Do black cats mean bad luck? That’s a question people often ask. Being my cat Georgia a total-black-cat, I thought it would make sense to write a post about black cats and some of the myths and legends associated with these beautiful misunderstood creatures.
The poor black cat, demonized for centuries, is still regarded by many as unlucky. When a black cat crosses your path, do you cross your fingers or count your blessings?
The persistence of the pesky belief that black cats are somehow bad luck has endured for centuries but depending on which area of the world, black cats portend either good or bad luck.
Are Black Cats sign of Bad Luck?
It seems that the association between bad luck and black cats dates all the way back to the middle of the fourteenth century. It’s not known exactly how and why cats became associated with the Devil in the Middle Ages, but the belief was so persistent that they were all but exterminated during the Black Death pandemic around 1348 CE. Ironically, killing off the cats only worsened the plague, which was often spread via rodents, which all those dearly departed cats could have helped kill.
The Age of Witchcraft
The hysteria of witches practicing black magic had just hit Europe and alley cats were often cared for and fed by the poor lonely old ladies later accused of witchery.
Somehow, the concept of “companion” turned into “familiar,” and the belief that witches could turn themselves into their (typically black) cat companions became a persistent one, even carrying over to America, where it was an indelible part of the Salem Witch Trials.
Because of their nocturnal nature, cats, in general, were linked with witches, the supernatural and evil. Black cats suffered even more due to their color. In Christian cultures, white is generally a symbol of goodness and black is a symbol of danger, corruption, and evil.
When those believed to be witches were burned, superstition and fear of witchcraft were so strong that their cats were burned along with them.
Do Black Cats bring Good luck?
But do black cats mean bad luck? Absolutely no, for some people, it is just the opposite!
During the heyday of Egyptian rule (around 3000 BC), all cats were notoriously honored and worshipped—killing one was considered a capital crime.
The goddess Bastet personified the playfulness, grace, affection, and cunning of a cat while still being strong powerful like larger felines. Cat worship declined in Egypt following the banning of the cult of Bast in 390 AD but cats are still kept as pets and used as pest control. Cats continue to be revered to some extent in Muslim tradition.
It seems that the influence of the Egyptians and their love for cats held over in some European cultures. Historically, sailors brought cats aboard ships to hunt mice—and, presumably, for companionship—but British sailors believed a black cat, in particular, would bring the ship good luck and ensure a safe return home.
In the 21st century, Black cats are just as iconic. We continue to associate them with magical powers, whether good or bad. In some places, they are still believed to be symbols of good luck: Here are some examples:
- Scotland; a black cat appearing on your doorstep is a sign of prosperity
- England; in the Midlands, the belief in the power of black cats is so strong that they’re still given as gifts to brides
- In Russia, all cats are viewed as lucky and have been for centuries.
- France: In the south of France, black cats are referred to as ‘matagots’ or ‘magician cats’ and according to local superstition, feeding and treating them well will bring good luck to the owner.
- Northern Europe; it is believed that taking in and caring for a black cat can ensure fair weather and safe passage during voyages on the sea
- Asia; owning a black cat is considered lucky
- Italy; if you hear a black cat sneeze, you are in for a streak of good luck
- Japan: the Japanese also honor black cats as symbols of good luck, and they are viewed as particularly important to single women, as having a black cat is believed to lure in many fine suitors
- Not only can black cats better your love life, but they can amp up your good luck and improve your finances, too.
Plenty of black cat imagery shows its whiskers during Halloween time, but while you can (and should!) spread the good word of inky felines and their more positive associations during the autumn holiday, you can also honor the animals come summer, celebrating “Black Cat Appreciation Day” every August 17th.
Regardless of these superstitions, black cats have their own large group of loyal followers, who don’t think that black cats mean bad luck, people who love to be surrounded by these adorable furry friends.
Some Famous Black Cats
Some characters have even become celebrities! These are three of the most famous black cats.
1. Sylvester, is a fictional character, a three-time Academy Award-winning. He was featured in 103 cartoons. 40, 50, or 60-Inch tall, Tuxedo Cat in the ‘Looney Tunes’. Most of his appearances have him often chasing Tweety Pie. Sylvester won 3 Academy Awards – more than any other Looney Tunes character.
2. Felix the Cat is a funny-animal character created in the silent film era who became famous in the 1920s. This black cat with his black body, white eyes, and giant grin is one of the most recognized cartoon characters in film history. Felix was the first character from animation to attain a level of popularity sufficient to draw movie audiences.
3. Oscar the bionic cat
Oscar is a black cat owned by Kate Allan and Mike Nolan who lives in Jersey and was featured in BBC’s Bionic Vet.
In October 2009, at the age of two and a half years, Oscar had both hind paws severed by a combine harvester while in a maize field near his home in Jersey. The legs were cut between the ankle and the foot. Oscar was later found by a passing cyclist who then brought him to his owners’ home.
Oscar got a lot of publicity for the groundbreaking implant surgery that gave him full use of his hind legs again after his accident. Since then he is known as Oscar, the bionic cat.
His bionic feet were developed by Gordon Blunn and his colleagues at University College London’s Centre for Biomedical Engineering, and his surgery was performed by Noel Fitzpatrick of Fitzpatrick Referrals. The treatment has since been considered for use with humans
At the moment, Oscar nearly has the mobility of any other cat. A book about Oscar’s story, Oscar the Bionic Cat was published in 2013.
What do scientists say
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health discovered that the genetic mutations that cause cats to have black coats may offer them some protection from diseases. In fact, the mutations affect the same genes that offer HIV resistance to humans.
Because cats can experience many of the same health issues as we do: cancer, HIV and Alzheimer’s, to name a few—they make perfect models for studying human diseases. By figuring out how cats have evolved to resist diseases, researchers can, potentially, learn how to prevent disease in humans as well. This is something big to think about!
The myth has persisted enough to keep black cats from being adopted as much as their buddies, some statistics show that as much as 50 percent less!
Now that you are armed with new knowledge – if you are thinking of adopting a cat – consider a black cat and rest easy knowing you’re doing your part to combat hundreds of years of nonsense superstition.
So … what do I say whenever someone asks me: Do black cats mean bad luck? I always answer that in my personal experience I know that Georgia doesn’t bring us bad luck all she brings is loyalty and love 🙂
Hope you enjoyed this post and had learned something new about black cats. Please feel free to leave your comments and if you have any question, don’t hesitate in contacting me I will be glad to help you.