A Study in Black Cats
The Facts, Myths, and Lore about these Magical Felines
Even in this day and age, cats are one of the most revered creatures on this earth. Whether we think of the lion — king of the jungle — or our favorite internet cats, like Grumpy Cat or Pusheen, it’s clear that people love, respect, and find joy in our feline friends. Even for those who aren’t total cat lovers, you can’t deny that there’s something wonderous about these animals. From their mesmerizing eyes, to their majestic stance, to their seemingly supernatural aura, it’s no wonder Ancient Egyptians believed cats “held a bit of divine energy within them.”
As a fervent feline aficionado (in other words… a crazy cat lady), I always love being graced by a cat’s presence when I go for a walk. This past month, as I roamed around the neighborhood, I was pleasantly surprised to see a black cat sitting outside someone’s door. Naturally, at the sight, I was reminded of the famous superstition about black cats — that it’s bad luck to have one cross your path. While I don’t abide by such a belief (since I find crossing any cat’s path to be a lucky event), I decided to do a little research on these dark-furred felines.
Surprisingly, not all folklore on black cats is bad. As this article from The Spruce Pets explains, certain parts of the world consider black cats to be lucky, specifically in Europe and Asia. In Japan, it’s believed single women who own black cats are more likely to attract suitors. Sticking with the theme of love, certain places in England believe it is good luck to receive a black cat as a present on your wedding day. In Scotland, a cat on your doorstep (like the one I saw) is thought to bring prosperity. Pirates too had a few superstitious codes on these kitties: a black cat walking towards you is good luck, while one walking away from you is bad luck. Additionally, sailors and fisherman often brought black cats along with them on their journeys, believing these creatures would instill protection, safety, and luck in their endeavors.
Some tails… excuse me… tales, however, claim that black cats are actually witches in disguise. Throughout the 13th to 17th century, the association was made between witchcraft, magic, and black cats, and thus unfortunately caused many of these animals to be harmed or killed. Sadly, the discrimination that stemmed from such lore has translated overtime into an irrational fear of all black cats, which still persists today. Subsequently, many black cats have a harder time getting adopted from shelters, and there has been some evidence that shows a negative bias towards adopting other darker pets, like black dogs. With this said, there are a lot of conflicting studies and data on whether black cats are statistically adopted less often than cats of other colors. The Spruce Pets smartly comments on why there are mismatching findings:
Luckily, recent data shows that it’s a myth that black cats are adopted less frequently than cats of other colors, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). However, shelter workers may notice a bias against black felines thanks to lingering perceptions.
Additionally, since the most common fur color gene to appear in cats is for black fur, the amount of black kitties in shelters may often be higher than most, and if a study doesn’t weigh ratios of black cats to non-black cats in the general population, adoption rates might be skewed.
Regardless, black cats are no less deserving of finding a happy, loving home. That’s why shelters such as Black Cat Holistic Rescue have been created. These places exclusively take in black cats and kittens, often saving them from being euthanized in other shelters, and foster these felines until they are adopted.
Organizations like these also strive to bring awareness to the myths and facts about black cats, which is why I implore everyone to be mindful about these creatures, especially during the Halloween season, and to show them the same affection you would to your own pet. Remember the power we’ve attributed to cats throughout history — next time, try to cherish the magic that comes with a black cat crossing your path.
Julia Collucci writes big thoughts about the things she sees on her walks in both local neighborhoods and far-away places. Follow her Medium account Little Walks, Big Thoughts to read more of her articles.