Why Black Cats Sometimes Get a Bad Rap
Ever altered your course so that a black cat will not cross your path? If you have, you're in a minority. In many world cultures, the black cat is revered as a good omen or good luck charm, not a portent of evil.
Black Cats: A Brief History
This dates back at least as far as Ancient Egypt when the goddess Bast reigned in the 22nd dynasty. To court her favor, many Egyptians brought black cats into their households in the belief that Bast's spirit would become intertwined with the soul of the cat and prosperity would follow. Both rich and poor Egyptian families embalmed their deceased pets. Archaeologists have discovered entire pet cemeteries with mummified black cats.
In the 17th century, Charles I of England fiercely loved his precious black cat, going so far as to keep it under 24-hour guard. Eventually, the cat died. Charles I was heard to proclaim, "Alas my luck is gone!" The next day, he was arrested and charged with high treason and ultimately was executed.
In Scotland, a strange black cat on a porch is considered to bring prosperity. In Italy, a sneezing cat is good luck. In parts of Europe, if a black cat crosses your path, you are considered to have good fortune, and if a black cat walks into your home, you are truly blessed.
So when did black cats become a symbol of evil and misfortune?
A Change in Perception of Black Cats
As early as the 10th century in Wales, there were laws against the killing of cats. Welsh Ruler Hywel Dda recognized the value of cats, and even decreed that stealing them was a crime. But in 1232, Pope Gregory IX suggested that cats were diabolical associates of the devil. Religious zealots then killed cats, often by burning them alive. Black cats were especially hard hit, being associates of the devil in the minds of many.
Later, in the New World, puritans believed that black cats were in cahoots with witches. Those caught with black cats faced severe punishment, even death.
Pirates of the 19th century believed that if a black cat walked toward you, you would have bad luck. If a black cat walked onto your ship and then walked off it the ship was doomed to sink on your next trip.
In A Hungry Hoodoo (1920), an early animated cartoon, Felix the Cat experiences bad luck on Friday the 13th and believes he has himself jinxed by his coat color.
And in 1969, a black cat burst out onto the field during a critical baseball game between the Cubs and the New York Mets, ruining the Cubs playoff chances. The cat made a beeline for the Cubs' dugout where it seemed to stare down all of the players. The Cubs not only lost that game, but much of the rest of the season.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly why black cats figure so prominently in supernatural lore, but it's safe to assume that after many centuries of being depicted as evil incarnate, the black cat superstition is not going away anytime soon.
Related Advice from Other Cat Owners
Very Loving Cats
The big black males I have known - both mine and my friend's - have been very affectionate and loving. When my daughters were teenagers and would cry when the latest boy broke their hearts, Fat Jack would sit on their laps, put his paws around their necks, head butt, purr and lick their tears away. The females seem to be more reserved with those outside the family but sweet with those they know. The boys seem more laid back.
~Sue M., owner of a black moggy. Madam Spikkeldy
Black Cats Rock!
Black cats do nothing wrong in my book. My black cat is the most loving of cats and anyone who meets him will agree. What bad luck, my cat is actually good luck!
~Molly E., owner of a black cat
My Pride and Joy
I have a big, beautiful, fuzzy black cat named "Fuzzette." She is a Himalayan mix. Her nickname is "Pickles." She is a very sweet cat but she does like to "rule" the house. She is soon to turn four years old in May but still is as playful as she was at nine weeks old. Fuzzette is my pride and joy and I enjoy her company. Please do not give black cats a "bad rap"!
~Doreen P., owner of a black Himalayan Mix
Black Cats are Good Luck, People are the Ones with the Problem
We've had several black cats over the years, since I was little.
We currently would have 3 black cats, but only have 2 because one of them, named Neptune, who was the sweetest cat, went missing on Halloween in 2005. It both worries and infuriates me. He was an indoor/outdoor cat who was very friendly, and had not one, but TWO collars on that day. He had a flea collar and regular collar on....no tags because we just replaced the collar he had with tags the prior week that he either lost or someone took off of him. He was either hurt or he was stolen. Even 5 years later, I can't make it clear enough that I still miss him so much. I just wish he had been an indoor-only cat but I was in middle school then and it wasn't my choice.
Black cats have never caused me any bad luck. The only bad luck that's ever come from having a black cat, is that someone took him from us, and there's never been any closure on what happened to him. He wouldn't hurt a fly....he couldn't even hunt like a proper cat, but he was so sweet. I'd give almost anything to have our cat back.
~Katherine L., owner of domestic shorthairs
Adult Black Cats Have a Tough Time Finding a Home
In 2007 I lost my cat, Mouse, who was over 16. Several months later, I adopted a cat to give a companion to my other cat. I ended up adopting a one-year-old black cat.
I had not intended to adopt a full grown cat or a black one, but the lady at the shelter told me how hard it was to find homes for grown cats, especially black ones! This one small black cat kept reaching for me from the cage. So I took her home.
Her name is Peppergirl, and she is the sweetest cat! My older cat, Doodle, age 20, died in October, so now Pepper rules the house. She gets along well with my youngest kitten. She is entirely devoted to me and is in my lap now and every occasion she gets! Rubbish about black cats being bad luck - the bad luck comes from those who perpetuate such nonsense. I am grateful I could save the life of this little black kitty and she shows me her appreciation every day!
~Susan D., owner of two domestic shorthairs
The Bond Between Me and My Black Cat
My black cat, Willow, is the most affectionate, fearless, cuddly cat I have. I have two other cats, both are black and white. I have such a great bond with all of my cats; I actually bottle-fed Oreo, and Jack is my older cat that I adopted at about age 7. But my bond with Willow is different. If I wink my eyes slowly at him, he will come running across the room and jump on my lap. I don't have to say a word. I prefer black cats.
~Danielle, owner of a short-haired black cat
My Black Cats
I was momma to one who's sadly passed away and another kitten who's now about a year old and in between them I had the worst luck imaginable. In fact my eldest, her name was Pantera, I believe was instrumental in me getting a new job! I'd been looking for three months at the time I got her and got hired at the new job within a few days of getting her. It was the same way with the kitten. (There was about 2 years between them). Both of them were the most loving, cuddly and human-interested cats I've ever had.
~Alison H., owner of 7 cats and 2 dogs
Black Cat Stupid-stition!
As you can see from my caption, you know what I think about thinking black cats are bad luck! Utter nonsense!
My girl Casey is a longhaired black cat and is the most loving, beautiful cat I've ever had. I adopted her 7 years ago as a tiny ball of fur. She and her stepsister Callie were being given away at a supermarket and I just couldn't resist. From the moment I brought her home she has been my loving baby girl.
I almost lost her when she developed a blockage from clumping litter -- apparently she was getting it stuck to her fur, unbeknownst to me, ingesting it and nearly died. $2300 later, I will never use clumping litter again! I use corn litter now, as well as pine, which some of my cats like.
I got into rescue work a couple of years ago and currently have two gorgeous all black cats up for adoption. Unfortunately, they have been in the Valley Stream L.I. Petco since December because people don't want black cats. They are beautiful and sweet but keep getting overlooked. If I could take them myself I would, but I'll get evicted if I take in one more cat. :-(
In rescue, we don't adopt out black cats around Halloween because unfortunately there are too many evil people out there who would adopt them just to harm them. I was so afraid for the two we have now, as I was unable to take them in until after Halloween and one of them disappeared for a couple of days. He was superfriendly and I thought for sure someone harmed him. I was relieved when he finally showed up. I wish more people saw the utter beauty in black cats.
~Norma S, owner of black domestic longhairs
You Make Your Own Luck
I've known a few black cats -- specifically a stray female who was extraordinarily vicious. She would hiss and yowl at us while we brought food to her (which she would immediately scarf down). She was the (literally) spitting image of a stereotypical Halloween cat. She returned nearly every day, same hissing and yowling. And then she brought her kittens, one of which was jet black just like her.
In a maneuver that still brings me a twinge of guilt, I kidnapped her kittens to tame them and ensure they would not share the same fate as their mother.
I still have the black kitten, though no longer a kitten, and he is the light of my life. He is adoring and affectionate and has brought me joy and luck that like no other. And when we fostered another litter of kittens, he helped care for them as if they were his own. It still boggles my mind that he is descended from the feral beast that once lurked on my porch.
I guess my point is, black cats do bring great fortune, but you get out what you put in. Just like any cat, they have to know love and happiness in order to give it.
Most black-cat owners know about it already, but if you haven't heard of Black Cat Syndrome, you might do a quick search for it. It's a very sad thing, as it robs both owner and cat of their opportunity to make a special bond. If you're thinking of adopting, do consider making an extra effort to look for black cats, because for some reason they are looked over far too often.
~Jenn C, owner of a Domestic Shorthair
Born Under a Bad Sign
I have two black cats, born about a year apart. Both are so sweet and amazingly loving.
If black cats are bad luck, my youngest one must be horrible luck -- as he is not only black but was born on Friday the 13th! I couldn't be happier with them. I will own black cats for life!
~Jamie L, owner of a Domestic Shorthair
My Black Cat Saved My Life
I have a very special bond with my black cat, Zeus. I recently started having seizures -- and he knows how to detect them. He is just a year old, but started following me everywhere as soon as I brought him home. He knew from the beginning something was wrong. He's my very lucky cat. There have been many times I could have gotten hurt, had he not warned me in the first place.
~Liz J., owner of an American Shorthair
Don't Believe the Superstitious Stuff
As someone who has had many black cats, I am amazed that in this modern age, superstitious people still believe the drivel that owning a black cat is bad luck. I have a four-year-old black male cat named Boo. The only bad luck he brings is to some of the other male cats in my neighborhood, not to mention that he keeps mice and rats away from our apartment complex! He is the most affectionate and playful cat I have ever owned.
I will never stop loving black cats. It's too bad that the people in Europe during the Great Plague could not put aside their superstitous beliefs. Maybe it would not have happened if the cats had been there to take care of the black rats that ran rampant.
~Nila A., owner of a Domestic Shorthair
I have a four-year-old black longhair I rescued from a pet store where he was ignored and tiny. Merlin was not quite a pound at four weeks. His fur was falling out and he had arthritis in one of his knee joints. The vet said we could save him if I followed his instructions completely.
Merlin was fed cooked chicken and rice with cat's milk blended to a paste. Today he is a very healthy 15-pound boy who amazes me every day. He has a fuzzy ball that he jumps up to get like a basketball player. Merlin's most amazing trick is catching his treats in his mouth! If he misses one, he ignores it. I have three other cats to get the missed treats.
~Irene C., owner of an American Longhair
No Black Cat Superstitions Here!
I am the "queen" of three beautiful black cats and a black and white cat. The original two are brother and sister, MaMa and Chubbs, who are Siamese/Bombay mix. MaMa has more Bombay in her with a short face and awesome large, round green/gold eyes. She loves, loves, loves to talk. She will strike up a conversation out of nowhere, and if you decide to talk with her she will continue -- otherwise she'll talk to the air or whoever's around to listen!
MaMa has created her own bad luck, though:( She had a rough start with severe constipation the first week we had them (they were maybe 6 months old), and the poor darling hid under the recliner the whole time. After about a year, my boyfriend and I were repainting the kitchen. She decided to climb into a cupboard without a door and make her way up into the tool drawer. When he found her in the drawer (by accident) he tried to pull her out. She finally jumped out by herself and had gashed her tail on a saw blade. He had to wrap her tail with gauze and medical tape. It finally healed and now there is a line of white hairs where the cut was.
About six months before that, she got spooked and went facefirst into a wheel on our bedframe and ripped her bottom lip halfway off. A night at the vet, $500 surgery, stitches, antibiotics, an e-collar, lots of soft cat food, no toys or playmates, tons of love, and three weeks later she was good as new. Besides talking, she loves to eat, play with her catnip-filled felt Christmas penguin, chew on plastic bags, and lay on your thighs with her paws draped off the side!
Chubbs is more Siamese. He's very stealthy and long and slinky (Bombays are nicknamed "parlor panthers"). He loves his lovins and will not take no for an answer. He will jump in your lap, motor (purring) going, head-butt, and rub your face with his. He loves to play fetch with milk rings and to chew on grocery bags. He doesn't talk much, only when he wants you to play with him.
Our newest additions are also siblings. Jack is white underneath, including legs, jaw, cheeks, and chin up to the bottom of his top lip, and black on top from between his back legs (with the exception of his pee-pee being a white spot, ya can't help but notice!) all the way to his nose with his mask coming to a point just under his top lip. He loves to charm you, taunt you and push your buttons, make biscuits every chance he gets, and knows how to use his cuteness when he's in trouble by flopping down on his side, rolling on his back and cooing whether he can see you touch him or not.
Boof is, in so many words, a little black lion/bear/duster! He's beautiful, loves attention, and everybody loves him; he's so ... POOFY, FUZZY, FLUFFY! His gold eyes are always alert watching for any bug that dares enter his territory; he patrols the picture window mostly, but attacks and sucks up any bug that crosses his path. He brushes his tail against everything he walks past, his tail looks like a long, whispy duster. He doesn't really talk. His meows are very quiet with a high, girly pitch.
They are extremely intelligent cats, with sounds, meows, and personalities all their own. They are spoiled rotten, sometimes bad, and occasionally make you want to pull your hair out -- and we don't know what we would do without them!
~Michelle C., owner of an American Shorthair
Superficial or Superstition?
I don't think people are actually so superstitious today as to actually believe that black cats are bad luck; I think they are shallow and superficial. They only want the pets they perceive as being beautiful. Calicos, light colored cats, pretty tabby patterns, etc. To most people a black cat (or dog) is just plain boring.
I used to do rescue/adoption, and the hardest ones to adopt were the black ones simply because of people's tastes. They are missing out!
Black cats usually have very outgoing and friendly personalities. I have had two and they really do seem different. I think there is a relation to the other color patterns as well, and this is definitely the case in dogs. This bad luck thing started with religion and ignorance but I really don't think that is the case anymore. Just shallow people.
~Dawn S., owner of four all-American Alley Cats and one Siamese
Lucky Little Girl Saved My Life
My Echo was born to a semi-feral momma cat who had "chosen" a friend of my mother's. She dropped a litter of jet-black-Siamese cross kittens after the family's house burnt down. At about 2 weeks of age, the family was forced to separate the kittens from their mother after she moved them into the construction site. Since I'd fostered animals before, I was brought the smallest, weakest kitten. An adorable little female I named Echo ... in honor of my previous pets.
Since then, my little black cat has been nothing except the best cat I have ever owned.
When I was 24, I had to go for neck surgery. I'm also a "brittle" type 1 diabetic. Dosed up on pain meds, I went to sleep and never felt my blood sugar plummet. Echo, my dog, and my other cat did. They woke me up; woke the whole house up to get me some help. Echo never left my side the entire time I was recovering. My pain meds gave me awful vertigo; the only way I could sleep was when my furry girls pinned me down.
If anything, my black cat is nothing but joy and good fortune.
If you are scared of adopting a black animal because they turn into shadows/blobs in family photos ... do a Google search. I've always been able to get great photos of my black dog and black cat. It just takes practice.
~Sally A., owner of Echo / Black Siamese Cross