Of all the animals portrayed in horror, cats are perhaps the most naturally suited to the genre. After all, ancient Egyptians believed cats were vessels of the gods. Fast forward a bit and cats became associated with satanism and witchcraft thanks to Pope Gregory IX. And the charge stuck, wrapping them into the Salem witch trials and perpetuating myths and superstitions against black cats to this day.
It doesn’t help that cats will actually eat your eyeballs if you die. And as a pet, they are stereotyped as standoffish and aloof. Dogs love you, birds party with you, even fish will swim up to you. But cats will dole out their attention based on the highly complex algorithm of their mood. They care about you, but they’d rather express their affection through a late-night case of the zoomies than cuddles on demand.
Which brings us to horror. Of course, an animal so steeped in superstition, folklore, and attitude will make a plethora of appearances in films designed to unsettle and scare. And we’re not sure which is worse, being attacked by a killer cat, or having one lick its paws while someone else murders you.
Either way, if you ask someone what common pet is most likely to kill you, cat will always be the answer. For cat lovers, haters, and the feline indifferent, here are 13 of the scariest cats you never want to meet in horror films.
Church — Pet Sematary (1989)
There are probably a lot of freaky cats out there, but Church is one of the creepiest. It’s hard to not get unsettled at the idea of a beloved family pet trying to murder you. Of course, Louis shouldn’t have tried to defy the laws of nature. But that doesn’t make Church any less scary.
Jezebel — The Sentinel (1977)
At first, there’s nothing spooky about Jezebel, the black and white tuxedo cat owned by an overly friendly neighbor. But when Alison keeps hearing noises in the empty apartment above her, and it turns out to be Jezebel eating a pet parakeet, well, things get weird. All we know is, cats hate birthday parties, so everyone probably deserves punishment for making Jezebel wear that party hat—even if it is the best thing ever.
Miss Malkin’s Cats — The Uncanny (1977)
If you’re going to try and fake a will to cut the cats out, be prepared for them to fight. Janet is absolutely in the wrong, but the idea of a group of cats being able to strategize, imprison their enemies, and murder everyone who tries to get in their way is pretty horrifying. And we dare you to not be disturbed by that last Miss Malkin scene. We dare you!
Tabitha — The Shadow of the Cat (1961)
How do we not include a killer cat hellbent on revenge? We have to. Tabitha had no intention of becoming violent. But then she witnesses her owner’s murder—by her husband and two servants, no less. She won’t let them get away with it. Especially when they try to kill her, too. Is she evil? Depends. But she’s scary enough to murder three people, and that deserves a spot on this list.
Blanche — Hausu (1977)
When Blanche appears out of nowhere at Oshare’s house, no one questions that it’s her aunt’s cat. After all, there are pictures of Blanche on the wall. But maybe they should have. As the girls start dying, Blanche is always mysteriously there. And then there’s something about her eyes.
Ligeia — The Tomb of Ligeia (1965)
Is it an evil cat? Or the reincarnation of Verden Fell’s dead wife? Or both? Hard to say, but Ligeia won’t leave him alone. And she isn’t thrilled that he’s dating someone new. After she tries to kill his new bride, Fell confronts the cat in Ligeia’s tomb where things get heated, literally. It’s hard to move on. But there are better ways to handle death than haunting your ex.
Butch — The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
If you’re used to hunting mice, are you really evil for hunting a tiny man in your own basement? Hard to say. Butch may not have been possessed or otherwise influenced. But being hunted by your family pet when you’re the size of a small rodent would be absolutely terrifying, regardless of the circumstances.
Felice — The Kiss (1988)
We know how traumatizing visiting relatives can be, but at least none of them transform into a murderous wild cat—we hope. Felice appears normal, but she’s really only with her sister’s family to try and offload the curse onto someone in her direct bloodline. And of course, she doesn’t turn into just any wild cat. But one with a grotesque face, gigantic teeth, and taste for blood.
Valentine — Army of the Dead (2021)
Remember when Las Vegas had a whole magic show with live tigers? Zack Snyder took full advantage of that piece of lore and created one of the scariest zombie cats on film. She’s smart, she’s predatory, and she can crush your skull with her jaws. Zombies are bad enough. Valentine takes that terror to a whole new level.
Cat From Hell — Tales from the Dark Side (1990)
It’s hard to not side with the cat on this one. We get it, the mansion wasn’t his, but there was plenty of room. There was no reason to hire an assassin. Still, diving down someone’s throat to suffocate them is gruesome. And then emerging from the corpse’s mouth? Well, it’s the literal stuff of nightmares.
Cute Killers - Strays (1991)
We’ve all been there. We see stray cats, and we want to be nice. Maybe we put out food. Or try to find them a home. But we can’t imagine how frightening it would be to have an entire horde of stray cats hunting you in your own home. The most disturbing part is we still don’t know why these cats were so angry to begin with.
The Big Cats — Black Zoo (1963)
One way to get complete obedience from your up-and-coming cult is by threatening them with gigantic animal predators. That’s what Michael Conrad does. The three big cats, and one gorilla, kill anyone who gets in his way. The moral of the story is if you hear organ music—run.
The Town Cats — The Corpse Grinders (1971)
We’ve established that your family pet trying to kill you is alarming. But what happens when the food you feed them is what triggers their murderous rage? That’s exactly what happens when the Lotus Cat Food Company decides to cut costs by using a new cheap source of meat: the local graveyard.