A History of Black Cats – the good. the bad. the thoughtfully creative.

Author: Samantha M.

In the wake of The Boston Globe’s fear factor article, we’ve been scouring the interwebs (you know, like Wikipedia) and seeking input from fans, followers and friends all over the globe in search of black cat tales – from anecdotes to legends. Black cats are famous, you know!

the black cat edgar allen poe

From Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Black Cat“, the Marvel Comics character and Coraline to Neil Gaiman’s short story, “The Price” (thank you Beth E. & Ethan S.) and Janet Jackson’s famous-ish song the symbolism of a black cat is found throughout American (and global) culture. As Freeman J. Dyson once stated: “Our thinking is permeated by our historical myths”.

Although some of these stories are spooktacular (great for those of you who do not want to say goodbye to Halloween), others portray the faithful, loving, strong and overall amazing furry friends that cross our paths each day.

Dr. Laurie Nadel & Bogart

Catster recently had a guest post discussing unique challenges and misconceptions that black cats often face. What stood out to us is the story of Dr. Laurie Nadel and Bogart. Laurie explains that she has found that black cats often seem more “empathic and intuitive” than other cats.  “When I had bronchitis a few years ago, Bogart would perch on my chest and put his right front paw where my breathing was tight,” Laurie explained in the post. She goes on to describe her how Bograt became a Reiki healer stating that “since then, he has been an essential part of my Reiki practice….I even have testimonial letters from people thanking my black cat!”

At Black Cat Rescue we hear stories EVERYday about the special energy and connection people sense with their black cat companions. Roxanne R. has four black cats, each of whom has “brought their own magic when I needed them the most”.

Hachikō

Tobias B. shared with us that growing up included the tales of a black cat like Hachikō (ハチ公. Although we do not know the details of this story, one can only the image of remarkable loyalty. 

Freya, the ancient Nordic goddess of love, marriage and prosperity

The mythology varies, but with similar detail. An incredibly beautiful deity who is said to have wept tears of gold, Freya was also a fierce warrior as shared with us by Ethan S. One of the many names by which she was known was the Mistress of the Cats, and it was said that the chariot in which she sat was drawn by a pairs of great cats with fur blacker than the midnight sky.

Feline goddess of ancient Egyptian religion
 
bastet
 
The Egyptian goddess Bast (or Bastet) was known as the cat goddess. Egyptians believed they could gain favor from Bastet by hosting black cats in their home. English monarch Charles I held this belief as well. When his treasured black cat passed, he claimed that his luck was gone and he was arrested the very next day and charged with high treason.
 
Of course you know they’re witches, right?
 
Black cats born in May were said to be strongly associated with witchcraft  and were often drowned + supposedly, it is bad luck to discuss family matters when a black cat is present, lest it be a witch in disguise. (via @ecowitch)
 
witches
 
Symbolising evil omens and harboring the ability to change into human shape to act as a spy or messenger for witches or demons are some of the mostly widely known legends of black cats (in the US). When settlers arrived in the Americas, they had a previously developed and deepening suspicion of anything associated with the devil. Due to the sisterhood of witch and black cat, anyone caught with a black cat was severely punished or even killed. Similar superstitions led people to kill black cats during the Middle Ages, increasing the rat population and the spread of the bubonic plague.  
 
In the town of Kidwelly, in Carmarthenshire…
(Full disclosure, I think this is my personal favorite.)
 
the black cat of Kidwelly
 
Speaking of black cats and the plague…in Southwest Wales, where Angel J. lives, there is a legend about a particular black cat. As the tale goes, when people came to the town, long after it had been ravaged by the Black Plague, the only living creature they found was a single black cat. The black cat is now the traditional mascot of Kidwelly!
 
Crossing your path…
 
If your driving and a black cat crosses in front of you, you should turn your car around or receive bad luck (via @Lilymoon89)
 
The gambling world believes that if (while traveling to a casino) a black cat crosses your road or path, that person should not go to the casino; most players believe that black cats bring bad luck.
 
Most of western and southern Europe considers the black cat as a symbol of bad luck. Crossing paths with a person is an omen of misfortune and death. HOWEVER things are a bit more complicated in Germany. A black cat crossing a person’s path from right—> to left<—, is a bad omen while from left<— to right—>, the cat is granting favorable times.
 
Similarly pirates of the 19th Century believed that if a black cat walks towards someone, that person will have bad luck. HOWEVER if a black cat walks away from someone, that person will have good luck. Unfortunately if a black cat walks onto a ship and then walks off it, the ship is doomed to sink on its next trip. So maybe if you happen upon a furry little black friend, you might consider not shooing away you new acquaintance away too quickly.
 
But for those always seeking good luck!
 
Sailors often sought out black “ship’s cat” to bring good luck and fishermen’s wives would keep black cats at home in the hope that they would be able to use their influence to protect their husbands while at sea. Other good tales of good fortune include (but are not limited too):
 
  • Black cats have the coolest personalities, and in Japan black manekineko (beckoning cats) are a wish for good health. (via @msgeek93)
  • According to Vickie G. to dream of a black cat is lucky.
  • Scottish Lore: A strange black cat on a porch brings prosperity to the owner. (via Vickie G. + many others)
  • Dawn M. also shares that naming your cat(s) 3 times confuses the devil. That’s good luck, right?
  • In Great Britain and in Ireland, black cats are a symbol of good luck.
  • It is believed that a lady who owns a black cat will have many suitors. Booya!

And to all you wonderful adopters…

Cats should never be bought with money. Doing so means they will be bad mousers. (via @ecowitch)

To learn more about black cat symbolism in anarcho-syndicalism, worldwide culture and more Wikipedia is a wealth of knowledge! Please share more of the myths, folklore and personal tales of black cats that you’ve come to know in the comments below…

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21 responses to “A History of Black Cats – the good. the bad. the thoughtfully creative.

  1. Also, black cats protect their human’s house from evil spirits. (via @LIFPetPics) + black cat also takes away the bad energy in the house (via @haysevder)

  2. Great post! My mom’s German . . . have to ask her if she knows the “lucky” way for a black cat to cross her path.

  3. I have adopted two black kitties, and they are the sweetest, smartest, most intiuitve cats ever. I usually wouldn’t have looked at a black cat, liking the striped cats, but my friend urged me to adopt a little fluffy black kitty from the Athol Animal Rescue Center, and I am so happy I did. The next time I looked for a kitty, I got another one.

  4. Here in the UK, a black cat crossing your patch is a sign of good luck. Sadly black and black & white cats are the hardest to home. Most of our long stay fosters are black, yet they are wonderful, friendly cats who would make fantastic companions. Fur prejudice is so unfair.
    Juliette
    http://www.haws-animals.org.uk/

  5. LOVE ALL DOGS AND CATS, HAVE HAD A BLACK CAT AS A PET SINCE 1982. FISHCAT WAS THE FIRST AND LIVED FOR 13YRS, HE WAS AN INDOOR/OUTDOOR CREATURE,,,THEY ARE THE SWEETEST MOST LOVING PET AND JUST BECAUSE THEIR FUR IS BLACK THEIR HEARTS ARE SWEET AND GENTLE, RIP TO MY SWEET BABIES, YOU WILL LIVE ON IN OUR HEARTS(AND RIP IN OUR BACKYARD)

  6. I have 4 cats of which one is all black with gold eyes named Cindy. You can see a picture of her in the article I wrote at Tax Deductions for Fostering Stray Cat & Dogs

  7. Its sad that Black Cats have a harder time in getting adopted. Around Halloween most rescue groups will not allow their black cats to be adopted because people do awful things to them around Halloween. Most people believe they are bad luck. But my girl Cindy I believe brings me good luck. She is such a nice girl. Thanks again for the blog,
    Ken

  8. Hi. I am a pet photographer, cat rescue volunteer and cat owner. I do have a black cat who came from my animal rescue group. I am always posting on my Facebook page about black cats having the hardest time getting adopted. Black cats can also be a challenge to photograph. One tip esp for those who are trying to get a black cat adopted and are trying to take great pics of them, have the black cat stand in front of a light background. I also bounce the light and try not to use the on-camera flash….Anyway if anyone wants tips on how to take pics of their black cats, email me. It is great to find a blog like this with a mission to help black cats! Thanks, Liezl

  9. Hello my name is tina and i live in cornwall uk . i myself have two black cats and have had a number of black cats ever since i can remember. today in particular was stressful at work and an emotional day in all ! after finally arriving home i decided to go sit on my garden swing with a nice cup of tea and relax after my emotional day. Both my own cats sat either side of me as they always do ! looking up across the grass in front of me were another four black cats , a totall of six black cats icluding my two ? strangely enough there were not cat fights and they all seemed happy to just sit there and watch each other ! a bit like looking at a sculpture exhibition from my point of view ? im trying to work out now if six black cats are going to be a good omen for me or not ? only wish i had a decent camera at the time.

    • I have heard that if you are lucky to find a single white hair on a solid black cat, and the cat allows you to pull it out without a cry of protest, you will have wealth, good health, good luck and happiness all the days of the rest of your life

  10. I have three black cats, the oldest one Ebbie short for Ebony (she lives my parents) is 16, Poe is 8, Edgar is 2, My choice of preferring to have black cats was when I went to human society and counted over 50 black cats that nobody wanted simply because they were black. Black is beautiful choice, and my only choice for my kitty babies.

  11. I have a siamese cat that gave birth to four awsome totally black cats… They are great… completely unreasonable the believes that some people have about them. I kept one of them and gave the others to loving families that took good care of them. The name was “Black Jack”, sadly he pased away, but left behind the most wonderful memories. Greetings from Argentina!

  12. I found a black kitten that was thrown out on the street over a year ago, I was hoping to find him a good home but fell totally in love with him in a day.
    He is now living happily with me and my family like a little prince, he is such a good boy, can’t think of a single bad thing about him.
    Just can’t understand why anyone would throw him away.

  13. Reblogged this on A Garden of Delights and commented:
    A FAVORITE topic of mine… (let me tell you about my cats…. Do you have a few days?)

  14. I love cats and am thoroughly disgusted with people who treat black cats like the harbingers of death! I have owned five black cats over the years and all have left me wonderful memories, one even attacked a dog that was being aggressive towards me! and I tell you I have never seen a dog look so confused or run so fast!

  15. Pingback: For Good Luck, Adopt a Black Cat | Animal Legal Defense Fund

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  18. Reblogged this on Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge and commented:
    Here is a great little blog about a Black Cat Rescue group out of Boston. There are lots of stories and pictures of cute black cats young and old. My own two black cats are healthy and happy – 13+ year old short haired Shadow cat and 8 year old long haired Spider cat. Black cats rule!

  19. Also, the Chinese have some history with black cats being considered lucky, while Japan has black cat cafes. I can’t speak from experience, but when I got my feline roommate I looked up the good history of black cats. The pattern in the roof of their mouth, according to what I found, determined the cat’s status. Mr. Meowgi’s (he kept the shelter name because he really is a martial arts zen cat) had a pattern that several websites listed as being “this cat must belong to royalty on penalty of death” type things. Wish I had saved the link.

    And, since this is the first post I’d replied to on this blog, allow me to say “Thank you so very much!” from both me and Mr. I’m far outside your area, but my sister and parents alerted me to your rescue while they were in the area. My cat was at a local ‘kill shelter’ for about 6 months, and they said only stayed around because he could tame the wild and abandoned strays. When I went there looking for a cat to adopt, I thought his crate was empty (he was curled in the darkest corner). I bent over to look in the crate below, and got a paw to the head to let me know I missed him. Solid black, bright green eyes, not a single white hair at the time. Took a month to get him recognized as a mental health assist cat, and I brought him home on Halloween. He trained so well, so easily for a 5 year old, one that was given up by an older woman who moved to a care facility I was told, that I could determine my mood based only on what I saw him doing; He’s showing his age now, about 5 years later, but he still jumps to the top of everything, chases invisible mice from one end of the trailer to the other and back, and loves his string while high on catnip.

    And I’ve never understood the lack of expressions on solid colored feline faces. Sure, they don’t anthropomorphize easily, but his ears, tail, eyes and whiskers still express his mood just fine.

  20. Here in Australia black cats are very well liked. In fact they can be the first kittens in a litter to be homed. We have sweet black female and she has the best personality. We had a white cat years ago and she was very feisty but our black cat is very sweet and a great hunter. She has a cat door and goes into her courtyard during the day but is locked inside at night till morning. She is very laid back. I would recommend black cat to everyone. Also I read somewhere that black cats carry a gene which helps them fend off disease.

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