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Black Cats Misunderstood

Deniz Burunlu currently lives in London. He has a BSc Hons in biomedical sciences and is currently studying medicine.

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According to the Cat Fanciers' Association, 22 feline breeds feature solid black as a coat colour characteristic. The most common breed of black cat has to be the Bombay, a breed originally developed to resemble a miniature black panther.

You might recognise a Bombay black cat from popular shows and movies, including Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Hocus Pocus, and Star Trek.

Black cats used to be persecuted and burned like witches.

Black cats have a bad reputation and have suffered for it, with no choice of their own. They are widely considered bad luck if one crosses your path, and they have been accused of shape-shifting, stealing people’s souls, and helping witches. Even now, black cats suffer from unspoken discrimination, as figures show black cats make up the largest percentage of total cats entering shelters.

However, in reality, black cats are incredible, friendly animals that make great pets for anyone who wants a furry friend.

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Black cats were considered good luck until the middle ages when Celtic mythology popularised Cat Sith, a shape-shifting, soul-stealing fairy.

The Cat Sith resembled a large black cat with a white spot on its chest. Common folklore suggested that the Cat Sith was not a fairy but a witch that could transform into a cat nine times. If the witch chose to transform into her cat form for the ninth time, she would remain a cat for the rest of her life. Some believe this to be the origin of cats having nine lives.

History of Black Cats and the Church

Even the Catholic Church went after the cute fluffy hairballs.

Pope Gregory IX (1227–1241) declared on an official papal decree that Satan was half-cat and sometimes took the form of cat during Satanic masses. The Pope based this on “evidence” from information obtained from the torture of apparent devil worshippers and their convincing confessions.

Unfortunately, the Church’s feline oddities didn’t end there. Pope Innocent VIII (1484–1492) declared that the cat was “the devil’s favourite animal and idol of all witches”, which led to old women who cared for cats being labelled as witches by society.

Even as far as Colonial America, the black cats now mythicised stereotype followed them. Black cats were persecuted and burned on Shrove Tuesday for protection. People believed black cats were familiars or companions to withes.

Superstitions sprung out of these beliefs, like the infamous belief that a black cat crossing your path is an omen of death or misfortune.

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Black Cats are Good Luck

Unlike much of the western world, Japanese culture sees a black cat crossing your path as a good omen. Black cats are generally seen as good luck in Japan and much of Asia.

A list of good black cat superstitions from around the world:

1) Black cats draw wealth and prosperity

2) Black cats lead to treasure

3) Respecting a black cat brings good fortune

4) Black cats make safe homes and ward off evil

5) Black cats give sailors safe travels

With this vibrant and mythicised history, it’s no wonder why black cats deal with an onslaught of discrimination and stereotypes. Hopefully, people will come to see what black cats are, just cute, misunderstood fluffy hairballs that are less likely to find forever homes than the average cat.

In honour of National Black Cat Appreciation Day which falls on August 17 every year, let’s try to dispel this myth!

Make black felines feel lucky on Black Cat Appreciation Day – pamper the cats in your life, donate to an animal shelter or even adopt your own kitty.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Deniz Burunlu

Comments

Sp Greaney from Ireland on June 14, 2020:

I can never understand why people are afraid of black cats. We had one when I was a child and she was the sweetest thing. This is such an interesting article about the backstory on people's issues with them.

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