The Mystique Behind Black Cats

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One of the three prevalent superstitions alive in our culture today concerns the black cat. These superstitions include: the number 13 being unlucky, you don’t walk under an open ladder, and if a black cat crosses your path, it is considered bad luck.

Interestingly enough, in most other cultures, the black cat is a prized possession. Owning one is considered to bring the owner good luck.

Black cat hunting on a hand made cat climbing tree, The Mystique Behind Black Cats

Black Cats in Good Light

The origin of the black cat and good luck is believed to have begun in Ancient Egypt with the sacred black cat of Oagans – BAST. Bast, a goddess of Egypt reigned in the Twenty-Second Dynasty and was the official deity of Egypt. Many courted her favors, by procuring black cats into their households; believing that she would become part of that cat in spirit, and grace the home with riches and prosperity.

In the 1600’s Charles I of England, owned a black cat. He fiercely loved and protected his cat. Keeping it under guard 24/7, until one day the cat fell ill and died. Charles I was heard to proclaim: “Alas my luck is gone.” The next day, he was arrested and charged with high treason. Ultimately he was put to his death.

In Sumatra, when the drought is long and rain is needed, a black cat is found and thrown into the river. The village folk lines the bank, forcing the cat to swim until almost exhausted. Once the cat is exhausted they allow the cat to get out of the water. The women of the village then chase the black cat while throwing water on the cat and themselves. This is supposed to bring rain. Although this tradition might bring good luck to the village, pity the poor cat that has the bad luck of being chosen for this dubious duty!

In the Yorkshires, a black cat was said to bring the fishermen home safely from the seas. During the most prominent part of the fishing industry in this village, black kittens were often catnapped and sold to the highest bidder (usually the wives of the fishermen) by racketeers trying to cash in on the popular superstition.*

In parts of Europe, if a black cat crosses your path, you are considered to have good fortune. If a black cat walks into your house or home, you are truly blessed.

Black Cats in Bad Light

In the United States, the term Black Cat was used by the fishermen and sailors of Michigan’s Lake Superior for a boat that was believed to have a spell cast upon it and therefore, never will carry a full crew.

When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, they brought with them a devout faith in the Bible. They also brought a deepening suspicion of anything deemed of the devil. Comprised of Englanders and Europeans, these pilgrims were a deeply suspicious group. They viewed the black cat as a companion or familiar to witches. Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even killed. They viewed the black cat as  part demon and part sorcery.

When the Christians gained a foothold in America they also propelled this myth forward, during a time when witches were coming into fruition in America. Sharing a sisterhood with witches in England, they were rumored to use black cats as an integral part of their craft.

Black cats were suddenly cast into a bad light that many black cats were sought after and killed. If a farmer believed his land had a spell cast upon it, the only way to break that spell was to shoot a black cat with a silver bullet.

Black Cats and Halloween

When non-cat owners were asked on an internet forum what they thought of when they heard the words “black cat”, they come up with these words: bad luck, witches familiar, evil, demonic, mean, spooky and Halloween… So you can see the superstition lives on even today.

During All Hallow’s Eve, black cats are rumored to be especially vulnerable to people who want to do them mischief. Even some cat shelters in the United States will not adopt out black cats prior to Halloween and a few weeks after. For it is during All Hallows Eve, or the most magical night of the year (to some people). Believed to be the time when an opening is created to the Otherworld, and oftentimes the black cat is considered the catalyst for that propulsion. A night of gatherings and whispered rituals.

On the night when kids are cavorting in brightly colored costumes gathering candy with their peers, it is also a night when coven rituals are performed and witches gather after the trick-er-treaters have long gone home.

Fueling this vision of the black cat being an evil symbol, is the advertising push for Halloween. Posters and cards with witches in flight, and a black cat perched on her broom, a full moon showing, and a black cat in silhouette arched back spitting into the night, or a witch stirring her cauldron with a black cat perched nearby does little to dispel this myth. All are familiar scenes we have grown up with. We bake black cat cookies, deck our kids out in witch hats with black cats on the peak, and on the cloak.

Paradigm Shift about Black Cats

On our cat forum, the members were asked what they thought of when they heard the words “black cat.” Being true cat lovers, they answered that the following words come to mind: mysterious, alluring, beautiful, playful, elegant and gorgeous.

And recently, thanks to the efforts of cat lovers everywhere, the sacrificial animals of All Hallow’s Eve turn out to be cows and goats in a farmer’s field. Not black cats that were unfortunate enough to be taken or caught. Thankfully with the onset of more people wanting to protect cats, black cats are a lot safer these days during this holiday.

Halloween is still a scary time for any cat, though. Kids in costumes going door to door can easily scare the most laid-back cat. Keeping your cat(s) indoors and shut into a room is the easiest way to prevent accidents or heartache. If you are fortunate enough to own a black cat, you are not (as you well know) unlucky at all. After all, there is nothing more sleek and graceful than a black cat crossing the room toward you to head bump your leg, and claim you as his/hers, then curl up in your lap and purr itself to sleep. You can’t get any luckier than that.

Black cat on yellow background, The Mystique Behind Black Cats

Written by Mary Anne Miller

Mary Anne Miller is a freelance writer and member of the Cat Writers’ Association. She is a web copywriter, and passionate about feral cats/kittens and bottle babies. You can read more by Mary Anne on her Feral Cat Behavior Blog.

Comments? Leave them using the comment section below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

14 comments on “The Mystique Behind Black Cats

3black1calico January 2, 2017
When searching for a cat, I came across a pet store that had just got three kittens that were found under a woodpile in the country.  No mother cat.  They were no more than 3 weeks old and were not eating from a bowl.  I only wanted one cat, but I could take just one and thought I would get them healthy and give a couple away.  It was fun to bottle feed them and in the beginning weeks I didn't get a lot of sleep.  They needed to be fed every 2 to three hours.  Needless to say we bonded and have been with me 15 years, Eddie, Lucy and Victor.  Two short hair and one long hair. They have been such a joy!  I love them dearly.   The only time they are not happy with me is Halloween.  I will not let them go out for fear of what may happen to them. 
34tanya November 3, 2016
I saved a pitch black kitten from being run over from living outside an always running across the street.ive had her for over a year an just love her to death but I love black cats their my favorite.she likes to stand up on two feet so I called her bear.shes beautiful an friendly to me but still wild around others
rasalghul October 10, 2016
I purposely looked for a black cat when I adopted Ras.  Black cats are the most beautiful and elegant in my eyes.  :)
magiksgirl May 4, 2015
I always wanted a black cat. I must admit it was because of all the Halloween advertising that I saw them more often and they piqued my curiosity. I ended up liking them because they look so cool and mysterious.   When Gato Grin had a litter, my boyfriend said he wanted a black kitten and a girl I knew also wanted one. I hoped she had a third black kitten for me. She had 2 tuxedos, a black-ish (smoke) and a gray one.   My boyfriend ended up falling in love with Grey (the gray one) and the girl moved so she couldn't take a kitten. I love them all the same. Though I must say that the smoke kitten has a stranger personality than the others: he keeps to himself, is more wary and doesn't like to get handled as much, but in the end he's just as nice and well mannered as the others.   Pets are friends whichever color they may be.
desikat April 25, 2015
i rescued a black cat on halloween night in 2001.  she was distressed, screaming and hunkering down on the pavement in a drugstore parking lot.  there was no way i would leave a black cat like that on halloween!!  she is my kc-kitty, and she still sleeps beside my head every night. bless her heart!
helsic October 30, 2014
I have a black kitten and is the most well behave cat I had ever have. He is gently, sweet and very obedient, I already feel lucky having him! I rescued him when he was 2 weeks old, I had raised him since then, he's now 4 months old. Thanks for this article!
roguethecat October 25, 2014
Oberon walked into my home last Halloween... he insisted, that is, and has been my living decoration ever since. More rumors I came across concerning black cats is that they are incredibly sweet, more lap sitters than trouble brewers, and it's all true for Oberon.
tinagirl March 2, 2014
Hi we just adopted 3 18 month old identical black triplets.... they just came home yesterday and already, even though they are hiding right now, we know we made the right choice by not letting them get seperated... I know there are supersticions out there, but thats what they are, just supersticions.... i am one lucky kitty mom!!!!! kindest regards, tinagirl.
lbailey October 26, 2013
Thanks Jasei, yes this cat, Lucy, was amazing... I would not be ready to get another cat yet, need to still process losing this beauty.. the void is just now settling in. I loved this gorgeous black cat, and her personality was outstanding. Clarence, I'm sorry for the loss of Midge, it is awful when they are taken away from you, like no closure... my cat was taken to a shelter at the very end.. I chickened out on the euthanasia appointment I had for kitty, and had her outside in the sun wondering what to do next, and when I went out to retrieve her, she was gone, it took a while to figure out what happened to her, still trying to map out her last minutes. It hurts a lot when we don't get closure, like you mentioned how you have so many scenarios in your mind... so tough, I really hope you keep investigating until you can get some clues or more solid ideas what happened. I Love Black Cats!! ...and others too!
jasei santiz October 23, 2013
@lbailey im sry to hear about your cat, my condolences i remember when i lost my Rex, i was depressed for so ling i loved that cat and i can only imagine how you feel after having him for so long  
jasei santiz October 23, 2013
@clarence64 im so sry to hear bout Midge I hope he comes back soon i lost a cat like that a looong loong time ago my first cat, before i got my black cat Rex, now with my cat Cheetos hes a completely an indoor cat, but again i hope he gets back home safe 
clarence64 October 22, 2013
I have two black cats and a tabby/white, they were all stray cats.I made many enquirys when they turned up, as i know how heartbreaking it is if they go missing. My eldest cat has now been missing for 5 days, his name is midge, black with golden eyes. He is a very timid cat,and is very choosy about humans, he likes myself and most of my female friends. He does not like male humans much but recently had got affectionate towards my husband. We moved house in March 2011 to the other end of town, midge managed to find his way out of the  temporary cat enclosure, and went back to his original territory. I went back every day and called him, and fed him,eventually i managed to catch him and bought him back, kept him in for 5 weeks, and he has stayed here until now. it is just the not knowing thinking all sorts of scenarios. I am praying for Midge to come back home . We all miss you Midge
lbailey October 14, 2013
I just lost my black cat a month ago... I felt lucky to have her from 11-15 years old. She was affable, loved people, had a personality I thought would be good for most humans... she was an amazing creature, I told her all the time. She talked so much, greeted me when I came home, went on road trips with me, I think people are so stupid to create these mass states of mind which cause harm for other creatures on the earth.
jasei santiz October 7, 2013
i had a black cat for yrs his name was Rex.. he was the most lovable, smart, caring, and playful cat i had met until i got my ginger kitty, but i never believed any of the black cat non sense i had one as a pet theyre awesome! great article 

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