Across European cultures, and later stretching over into north America, within many old houses, dating from the Medieval era right up until the 20th century “dried” or “mummified” cats have been unearthed within walls, bricked into chimneys, under floorboards and even over doors and lintels. Often, they’re discovered deliberately posed as if in the midst of attack. These felines ended up within these walls placed by people believing them to protect the household and it’s inhabitants from a range of supernatural, psychic and occult threats as well as sometimes being placed in there for more positive reasons like aiding fertility. In some cases they have been discovered alongside other dried animals including rats, mice or birds.
Some historians have hypothesised this practice may date back to a folk magic practice deriving from the Romans and being brought over to Britain, however, medieval folk and beyond had a fear of not only humans invading their homes, but also curses, hexes and witchcraft. Cats, already being associated with witchcraft and the occult do seem to go hand in hand so along with other protective folk charms, including protective symbols on the rafters, the creation and burying of ‘witch bottles’, “dried” cats were seen as another barrier against the unseen. This has a few reasons, firstly as mentioned before their already close association with the occult, as cats were seen to have a sixth sense, meaning they had the ability to detect and fight off evil spirits, so their frequently seen “attack stance” aids with this, and the act of putting the animal within the walls was seen as a blood sacrifice enabling them to ward off intruders and witches. Cats were also believed to be able to detect and ward off witches familiars, which people feared would creep around their houses on behalf of their owners with malicious intent.
Some have said these cats were placed within walls alive, however, post mortem examinations of animals found show the cats had died and been dried prior to ending up in the walls, and this would account for the incidents where cats have been found lying but in an attack pose. Of course, this can also occur naturally if the conditions are correct and an animal, be it cat, dog or anything else for that matter happened to crawl into a space to die.