I was raking in my backyard. It had just been a week since my Summer Solstice’s death, and my world felt pretty empty without her quiet companionship.
I turned and froze. My little ruddy Abyssinian friend sat under the honeysuckle tree, looking as though she’d never been away. Her coat was rich and flowing, no longer showing the ravages of kidney disease. I could almost hear her purring.
She stayed for what seemed a long time, then vanished. I stood there, clearly amazed yet sure of what I’d seen. Over time, there were other visitations or “seeings.” None of them lasted as long as that first one, however.
The Cat Came Back
Or maybe it never went away. As it turns out, my experience isn’t all that unusual. Many people have written of their cats who weren’t quite ready to leave.
A cat may, as Dusty Rainbolt observes in Ghost Cats: Human Encounters With Feline Spirits, “still have important business left to do, usually revolving around her unconditional love and loyalty for her humans. Often she returns simply to say goodbye — especially if there was no chance for closure before death, perhaps because the cat disappeared or died mysteriously or unexpectedly.”
Many of the accounts I came across were precisely about that — the beloved cat pulling a sort of ghostly Columbo “just one more thing” act before heading over the Rainbow Bridge. One woman described how her elderly cat, Bonzai, showed up on her bed a few nights after his passing: “He was just sitting there, watching me. I was stunned because he was definitely there, but it was more a clear image of him. It wasn’t solid. Then he turned around and walked out the bedroom door.” She got up to check the other rooms, but Bonzai had vanished.
Other sightings are less vivid. Blogger Louise Hung writes about how she and her husband kept seeing their deceased tortoiseshell, Brandy, “out of the corners of our eyes — darting around the edge of the couch, strolling past the bed, walking into the bathroom. I can almost hear the tapping of little paws on my floor.” Later, she saw “a round, dark shape” on the sofa. “I could make out soft edges and — it couldn’t be — black patches? A stripe? Eyes?” Something “[v]ery black, like a photograph negative” was curled up on Brandy’s favorite spot.
Famous Feline Phantoms
Hauntings basically fall into 2 categories, according to Rainbolt: residual and intelligent. “A residual haunting occurs when the cat repeats the same motions over and over again, but doesn’t appear to have any intelligence, like an image on a DVD. She doesn’t interact with her environment or pay attention to anyone around her.”
An intelligent haunting, on the other hand, involves the cat’s spirit actually interacting with their human or with other animals.
The Black Cat of Killakee supposedly haunts the ruins of the Dublin Hellfire Club. The ghost was seen several times by Margaret O’Brien in the late 1960s; she and her husband had purchased the property to turn it into an arts center. It was not a charming or plaintive ghost but a red-eyed nightmare cat, and it left O’Brien considerably shaken. After an artist friend and some workmen had a similar encounter, she called in a priest to perform an exorcism.
This particular branch of the Hellfire Club was notorious for debauchery and — so it was rumored – Satanic rituals. There were stories of black cats and humans being sacrificed, so it’s possible that this might be a residual haunting. There is some question now about the devil worshipping: the club members were, as journalist David Ryan writes, simply “freethinkers who believed in neither heaven nor hell.” But the legend of the fiery-eyed demon cat lives on.
Another black cat is said to haunt Washington, D.C. Demon Cat — a.k.a. D.C. — hangs out in the basement of the White House, the mall and the Capitol. He appears small at first, almost kitten-sized, but then morphs into a large, snarling beast. He’s also a harbinger, appearing before such national calamity, such as the 1929 stock market crash and John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Whoa — did you see that? This cat sure did:
Inspiration for a Famous Fictional Cat
Not all cat ghosts are black or fear-inspiring. From England comes the story of the Congleton cat. In the early 20th century, 2 women saw a large white cat sitting on a post by the ruins of a nearby abbey. He was very beautiful and seemed very friendly; as they approached him, however, he leaped into the air and disappeared.
A few days later, the friends drove by the spot again, and the feline repeated his leap-and-vanish trick. They were later told by an elderly resident that the cat had belonged to Mrs. Winge, who had been the abbey’s housekeeper in the late 1800s, but he had disappeared.
Cats, however, are fiercely loyal, and this one was no exception. One evening, as writer David Greene tells the story in his book Incredible Cats, Mrs. Winge “heard a familiar scratching at the back door and, opening it, was delighted to see the cat sitting placidly on her step. But no matter how much she coaxed and pleaded, the animal refused to come indoors. Then, after a few moments, he slowly vanished before her astonished gaze.”
The cat continued to show up on a nightly basis, and there were numerous witnesses to his visits. It is even speculated that Lewis Carroll — who was born near Congleton and who had a profound interest in the paranormal — used the white ghost cat as the inspiration for the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.
Farfetched? If you believe that animals have souls, then it follows that those souls, like human souls, sometimes stay behind for reasons of their own.
Honor Your Pet’s Memory
Perfect Memorials offers a variety of high-quality, thoughtful memorials for a deceased pet. Each piece is customizable or engravable for a one-of-a-kind memorial.
We love their Paw Print Infinity pendant (affiliate link), which you can personalize by tucking in a small portion of cremated remains or a lock of hair. You can engrave your pet’s name on the jewelry.