The legend why Madrid people are called cats

We know that cats are animals that have different qualities, including being excellent climbers, predators and also very stealthy. But what do these feline properties have to do with the people of Madrid? We also know that the natives of the capital of Spain are nicknamed “cats”, but what bond do those born in Madrid have so that they identify them with this species? To unveil this curiosity we have to go back at the time of the Reconquest and the feat that took place at a time when this town was known by the name of “Mayerit”.


Muhammad, son of Abderraman II, He built this enclave in the 9th century, when the Peninsula was under Arab domination. The intention was to create a fortified city to serve as defensive bastion in front of the access to the Sierra de Guadarrama and the Manzanares valley.

Her excellent position caused her to suffer various attempts of conquest, but Muhammad, aware of this, surrounded her with an unbreakable wall, inside which he built a citadel and the most representative building of his religion, a mosque.

However, the Muslim leader did not foresee that he was going to run into a fierce opponent who could defeat his apparent indestructible stone walls. In the year 1085, King Alfonso VI of León, called el Bravo, set out to recover the city of Toledo. This was at that time the most relevant city and it was under Muslim rule.

The monarch thought that it would be useless to reconquer Toledo if a fortified town such as Mayerit was located 60 kilometers away, essential from a strategic point of view. So his ramblings made him think that his offense should focus on this place first.


The unbreakable wall?

Alfonso VI prepared his troops and headed towards the objective, but once there he realized that the 12-meter wall was going to be a major impediment. Legend has it that while the king was wondering how to act, a soldier who claimed to have special abilities to climb walls appeared before him.

Faced with this stroke of luck, a plan was designed. The brave boy would climb the wall and behind him would be followed by a group of soldiers. With a rope and a dagger, which he used to pierce the wall, he managed to defeat the wall. Behind them the gang silenced the guards and the daring young man reached one of the watchtowers where he changed the Arab flag for the Christian one. This was followed by a surprise attack which ended in victory for the side of Alfonso VI.

Some documents say that the king himself was the one who, upon seeing the boy’s dexterity, described him as a “cat”, while others claim that he was already known by this nickname. In any case, from this moment on the feat became so famous that the nickname “cat” was used to designate the brave of Madrid, and later to all those who had been born in the now capital of Spain. The boy himself changed his family’s last name to “cat” giving rise to several generations and causing the name to spread and consolidate with this meaning.