During the middle ages in Eastern Europe, it was said that a cat jumping over a corpse transformed the deceased into a vampire, whilst in Northumbria a cat that walked over a body would be killed, so as to preserve the soul of the departed. Remarkably similar superstitions existed in ancient China. On the death of his owner, a cat would be given away until after the burial. The relatives believed that if the cat leapt over the body, the corpse would rise up and miss its chance of redemption.
And there was Provence, where there were cat-goblins:
These are spirits that after sunset appear as cats with glowing eyes, who like nothing better than to cause mischief to humans. The traveller is advised to cover his own eyes against them, seek the help of the saints and make for a lighted building..
There were other cultures where cats were protected.
Consider ... the Irish, three hundred years ago, who believed that to kill a cat brought seventeen years bad luck. A man who drowned a cat would himself die by drowning, and a farmer could expect all his cattle to die. Although a broth of boiled cat was said to cure tuberculosis, people were so afraid of the consequences, that they hired professional ‘hit men’ to kill the cat for them and hence take the bad luck.
The Ainu (Aboriginal people of Japan) had a much healthier respect, or even fear, of hurting a cat. Their folklore held that a cat would avenge his death by bewitching the killer, causing him to waste away whilst acting like a cat, and die horribly whilst mewing. The Ainu called this possession ‘Meko Pagoat’ or ‘cat punishment.’ ...
And some cultures kept in mind the value of felines.
...[T]he Malayan Jakurs held that on their death, a cat would lead them through the fires of hell, spraying as he went to cool the path to heaven. Likewise the Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamen, was led safely to the underworld by a black cat.