31st October 2018
Did you know that black cats are less likely to be adopted than cats of any other colour?
For centuries, black cats have (unfairly!) developed a negative reputation as being ‘unlucky’, linked with ‘evil forces’, and ‘unphotogenic’. However, we’re about to put rumours to rest, debunk mysteries, and transform the story of black cats for you – with the help of Animal Wellbeing Specialist, Catrin George…
Black cats and social media
On social media, the black cat has been given the nickname ‘void’ because of their ability to ‘disappear’ when hiding in dark places.
It’s also believed that black cats are challenging to photograph (although, we strongly disagree!).
Catrin says: “Choosing a pet based on the way you think they will look in a photo or video is very damaging. We’d encourage everybody looking to rescue a pet to explore their personalities and base their choice on whether your lifestyle would be a good fit for the pet and vice versa.”
Black cats throughout history
Catrin tells us that: “Connections between cats and humans can be traced back to ancient Egypt where cats were considered divine creatures.”
Once upon a time, cats were worshipped as the chosen form of the gods; they were even spoiled by priestesses!
Then, in Ancient Rome, cats became associated with the goddess Diana (who was later called the Queen of the Witches) and were celebrated as a figure of fertility.
When Rome became Christian – and anything to do with previous Pagan ways had to be forgotten – the black cat was considered an omen of bad luck instead of a symbol of life.
Catrin adds: “Cats also made an appearance in Greek mythology, where a goddess had a cat as both a pet and a familiar.”
Cats as familiars
Catrin explains: “Familiars are believed to be supernatural animals who would assist witches in their practice of magic and help to protect their witch from harm.”
Considering the black cat’s history with goddesses (especially Diana, Queen of the Witches), it’s no surprise that witches and black cats get on so well!
Cat Sìth (pronounced “caught shee”)
In Celtic mythology, the Cat Sìth (or ‘Caite Sidhe’ in Ireland) is a large black cat with a white spot on its chest.
Some believed the creature was a witch, and they were able to transform voluntarily into the cat form nine times. When the witch decided to transform for the ninth time, she would have to remain a cat for the rest of her life.
On Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), some believed the Cat Sìth would bless the houses of those who left milk out for them, and would curse those who didn’t.
Did you know? Samhain merged with All Saints’ Day to create modern-day Halloween!
Things only get worse for black cats, unfortunately! As Catrin explains: “Many people still associate black cats with folklore and witchcraft in particular.”
Even everyday cat behaviours, like catching mice and rats, led to them being compared to the devil and the ways he’d catch souls. That comparison led to people believing the devil could transform himself into a black cat.
Due to another belief that black cats had close links with witches, our dark-coated feline friends were sadly mistreated throughout Medieval Europe, too. In fact, black cats suffered across Europe at this time, with all sorts of painfully horrid games, traditions, and witch hunts involving felines.
Lucky or unlucky?
Despite everything black cats have endured, they’re still suffering the negative impacts of superstition.
But why do people think black cats are unlucky?
Catrin states: “There’s no evidence to support the idea that a black cat crossing your path leads to any sort of bad luck. Similarly, there’s nothing that shows that black cats have any connection to bad luck at all.”
So, if you’re superstitious, you’ll want to read on – here are some reasons you might consider a black cat to be good luck:
Midlands, black cats, and marriages
There’s a belief, still held in some counties of England, that a black cat as a wedding gift will bring good luck to the bride! (We don’t think people should give kitties as gifts but it’s nice to know they’re seen as a good omen, for a change.)
It’s also believed that if an unmarried woman kept a black cat as a pet, she would never be short of men to choose from!
In Chinese and Japanese culture, this beckoning cat is a symbol of good luck – its colours and accessories have different meanings.
A black Maneki Neko is said to ward off evil spirits, for example.
Scotland and doorsteps
It’s said in Scotland that if a black cat appears on your doorstep, it’s a sign of prosperity! No one’s going to complain about that.
Catrin’s closing message to you: “Whether you’re looking for your own familiar, a god to worship, or just a humble pet, black cats are wonderful companions. With so many cats waiting for forever homes in rescue centres across the UK, don’t let old stories and superstitions put you off welcoming a midnight moggie into your heart. After all, aren’t we already lucky enough to share our lives with these mysterious creatures?”
Although they deserve to be appreciated every day, we’d love to know how you’re celebrating the beautiful black cats in your life – whether it’s National Black Cat Day (27th October) or not! Please share the positive stories of your magnificent midnight moggies with us via Facebook and Instagram.