Black cats are misunderstood. Most of us are familiar with the superstition—if a black cat crosses your path, you’re destined to have bad luck. Black cats are often depicted as companions to witches and other evil-doers, especially around Halloween. But as it turns out, black cats are actually seen as bringers of good luck and prosperity in some cultures. How black cats got such a bad reputation is rooted in history and fueled by tradition. We’re here to set the record straight and (hopefully) change the way you think about black cat breeds.
Superstitions About Black Cats
Maybe it’s their glowing green or yellow eyes against their black fur that made black cats the perfect Halloween icon. Sure it’s fun to decorate our homes with black cat imagery for Halloween, but did you ever think about where that tradition came from? This ideology dates back to the Dark Ages—a time when black domesticated cats were a common pet of older women living alone. These women were often accused of witchcraft and were victims of vicious witch hunts. Their black cats were seen as evil accomplices. In Celtic folklore, it’s said that creatures of the spirit world could take the form of black cats. Other tales link black cats to death and disease. In Europe, people believed that if a black cat crossed your path in the moonlight, you would succumb to the plague. Throughout history, these myths were perpetuated in books, TV, and movies, and continue to be a part of pop culture today.
Surprises About Black Cats
Not everyone sees black cats in a negative light. Some people still believe in these folktales, but here are a few different points of view. And some of the things you’re about to learn might surprise you.
Believe it or not, it’s good luck if you encounter a black cat: You’ve probably seen the popular Asian “Fortune Cats”—a smiling cat figurine with a raised paw. Thought to bring good fortune, they’re usually white or gold, but a black Fortune or Lucky Cat is said to also ward off demons and evil energy. If a black cat crosses your path in Japan, it’s seen as a good omen. Throughout most of Asia, black cats are generally seen to foster good luck.
Here are a few ways black cats have been said to bring luck:
- They bless marriages: According to English superstition, giving a bride a black kitty on her wedding day will bring her good luck in her marriage.
- They protect you and your home: If you keep black cats happy and safe, they will return the favor.
- They bring sailors home: A black cat in the home was said to bring seafarers back safely.
Not all black cats are completely black — Many cat moms and dads have been surprised when they look at their black cats in bright sunlight—sometimes the pigment in their fur can include shades of brown, rust, or even a faint tabby pattern. Bombay cats are the only kitties that truly solid black coats.
Black cats are adopted at a higher rate than other cats — Though they make up a majority of shelter populations, the numbers are more related to genetic mutations rather than pet parent preferences. The gene responsible for black fur is dominant so that just means that there are more black cats. Black kitties are adopted at a higher rate than other cats—31 percent, according to the ASPCA’s Comprehensive Animal Risk Database. The next popular colors are gray (20 percent) and brown (18 percent). Some animal shelters see Halloween as an opportunity to raise awareness about black cats available for adoption.
Black cats fight diseases better than other cats — Though there is some evidence to suggest that black cats may be genetically more resistant to some diseases, this is not a widely held belief. Some researchers believe that the gene responsible for the fur to be black might also help them fight off disease. Don’t leave it to chance though—if you have any questions about your cat’s genetic predispositions, contact a vet.
So, are black cats actually good luck? Who’s to say for sure? If your cat makes you happy, calms you down, and keeps you warm, then they’re good luck for you. Enjoy your Halloween decor, but don’t pay too much attention to superstitions. If a black cat crosses your path, he or she probably just has somewhere they need to be.