Updated: Jul 26
History Gave This Feline a Bad Rap
Do you cringe when you see a black cat cross your path?
Black cats have long been the subject of superstition and suspicion, dating as far back as the Medieval period and reaching a pinnacle of fear during the Salem witch trials during the late 1600s.
Why all the fuss? We decided to tackle a few of the more common misconceptions about black cats.
Black Cats Are Supernatural
During the Medieval period, black cats were thought to be part demon and therefore part of sorcery. Such was their fear that people began capturing and killing black cats, which led to an unfortunate consequence: the Black Death, a.k.a. the bubonic plague.
As the rodent population surged due to the decrease in the cat population, diseases carried by rats and mice began to spread rapidly. While there has never been any evidence to prove that black cats are demonic, historians do attribute the cause of the bubonic plague, in part, to the widespread killing of black cats.
During the 15th century, American settlers arrived in the Northeast with a deeply rooted faith in the Bible. They also believed that black cats were witches companions, and anyone seen with a black cat should be punished—severely. Ultimately, their suspicions grew to mass hysteria, which led to the Salem witch trials which lasted for more than one year and resulted in 19 people being hanged and hundreds more accused or sent to prison.
There are those today who still believe black cats are “witchy,” but there’s absolutely nothing to support such speculation. Countless families would attest that their black cats are nothing but lovable and affectionate companions who have yet to cast a spell on them.
Black Cats Bring Bad Luck
Following its association with witchcraft during the late 1600s, the black cat earned a bad rap and was generally considered to be a misfortune.
Run-ins with black cats that are considered “bad luck” include:
A black cat turning and walking away from you.
Walking under a ladder that a black cat has just walked under.
Seeing a black cat on your property.
Crossing paths with a black cat early in the morning.
Pet owners of black cats will undoubtedly disagree with the bad luck superstition. It’s interesting to note that other cultures such as Japanese, ancient Egyptian, Scottish and Northern European have considered black cats to be good luck.
Black Cats Are Aggressive
Unfortunately, the misconception that black cats are aggressive has compelled people to abandon black kitten litters or refrain from adopting them.
The lower adoption rate has led black cats to fall under the commonly-referred-to “Black Dog Syndrome” at shelters, when black dogs and cats are passed over in favor of lighter-colored pets that are perceived as being friendlier.
Appearance has been noted as a huge factor in pet adoption, so shelters and rescue groups are making a huge effort to promote black cats with the use of experienced pet photographers and special black cat adoption days, such as one called “Shadow Adoption Day,” when an adoption fee is waived for one cat when two cats — one being a black cat — are adopted together.
The truth is that a black cat is just as lovable as its multi-colored counterparts and there’s no evidence to support that black cats are aggressive, superstitious or bearers of bad luck.
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