Black cats are amazing creatures that are just as sweet and cuddly as any other cat. But over the centuries, these dark, handsome, and friendly felines have endured the stigma of cultural and historical myths, superstitions, and tales that make them either revered or feared.
Wondering what to do if a black cat crosses your path at night? Superstitions around black cats have lasted over hundreds of years!
But where did they get the bad reputation from? Let’s work this out.
Why there are tons of black cats?
There are more black cats than any other color because the black gene is most dominant for felines, according to the ASPCA.
Why Are Black Cats Considered Bad Luck?
Prehistoric Cat Fears
If you think about it, it’s really no surprise that mankind tends to distrust our feline friends. In the earliest days of history, cats were large, carnivorous creatures that evidence suggests humans often had to fend off in order to survive. Just imagine living amongst the Sabretooth Tiger! Unlike our wolf friends, humans did not attempt to domesticate these dangerous creatures until much later; and our fear is what kept us alive and away from them.
If you’re spooked when you see a black cat, it’s probably from medieval folklore that continues to shroud the reputation of these dignified kitties. It is believed to have started around the Middle Ages in Europe when black cats were associated with witchcraft.
Witches in Disguise
During the Middle Ages, black cats became equated with black magic. Roaming nocturnal black cats were thought to be witches in disguise, witches’ pets, or animal-shaped demons sent by witches to spy on humans.
In the 1560s in Lincolnshire, England, on a moonless night, a father and son were travelling when a black cat crossed their path. They pelted the cat with rocks until the poor animal fled into the home of a woman who at the time was being accused of being a witch. The next day, the father and son saw the woman who lived in the house. She was limping and bruised, so they assumed witches could turn into black cats at night to roam around unobserved.
The belief of witches transforming themselves into black cats to prowl the streets discreetly became a central belief in America, during the Salem witch hunts. Even today, the myths of black cats and witches hold strong, especially during the Halloween season.
Black Cats are Bad Luck
A black cat is also associated with bad luck, and sadly, death. This fear of black cats appears to stem from medieval times when an animal with dark feathers or fur, including crows and ravens, signaled death. In 16th-century Italy, it was believed that death was imminent if a black cat would lay on someone’s sickbed. In modern-day North America, negative connotations continue to haunt black cats. It’s considered bad luck if a black cat crosses your path, and good luck if a white cat crosses your path. Another family member is bound to die if you spot a black cat during a funeral procession. It’s a bad omen if you see a black cat walking away from you.
Good Associations with Black Cats
Unfortunately, many black cats are given up to humane societies. As silly as it may seem, sometimes these beautiful animals are relinquished based upon these silly superstitions!
Although nowadays there are still a lot of superstitions about the unluckiness of the black cat, there are almost as many that say the opposite: black cats aren’t unlucky at all. In fact, in a lot of places and cultures, they’re actually a symbol of good luck and prosperity.
It’s true, in Japan black cats are considered hugely lucky, especially for the single ladies, who they supposedly bring many good suitors.
This myth also has roots in England. There’s lore stemming from the Midlands that says giving a bride a black cat on her wedding day will promise a lucky marriage.
Going on a voyage? Best pack the essentials – your life jacket, your toothbrush, and your trusty black cat.
Across Europe there are plenty of tales about black cats being lucky for sailors. Having them on board was believed to ensure a safe journey and return, and the families of those at sea would often also keep them at home as a good omen for their loved ones.
Scotland has the right idea with a long-standing belief that a black cat suddenly appearing on your doorway is a sign of future prosperity.
In France black cats were also associated with magic – but the nice kind, and they’d bring you good luck if you took care of them.
There are also rumours of the Norse goddess Freya being very much a cat person, and blessing farmers with good harvest if they fed the giant black cats who pulled her chariot
The most prominent black cat superstition is that you’ll be cursed with bad luck if they pass you, but that depends who you ask anyway.
Pirates for example used to think that if a cat approached you, it was good luck, but if it turned away from you then it became a bad omen.
And although they might not have been the most reliable lot, there are similar sentiments in Germany and Ireland where the luckiness of the black cat depends where exactly you’re standing.
In other cultures around the world, it’s a sign of good luck if you dream about a black cat, see one walking towards you, or if you happen to find a stray white hair on its gleaming ebony fur.
Black cats have been given an unfair reputation, and unfortunately, many people believe the hype. Truth is black cats are beautiful creatures and are just as loveable as the next furry feline. Black cats make PAWsome companions, and you’d be lucky to have one!