Superstition, prejudice, bringer of good or bad luck?

We’ve recently had a streak of black cats finding us at the New Hope shelter. In my time at New Hope, I’ve come to find black cats are the friendliest and truly seem to love people. I found this little write up in good ol’ Wikipedia and I thought it was interesting how everyone in the world looks at black cats so differently. Have a read below if you like. If you think you’d like to meet some our black cats and find out for yourself.  Finnigan, Gustaf, and Dusty would love to meet you.

The folklore surrounding black cats varies from culture to culture. The Scots believe that a strange black cat’s arrival to the home signifies prosperity. In Celtic Mythology, a fairy known as the Cat Sith takes the form of a black cat. Black cats are also considered good luck in Japan. Furthermore, it is believed that a lady who owns a black cat will have many suitors. However, in Western history, black cats have often been looked upon as a symbol of evil omen, specifically being suspected of being the familiars of witches, and so most of Europe considers the black cat a symbol of bad luck, especially if one crosses paths with a person, which is believed to be an omen of misfortune and death. In Germany, some believe that black cats crossing a person’s path from right to left, is a bad omen. But from left to right, the cat is granting favorable times.

The black cat in folklore has been able to change into human shape to act as a spy or courier for witches or demons. When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, they brought with them a devout faith in the Bible. They also brought a deepening suspicion of anything deemed of Satan and were a deeply suspicious group. They viewed the black cat as a companion, or a familiar to witches. Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even killed. They viewed the black cat as part demon and part sorcery. During the Middle Ages, these superstitions led people to kill black cats. There is no evidence from England of regular large-scale massacres of “satanic” cats, or of burning them in midsummer bonfires, as sometimes occurred elsewhere in Europe.

However, the supernatural powers ascribed to black cats were sometimes viewed positively, for example sailors considering a “ships cat” would want a black one because it would bring good luck. Sometimes, fishermen’s wives would keep black cats at home too, in the hope that they would be able to use their influence to protect their husbands at sea. The view of black cats being favorable creatures is attributed specifically to the Egyptian goddess Bast (or Bastet), the cat goddess. Egyptian households believed they could gain favor from Bastet by hosting black cats in their household. This view was held in the early 17th century by the English monarch Charles I. Upon the death of his treasured pet black cat, he is said to have lamented that his luck was gone. True to his claim, he was arrested the very next day and charged with high treason.

Pirates of the 18th century believed that a black cat would bring different kinds of luck. If a black cat walks towards someone, that person will have bad luck. If a black cat walks away from someone then that person will have good luck. If a black cat walks onto a ship and then walks off it, the ship is doomed to sink on its next trip. Black cats have been found to have lower odds of adoption in American shelters compared to other colors except brown, although black animals in general take more time to find homes. Some shelters also suspend or limit adoptions of black cats around Halloween for fear they will be tortured, or used as “living decorations” for the holiday and then abandoned. However, in the history of humane work, no one has ever documented any relationship between adopting black cats, and cats being killed or injured. When such killings are reported, forensic evidence has pointed to natural predators, such as coyotes, eagles, or raptors as the likely cause. August 17 is “Black Cat Appreciation Day”.