Feared Or Revered? The Complicated History of Black Cats
Cat fanciers recognize the lustrous beauty and implicit intelligence of silky black-coated felines. Without a doubt, their handsomeness precedes them. But they haven’t always been perceived as the elegant creatures many people admire today. The fear, judgement and persecution of black cats lasted for a long time and in some ways persists to this day.
Halloween is perhaps the biggest and most frightening day for black cats, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
As far back as a couple thousand years or so, black cats were thought to be evil spirits, embodied in feline form. Their sleek, stealthy nature didn’t help their defense, and they were ritually sacrificed during Druid festivals.
In the middle ages, popular opinion was that witches disguised themselves as black cats, thus establishing and reinforcing the association between cats and witches.
Over time and throughout cultures, black cats were seen as bad luck, or harbingers of death. It was not uncommon for mass killings of black cats in Europe, as away to guard against bad omens.
The Halloween Connection
If there was an iconic symbol for the spookiest day of the year, you might think ghost, zombie or vampire. But black cats and witches rank pretty high on the list, too.
There isn’t a single explanation for this, but the Puritan settlements in early America had very strong superstitions. Witchcraft, of course, stood in direct opposition to their faith and was quickly and fully shunned in the Salem Witch Trials.
People thought black cats assisted witches with their dark deeds, or that witches transformed directly into black cats. Either way, they couldn’t be trusted, and were often burned at the stake along with the supposed witches.
Have You Heard?
Even though black cats are accepted and welcomed today, the following myths or superstitions persist:
- Black cats bring bad luck when they cross your path
- An individual will be cursed if they turn their back on a black cat
- A black cat that shares a bed with a person will bring death
Fortunately, many countries celebrate black cats. Ancient Egyptians saw them as divine gods. Throughout Asia and the United Kingdom, they are thought to bring good luck. The Japanese see them as symbols of posterity.
Protecting Black Cats
Black cats make wonderful pets and deserve extra protection around Halloween. As a result, many shelters will not facilitate adoptions of black cats in the weeks before Halloween. Owners of all cats should be wary of allowing then out at night before and after trick-or-treating. Instead, keep them safe and secure in a room away from the door, and reward them with treats, play time or extra cuddles.
For more, check out or blog on Halloween pet safety.
Raising awareness is the best way to change people’s minds about black cats. They are known to be among the sweetest, most affectionate pets out there. If you’re interested in opening your home to a black cat, or have further questions about these special animals, please let us know.