For many years now, black cats have had a negative stigma attached to them, dating all the way back to the Middle Ages when people were led to believe they were linked to witchcraft, the occult and heresy. The belief became so ingrained that many believed that the Devil could transform into a black cat!
As we are aware today, black cats are linked to bad luck, Halloween, and witchcraft. But the real question is why did this become a thing? Where did it all begin?
In This Blog:
The History Of The Black Cat
Cats, with the inclusion of black cats, fulfilled a very important role for humans in the Middles ages, this being in the form of catching mice. Their instinct to hunt would usually keep mice and rat populations in check, which if left unchecked, could become a serious problem for humans and their food stocks.
Going into the 12th Century the link between the devil and black cats had become stronger, with Walter Map publishing an article that during satanic rituals: “the Devil descends as a black cat before his devotees. The worshippers put out the light and draw near to the place where they saw their master. They feel after him and when they have found him, they kiss him under the tail.”
Despite this important role, black cats were often targeted and viewed in a negative light. Medieval writers would take this beneficial role and make comparisons between the way black cats catch mice to how the devil would ensnare a soul.
Witches were also thought to be able to transform into cats, which led to Pope Innocent VIII proclaiming in 1484 that: “the cat was the devil’s favourite animal and idol of all witches.”
Some had theorised that this general negative sentiment was due to the independent nature of cats was the source of the worry that people were experiencing.
People in medieval times often thought that animals were created by God to serve and be dominated by humans; yet, the cat, even when tamed, cannot be educated to be loyal and obedient in the same way that a dog can.
Theories and Superstitions
When a man and his son started throwing stones at a black cat in the street one day, the injured cat eventually ran away and entered a house which was believed to be a witches’ house.
Later the next day, the lady appears clearly limping and bruised. People started to believe that the black cat from the previous day was in fact the witch in disguise.
One theory was simply because of the colour of their fur. Black represented bad luck, but also death like crows and ravens. It was considered that if a black cat was to cross your path, this is bad luck and if a black cat is present at a funeral, someone else is bound to die.
Another superstition involves exactly how and where you are stood. It is believed that if a black cat turns and walks away from you, this is bad luck, but if a cat walks towards you, this is thought to be good luck. This is also believed in Germany and Ireland.
While there are many negative superstations revolved around black cats, there are positive ones also. One of them being, if an unknown black cat turns up at your doorstep unknowingly, this will bring you prosperity into your life.
The Bubonic Plague
When the lethal plague arrived in Europe in 1346, the cat population was low due to the culling of all the black cats to try and get rid of evil. But this led to an explosion in the rat population. The same population which was carriers of the bubonic plague.
Whilst it was never able to be proven if the mass culling of the felines led to the Black Death, it is hard to dispute that these actions would have been a contributing factor to the uncontrolled spread of the disease.
Black Cats Today
In today’s age, many black cats are now owned by us without being stereotyped or put in any danger. However, there are still some people who have strong beliefs in the bad luck of the black cat, especially around Halloween.
Therefore, it is always safest to keep your black cat inside around Halloween to keep them protected and safe.
Whilst your black cat may bring you a little present every now and again, or swipe or nibble you, there is no witchcraft involved and they are just being typical cats.
Rehoming Black Cats
Unfortunately, if a black cat ends up in a rescue centre, statistics show that they can take longer to find their new home than a ginger or tabby cat will. A ginger cat will take on average 19 days to be rehomed, a tabby cat can take 23 days, but a black cat can take as long as 30 days for somebody to come in and take them home.
Cat Protection have said that black cats can take 13% longer than any other colour of cat in the centres and out of all the cats rescued, 40% of them are in fact black!
This is all because so many of us out there still believe the superstitions around these gorgeous felines. This isn’t just taking place in the UK; but is happening in many different countries around the world.
There is a consensus that one of the many reasons people don’t tend to adopt black cats is because of their temperament. Black cats are supposedly aggressive, miserable, and hard to read.
However, we believe that all cats can be like this, whether they are black or grey, or tabby. Some cats just don’t like their personal space to be invaded when they are sleeping or eating, or maybe just surveying their land.
National Black Cat Day
On October 27th, 2011, Cat Protection specified a day solely for our black cats. This day is used to help celebrate our beautiful black cats and try and fight the stigma which is still surrounding them to this day.
Before this this national day was set up, figures showed that black cats were taking longer to be adopted and they were often spending many days and nights alone in the centres.
Fast forward 12 years and the charity are starting to notice a difference on the number of days our black cats are staying with them before they find their forever family.
This is still going on to this day and little by little, a change is being made. If you want to get involved on National Black cat day with your very own black cat, post a photo on social media with the hashtag #BlackCatDay and show the world your amazing black or black and white feline!
Black Cats Are Actually Good Luck
Unlike in the United States, where it is still considered bad luck to own or come across a black cat. Here in the UK, it can be the complete opposite with many people. For example, if you are walking down the street and you come across a black cat, this can be a sign of good luck. Even more so if the cat runs across your path!
Other people believe that it is lucky to own a black cat but can be classed as unlucky to come across one on your travels. Some people even believe that offering a bride a black cat as a wedding present can give her good luck for her wedding day.
Unfortunately, whilst many people within the UK believe that black cats can bring good luck, there are still others out there still led by superstitions. Some rescue centres try to avoid rehoming any black cat around October time due to Halloween.
Every cat has their own personality and characteristics, no matter the colour. It is time we break the stigma and show our black feline friends some love and appreciate them for who they are.