultural Significance of Norse Cat Art

The presence of cats in Norse art and symbolism highlights their enduring cultural significance throughout history. These feline companions served as a source of inspiration for artists and craftsmen, and their presence in everyday objects and designs speaks to the importance of cats in Norse society.

Today, Norse cat art continues to capture the imaginations of people around the world. From contemporary interpretations in museums and galleries to popular culture references in movies and television, these mythical feline companions remain an enduring symbol of Norse mythology and culture.

Modern Interpretations and Cultural Influence

The influence of Norse cats in modern society is evident. They have found their way into popular culture, literature, and contemporary art, showcasing their enduring appeal. Modern interpretations of Norse cats have reimagined them as creatures of mystery, embodying aspects of their ancient mythology.

One notable example is the character of Mr. Mistoffelees in T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” and the Broadway musical “Cats.” Mr. Mistoffelees is a magical cat that can perform incredible feats, drawing inspiration from the mystical qualities attributed to cats in Norse mythology.

The cultural influence of Norse cats extends beyond literature and theater. Modern cat owners often name their feline companions after Norse gods and goddesses, such as Freyja or Thor. The popularity of Norse mythology has also inspired various cat-related merchandise, from t-shirts and phone cases to cat toys and accessories.

Furthermore, the Skogkatt, a Norwegian cat breed associated with Norse folklore, continues to be a beloved pet and has gained recognition in the international cat community. It is known for its distinctive physical features and playful personality, drawing attention from cat lovers around the world.

In conclusion, the cultural influence of Norse cats is undeniable. Their significance in ancient Norse culture continues to resonate with modern society, inspiring artistic works and influencing popular culture. Norse cats remain a beloved symbol of mystery, magic, and companionship, embodying the enduring legacy of their mythical origins.


In conclusion, cats in Norse mythology played a significant role in ancient Norse culture. They were not only companions but also symbols of power, protection, and mystical abilities. Freyja, the Norse goddess of love, beauty, and fertility, had sacred cats associated with her. The Skogkatt, a specific breed of cat, was considered a guardian in Norwegian folklore. Cats were also believed to be omens and familiars, and they had intriguing associations with the mythical serpent Jormungandr.

The cultural influence of Norse cats continues to this day. Modern interpretations include their appearance in popular culture, literature, and contemporary art. These mythical feline companions have become the subject of fascination and adoration for many. The significance of cats in Norse mythology extends beyond ancient times and resonates with people today.

In summary, the role of Norse cats in mythology holds significant importance in understanding the culture and beliefs of ancient Norse society. Their enduring presence in modern times stands as a testament to their cultural influence and symbolic representation. The legacy of Norse cats will continue to fascinate and inspire people for generations to come.


What is the significance of cats in Norse mythology?

Cats in Norse mythology had various roles and symbolic representations. They were often associated with fertility, protection, and magical abilities. Cats were considered sacred to Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and fertility, and were believed to bring good luck and prosperity.

Which Norse myths feature cats?

Cats are mentioned in several Norse myths. One notable example is the story of Thor’s encounter with the giant Þrymr, where Thor disguises himself as Freyja and is accompanied by two large cats. Another myth involves the goddess Freyja’s cat-drawn chariot, which is said to create thunder and lightning.

What is the role of cats in Norwegian folklore?

In Norwegian folklore, the Skogkatt, a specific breed of cat, played a significant role as a guardian. Skogkatts were believed to protect homes and farms from evil spirits and bring good luck to their owners. They were also associated with the forest and had mythical attributes.

Were cats believed to be omens or familiars in Norse culture?

Yes, cats were believed to have mystical abilities and were associated with omens and familiars. They were thought to possess the power to foretell future events and act as companions to witches and sorcerers. Cats were considered magical beings capable of providing spiritual guidance.

What is the connection between cats and the mythical serpent Jormungandr?

Cats have a mysterious association with the formidable serpent Jormungandr in Norse mythology. Both creatures are believed to possess hidden powers and represent aspects of chaos and unpredictability. The symbolism and relationship between cats and Jormungandr are shrouded in intrigue.

How were cats portrayed in Norse art and symbolism?

Cats were frequently depicted in Norse art, particularly in carvings and runes. They were often associated with protection, luck, and fertility. Cats featured prominently in artistic representations of goddesses like Freyja and were symbolic of their attributes and powers.

How have Norse cats influenced modern culture?

Norse cats continue to fascinate and inspire modern interpretations in literature, art, and popular culture. Their mythical qualities and cultural significance have made them popular subjects in fantasy novels, artwork, and even cat-themed merchandise. Norse cats have left an enduring mark on contemporary society.

What is the significance of cats in ancient Norse culture?

Cats held a significant place in ancient Norse culture, symbolizing fertility, protection, and magical abilities. They were associated with goddesses like Freyja and played important roles in myths and folklore. Cats were considered sacred and were believed to bring good fortune and ward off evil spirits.

What is the overall importance of cats in Norse mythology?

Cats in Norse mythology represent a rich tapestry of symbolism and cultural beliefs. They embody qualities such as fertility, protection, and magical powers. Cats played roles as companions to gods and humans, as guardians against evil forces, and as mystical creatures capable of divination and guidance.