Are Black Cats Bad Luck? History, Superstition and Reality

Are Black Cats Bad LuckIn Western culture, black cats can be symbols of evil omen, so we ask: are black cats bad luck? Some people hold the superstition that if they see a black cat crossing their path, it means misfortune.

But when and why did this belief begin?

Are Black Cats Bad Luck? A Short History Lesson.

It’s interesting to note that black cats weren’t always the victim of silly superstition. In fact, over 5,000 years ago, Romans considered the cat sacred and their affection continues to this day. Also, the ancient Egyptians worshipped cats (see their goddess Bastet) and to kill one carried the death penalty. So by now perhaps you are wondering: when and how did luck change for our furry feline friends?

Historians have traced the “bad luck” superstitions about black cats to the 17th century and Salem Witch Trials. Back then, black cat companions to old lonely women became agents of witchcraft. Why? For the old reason of “guilt by association.” Because the accused “witches” cared for them, black cats suffered a similar indictment.

This belief became widespread when folklore about a father and son traveling on a moonless night in Lincolnshire in the 1560’s came upon a black cat and started throwing rocks at it until the injured feline ran into the house of a woman, who was suspected of being a witch. The next day, the pair came across the woman and noticed she was limping and bruised and decided the most logical explanation (more than a little sarcasm here) was that witches could turn into black cats at night.

This association is just a superstition but even today you can see that it still holds true for different cultures which is why you find associations of witches and black cats as a trademark symbol of Halloween.

The Myth Creates an Unfortunate Reality

Sometimes people don’t know why they have a gut reaction to something. They may not know that something like a silly superstition is sometimes inadvertently buried under the conscious mind. And sadly, the truth is that black cats have trouble getting adopted. While we can’t directly attribute this statistic to this old long-standing “bad luck” superstition, it may somehow come into play.

A UC Berkeley study concluded that people tend to regard orange and bi-color cats as more friendly (translation: more adoptable), while black cats are not as strongly associated with specific personality characteristics. Unfortunately, this may be one of the reasons they are not adopted as often as their differently-colored brethren. We think cat coordinator Cathy Marden of the Berekley East Bay Humane Society says it best:

You can’t judge a cat by its color. If someone comes in to adopt, we encourage them to spend time with all the cats, because it’s the personality of that cat – not the color – that will let you know if the animal’s the right fit for you.

So are black cats bad luck or not? The lowdown…

Superstitions are just subjective beliefs. The truth is that you get to decide. If you are not ready to care for a pet companion and you adopt a black cat, this could be an unfortunate situation for both of you. However, if you are interested in adopting a black kitty, be prepared for an incredibly rewarding relationship. One in which each of you become the other’s good luck charm. 😉


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