The surprising legend of the Bakeneko

The legend of the Bakeneko

In Japan, the cat is not just another animal, it is an animal that this society venerates. There are many stories about this Asian country and cats. But this time we want to tell you about a very specific story, the widespread legend that the fearsome cats of Japan, the Bakeneko.


Literature begins to speak for the first time of the Bakeneko in 1603? and it was then that a decree was created which demanded that all cats must be freed and no one could own a cat.
The reason for creating such a decree was that a plague of rats was endangering rice and silk production; the objective was that the cats, being on the street, could control this plague.

However, beyond controlling the large rat population, the cats began to move in herd-like groups, roam in unusual places and even terrorize the population. This is how stories and legends began to be born around them. Stories and legends that gained strength thanks to the idea that cats have a cold and independent character and also, traditionally in Japan, it is an animal that is related to death.

This is the legend of the Bakeneko

Let’s start at the beginning. Not just any cat is a Bakeneko. For a coualquiera cat to become a Bakeneko one of two things must happen:

  1. May the cat be more than 100 years old.
  2. Weighing up to one Kan (3’75 kg.).
  3. That he was seen drinking from an oil lamp (which was quite common as lamps at many times in Japanese history were filled with fish oil).
  4. That he would have been allowed to keep his long tail (unlike the bobtail).

And what happened when a cat became a Bakeneko?

The Bakenekos had two very characteristic main faculties:

  1. They could talk.
  2. Their tails gave them a certain power. The tail could split; and the more splits it had, the more power the cat had.

But these legendary cats could also walk on two legs and even fly.
The name of the fearsome cats of Japan comes from the fact that they possessed the ability to adopt the form of any dead human being… and legend has it that Bakeneko himself often devoured the victim and then adopted his identity.

As you can imagine, there are countless legends that tell the story of men and women who crossed paths with a Bakeneko. Almost terrifying stories.

Stories of people who watched their mother, wife or child suddenly change their character. Many of these stories tell how because of these character changes the relatives suddenly discovered that a cat had devoured their relative, finding his remains; and that the person they had been dealing with in recent times was actually the Bakeneko who had taken their form.

Curious, impressive and surprising stories…