What is a black cat? It is a feline with black fur and can either be a specific or a mixed breed. A cat known for the sleek black fur is the Bombay and their high melanin pigment results in cats having yellow or golden eyes.
Are black cats bad luck? Depending on specific cultures black cats are considered either good or bad luck. Japan, Great Britain, Scotland, and Ireland symbolizes the black cat as good luck. So if a strange black cat arrives at a home it signifies prosperity. A fairy known at Cat Sith in Celtic mythology does take the form of a black cat and yet the people of the Scottish Highlands did not trust the Cat Sìth because it was believed that it could steal a person’s soul before it was claimed by the Gods by passing over a corpse before burial. It is also believed that a woman owning a black cat will have many suitors.
The Western and Southern European cultures looks upon black cats as symbols of evil omens and familiars with witches. We have all heard the story if a black cat crosses your path you now have misfortune, death, or bad luck. In Germany when a black cat crosses a person’s path going from left to right it is a good luck while right to left, it is a bad omen.
Most casino players believe that black cat crossing their path as they go to gamble will bring them bad luck and they should not go into the casino to gamble.
Some cultures believe that the black cat is able to change from human to cat acting as a spy or courier for witches or demons. When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth rock they also brought with them their devout faith in the Bible, which deepened the suspicion that the black cat was of the devil because they viewed the black cat as a companion or familiar to witches. So anyone caught with a black cat was punished or killed because they were thought to be practicing sorcery and teamed up with the devil.
This superstition had led to the death of many black cats, even during the Middle Ages. Unfortunately this superstition in Europe had unintended consequence because the killing of the cats allowed for the rat population to grow which then spread the Black Death known as bubonic plague and various other diseases carried by rodents.
Fishermen and their families viewed black cats positively and sailor’s considered them to be the ship’s cat because it brought them good luck. Wives of fishermen kept black cats at home in hopes that it would influence the protection of their husbands while at sea.
The Egyptian Goddess Bastet favored the black cats, she was known as the cat goddess and Egyptian households believed that if they hosted black cats in their homes, they would gain the favor of Bastet. This view was held until the early 17th Century even by the monarch Charles 1 and upon the death of his treasured black cat, it is said that his good luck rain out and the next day he had been arrested and charged with high treason.
Even Pirates had their superstition in the 19th Century. It was bad luck if the black cat walked towards a person and good luck if the cat walked away. As well if a black cat walked on a ship and then walked off, the ship was doomed to sink.
Black cats and black animals in general are less likely to be adopted from shelters because of these superstitions. Even some shelters suspend the adoptions of black animals during Halloween to protect them from being tortured, killed, and from being used as “living decorations” and then abandoned afterwards.
To help ward off the superstitions of the black cat August 17 has become Black Cat Appreciation Day.
Is a black cat good or bad luck? Is it just cat? It all depends on ones cultural believes, myself a black cat is a black cat. Have a safe and happy Halloween and keep all your pets in and secured during the festivals.
Joyce Rheal is Emergency Planning Committee chairwoman of the National Association Professional Pet Sitters and with Pets-life. Joyce is also a federally certified for FEMA’s “Animals in Disasters” program, and a certified pet care consultant based in Southern Illinois.