No feline is more maligned than the black cat. The black cat, along with pumpkins, bats and witches, and spiders … yes and spiders … has become a staple of Halloween imagery and with it, Black Cat Superstition.
While black cats are typically associated with Halloween, witchcraft and bad luck, and the #1 Halloween costume choice for both children and women in their freshman year of college, oddly enough, there’s much more to these dark-colored fur balls that you probably didn’t know.
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Meet Binx. Binx is our resident black kitty in the Animal Facts household. Binx showed up at our doorstep two years ago and well. We can say without a doubt that the only spells he’s ever cast were … [meow] What’s that? Oh right… get on with the list, it’s almost dinner time. OK.
10. Beginning in the Middle Ages, black cats became associated with witches and witchcraft and, of course, the Devil. Some people went so far as to believe black cats were cohorts to witches or even witches who had taken animal form.
This widespread superstition resulted in the horrific mass executions of black cats—and sometimes even their wrongfully labeled owners.
The elderly, solitary women who often fed and cared for stray cats, were also often misidentified as witches and the cats as their evil conspirators.
9. Maybe these “witches” were onto something.
Forget the stereotypical depiction of the perpetually single crazy cat lady. In some parts of the world, people believed that black cats can actually improve your love life. That is as long as you remember to hit your outfit with the lint roller before going out for a date. Or you could wear that little black dress.
In Japan, for example, single women who own black cats might attract more suitors. And in Great Britain’s English Midlands, a black cat is the ideal wedding gift. They’re believed to bring good luck and happiness to the bride.
If you’re in Germany and a black kitty crosses your path from right to left, good things are on the horizon.
Right to left Binx, Right to Left
8. Not only can a black cat beef up your love life, but they can amp up your good luck and improve your finances, too.
Historically, sailors brought cats aboard ships to hunt mice—and, presumably, for companionship—but British sailors in the Royal Navy believed a black cat, in particular, would bring the ship good luck and ensure a safe return home. A few of these kitties have been enshrined in maritime histories, like Tiddles, who traveled more than 30,000 miles during his time with the Royal Navy.
If you were a pirate, it became a little more complicated, though.
Pirates believed a black cat walking toward you was bad luck; a black cat walking away from you was good luck, and if a cat boarded the ship, then jumped off, the ship may head to see Davey Jones.
7. It’s common to think that black cats in shelters are the last in line to find their forever homes, but a recent survey from the ASPCA suggests otherwise.
Although euthanasia numbers for black cats were of the highest, their total number of adoptions was the highest of any hue.
But his wicked past does still haunt him.
Aside from continuing to rep all things eerie, the fear of black cats still influences people today: Many animal shelters won’t place black cats in homes during October, for fear of them being used sacrificially.
Yeah, that’s some bad Joujou.
Many also advise keeping your black cat indoors on or near the Halloween holidays.
6. The black cat is not a breed. Black Cat Superstition
The Cat Fanciers’ Association recognizes 22 different breeds that can have solid black coats—including the Norwegian Forest Cat, Japanese Bobtail, and Scottish Fold—but the Bombay breed is what most people picture: a copper-eyed, all-black shorthair.
The resemblance to a “black panther” is no coincidence. In the 1950s, Nikki Horner, enamored with how panthers looked, bred what we now refer to as the Bombay.
The Bombay’s nickname is the “parlor panther,” because he resembles the big cat.
Many black cats have golden eyes, resulting from high melanin pigment content in their bodies.
5. Put your lab coat on. Researchers at the US National Institutes of Health discovered that the genetic mutations that cause cats to have black coats might offer them some protection from diseases. In fact, the mutations affect the same genes that offer HIV resistance to humans.
Because cats can experience many of the same health issues as we do—cancer, HIV, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few—they make perfect models for studying human disease. By figuring out how cats have evolved to resist diseases, researchers can, potentially, learn how to prevent disease in humans.
And we thought the only thing cats ever did for us was to knock stuff off the furniture.
4. Black Cats can “rust.” Black Cat Superstition
Okay, so they don’t actually rust like a tin can or bike. A black cat’s color all boils down to a genetic quirk. There are three variants of the black fur gene (solid black, brown, and cinnamon), and the hue works in conjunction with the pattern. If a cat has a solid black hue and the dominant tabby stripe gene, heavy exposure to the sun can make the pigment in his fur break down to reveal his once-invisible stripes. Your once black cat is now a rusty brown cat.
3. They’re difficult to photograph—but it can be done.
The modern-day conundrum black cat owners face isn’t bad luck, but bad lighting. In a world filled with people sharing photos of their pets on Facebook and Instagram, black cats can end up looking like a dark blob in photos.
A photographer’s advice? Minimalist backgrounds, so your kitty can stand out, and angling him towards natural light sources (but keep him out of bright sunlight!).
If you’re snapping pics on your smart-phone, tap on your cat’s face to lock exposure on your cat.
2. A black cat with an arched back and bared claws symbolized by the Industrial Workers Of The World, the US-based labor union known as the Wobblies. It conveyed the idea of a wildcat strike but to unsettled employers, implying a black cat crossing their path.
According to one story, the logo originally materialized during a strike going badly. An emaciated black cat strayed into the strikers’ camp, where it was fed. As it grew healthier, the strike prospered [and when the workers won some of their demands, they adopted the cat as their mascot.]
1. Can’t get enough black cat in your life? You can visit a cat cafe devoted to black cats. Black Cat Superstition
Step through the doors of Nekobiyaka in Himeji, Japan, and get ready for your wildest cat lady dreams to come true. Black cats are the stars at this café, and visitors are invited to pet (but not pick up) these bewitching felines.
Since it’s hard to tell the cats here apart, they all wear different-colored bandannas around their necks, and their names incorporate their identifying color. The staff will lend you a little book with all the cats’ photos, listing their names and birthdays.
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