Do Cats Have Souls? Science Explains (& What 5 Religions Say)

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Fact checked by  Dr. Lizzie Youens BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS
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If you’ve ever looked deeply and intensely into your cats’ eyes, the notion that cats have a soul has probably crossed your mind. The idea of cats, and any other animal, having a soul is a complex one that has long been explored and theorized by philosophers and theologians. The truth is, we do not know for certain whether cats have souls, as it simply comes down to personal, religious, and cultural beliefs.

Key Takeaways

In philosophical terms, a soul is what makes us alive rather than dead.

Many religions and cultures believe that cats and other animals have a soul, whilst others believe they do not.

There is no scientific evidence for the existence of a soul, or what happens to the soul after death.

All pet owners can relate to that immense feeling of grief when their beloved pet and best friend passes away. And it brings us a great deal of comfort to think that they are living happy and pain-free across the rainbow bridge.

The idea that our pet’s soul is freed and lives on in spirit is something that helps us through our grieving process. But the questions, and disagreements, are often over exactly where the soul goes after death.

Across the globe, different communities and religions have varying beliefs on whether or not animals have souls, and what that goes on to mean. For those who do not have a religious inclination, it can be a baffling scientific question. So let’s explore some of these beliefs and ideas a little deeper.

Also Read: Can Cats See Spirits, Ghosts And Angels?

Souls Vs Spirits

close up cat face

Aristotle defined the soul as the principle of life in a living thing.

Without getting too philosophical, let’s briefly look at the difference between spirits and souls. Often used interchangeably, the two words have similar but different meanings. Many philosophers and religious followers would say that without the soul there is no self.

Aristotle thought the soul to be the principle of life in a living thing – it’s what makes you alive rather than dead. Whereas the spirit is an aspect of the soul that is immaterial and gives us reasoning and decision-making abilities. So, to have a spirit, one must have a soul.

As cats, and all other animals, are living beings with the ability to make decisions based on reason, we can assume that the soul and spirit exist in the animal kingdom just as it does in humans.

Also Read: Can Cats Sense Death?

Cats and Their Nine Lives

cat walking across fence

Cats are thought by many cultures to have many lives.

We’ve all heard the old saying ‘a cat has nine lives’. So, does this mean that cats have nine souls? Not exactly. A cat, like any other living creature, has only one soul. When we talk about the idea of cats having nine lives, it’s actually a myth that refers to a cat escaping near-death experiences throughout its life.

We don’t know for certain where this myth originated, as it has appeared throughout history in many cultures including English proverbs and ancient Egyptian mythology. It’s even referenced by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet.

The number 9 is considered special by the ancient Greeks, who like many cultures, worshipped and respected their beloved cats. But in Spain, it’s believed that cats have only 7 lives, whilst Arabic myths talk about cats having 6 lives.

Also Read: Do Cats Actually Have 9 Lives ? Here’s Nine Reasons Why They Really Do

What Happens to a Cat’s Soul When They Die?

tabby cat staring upwards

Different religions have their own views on animal souls.

For many, what we believe happens to our pets after they pass away is a very personal thing. We may base our thoughts and beliefs on religion or cultural ideas, whilst others lean closer to science or any combination of these beliefs. The truth is we don’t know, and we likely never will, so it’s down to individual pet owners to choose the belief that brings them the most comfort during their grief.

1. Christianity

The soul is discussed in great detail in the Bible and makes its first appearance in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, where God creates man with a living soul. The topic of the souls of animals is actually contradicted throughout the Bible, and beliefs differ throughout the religion.

Genesis 1 implies the superiority of human beings over animals, but this is then contradicted in Ecclesiastes 3 where it’s stated that the fate of animals is equal to humans and we all go to the same place.

Many Christians believe that animals do not have a soul, as they are not equal to humans. Whilst others believe that animals do have a soul, but beliefs on whether that soul can go to heaven caries again. Over the years, various leaders within the religion have given their thoughts on this.

Pope Francis gave his opinion on the topic and appeared to believe that all of God’s creatures are welcome in heaven. Whilst his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI believed the opposite. Pope John Paul II also said that animals have a soul and do indeed go to heaven. Debate remains a constant on this topic within Christianity.

2. Judaism

Judaism lacks clarity on the existence of hell, but most rabbis would say that cats and other animals can indeed go to heaven. In fact, in the kosher tradition, one does not eat the blood of mammals as according to the Torah, this is where the soul of a living being is.

3. Buddhism

Buddhists view animals as conscious living beings that can be born again – the cycle of rebirth for all living beings continues until one reaches Nirvana. It is certainly believed in Buddhism that animals can be reincarnated as humans, and vice versa, and there are also many beliefs around the meaning of these reincarnations and their connections to karma.

4. Islam

Muslims believe that the soul is eternal, regardless of whether that is a human or animal soul. But to enter heaven or Jannah, a living being must be judged by God – some believe that animals are judged equally to humans, but others don’t.

There’s no clarity on this, but the Qur’an states that when one enters heaven, they can bring anything they like, which could of course include a pet.

5. Hinduism

Unlike other religions, Hindus have strong beliefs about the afterlife and reincarnation, as well as a deep respect for all living beings. Hindu scholars say that animals do have souls and that animals go through the same reincarnation cycle as humans. They believe that the animal soul can enter the human body during reincarnation to get closer to God.

Also Read: How Long Do Cats Live?


Throughout history and religion, there are a range of theories and beliefs on the existence of the human soul and whether or not animals possess a soul at all. Those who do believe in animals possessing a soul have different beliefs about what happens to the soul after their pet dies, influenced by a combination of science, religion, and culture.

There are no straight answers, and one must believe in what brings the most comfort in times of grief and aligns with their cultural and religious background.

Also Read: How Old Is My Cat In Human Years?

Frequently Asked Questions

Do cats have souls?

There is no scientific proof for the existence of the soul – rather it is a philosophical and religious concept. Whether you believe in cats having a soul depends on your religious and cultural background and beliefs. Many believe that cats and other animals have a soul.

Do cats go to heaven?

Buddhists and Hindus believe that cats can be reincarnated, even as a human. Whilst in Islam and Christianity, an animal's ability to enter heaven is unclear and contradicted.  

Will we see pets in heaven?

Some religions believe that our beloved pets can accompany us to Heaven, but other religious teachings are unclear. Many pet owners hold personal beliefs about their pets and the afterlife.

View Sources uses high-quality, credible sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the claims in our articles. This content is regularly reviewed and updated for accuracy. Visit our About Us page to learn about our standards and meet our veterinary review board.


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About Dr. Holly Anne Hills BVMEDSCI MRCVS

Holly has worked as a small animal vet in several clinics across the UK and has taken short breaks to volunteer in India and the Caribbean working with street dogs. Her interests are in surgery, caring for geriatric patients, and client education. She writes behavior and nutrition articles for

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