st. Gertrude patron saint of cats
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St. Gertrude: Unofficial Patron Saint of Cats

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)
Having a patron saint to act as a heavenly guardian for our feline friends is a special blessing indeed! The Vatican never made it official but St. Gertrude is the unofficial Patron Saint Of Cats. Here’s how to celebrate St. Gertrude’s Day on March 17 with your cat.
patron saints of cats
The Tale of two St. Gertrudes
St. Gertrude the Great It’s worth noting that St. Gertrude of Nivelles should not be confused with St. Gertrude the Great, a 13th century Benedictine mystic revered for her visions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and divine love. While they shared the same first name, their spiritual legacies and areas of patronage were quite distinct.

Last year I wrote a long post about St. Gertrude with unique art work but this year, lets dig deeper.

Saint Gertrude of Nivelles: The Cat Lady of the Church?

Who Was Saint Gertrude?

Saint Gertrude was born in 626 in Nivelles, a city in modern-day Belgium. She hailed from a family of wealthy nobles. Her father, Pepin I, served as the mayor of the palace of Austrasia under the Frankish kings Clotaire II, Dagobert I, and Sigebert III. Her mother, Itta, was believed to be the daughter of the bishop of Metz. Gertrude was the youngest of four children in her family.

In the Middle Ages, aristocrats gained power through strategic intermarriages with other noble families. Pepin had similar plans for Gertrude. When she was just 10 years old, King Dagobert asked her to marry the son of a duke. However, Gertrude boldly refused, declaring that she would take Christ alone as her bridegroom. Her unwavering commitment to a life of devotion set her on a remarkable path.

Upon Pepin’s death in 640, Itta faced the challenge of protecting her young daughter from predatory suitors who sought to ally with the family’s wealth and power. In an era when young women were sometimes kidnapped for marriage, Itta took decisive action. She built a double monastery in Nivelles—one for men and one for women. Gertrude became the abbess of the women’s monastery, while Itta herself entered religious life there.


When Itta passed away in 652, Gertrude assumed leadership of the entire monastery. As abbess, she delegated administrative tasks to trusted nuns and monks, allowing her to focus on studying scripture and caring for the sick, elderly, and poor. Gertrude used the property her mother had bequeathed to her to build churches, monasteries, and hospices. Her compassion and dedication left an indelible mark on her community.

The Cat Connection is more cat and mouse.


Now, let’s explore why Saint Gertrude became associated with cats. It’s only in recent years that she is often depicted with a cat in her arms and it’s really about mice.


  1. Prayers for Souls in Agony: Gertrude frequently prayed for the souls of people suffering in purgatory. Artists of her time symbolized these souls as mice, creatures that cats naturally hunt. It made sense for Gertrude to became linked with both cats and mice.
  2. Protection Against Rats and Mice: Throughout the Middle Ages, Gertrude was invoked against infestations of rats and mice. This association likely contributed to her eventual adoption as the de facto patron saint of cats.


Honoring Saint Gertrude Today

To honor Saint Gertrude of Nivelles with our feline companions, consider the following:

  1. Blessing Your Cats: On Saint Gertrude’s feast day, which falls on March 17, take a moment to bless your cats. You can say a simple prayer or offer a heartfelt intention for their well-being. I created this cat blessing.
  2. Provide Comfort: Like Gertrude, care for the sick and elderly among your cat family. Create cozy spots for them to rest, and ensure they receive proper medical attention.
  3. Donate to Animal Shelters: In Gertrude’s spirit of compassion, consider donating to local animal shelters or rescue organizations. Help provide shelter, food, and care for cats in need.
  4. Learn About Cat Behavior: Take time to understand your cats better. Learn about their behaviors, preferences, and unique personalities. Gertrude’s love for all creatures inspires us to appreciate our feline friends.


Dare I say, “Fancy Feast” Day?


Remember, Saint Gertrude’s legacy extends beyond her association with cats. She was a devoted servant of God, a scholar, and a compassionate caregiver. May her example inspire us to cherish and care for all living beings, including our beloved cats. So raise a glass of cream to St. Gertrude of Nivelles this March 17th! May she continue to watch over all of our feline friends, keeping them healthy, happy, and our homes free from mice and rats.

I had fun creating some AI art. Which one do you like best?

For a more modern look, a flat graphic? Why not 🙂



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