In honor of National Black Cat Appreciation Day, here are some fun facts about black cats.
- Black is a coat color and not a breed of cat. Black cats can be found across 22 different breeds. The International Cat Association recognizes 71 different breeds of cats, so black cats can be found in 30% of their breeds.
- There is only one breed that only comes in black and that is the Bombay breed. The Bombay breed was developed by crossing a black American Shorthair with a sable Burmese.
- Black cats generally have green or yellow eyes. Yellow eyes are due to melanism. Melanism is the opposite of albinism and is a high level a melanin in the pigment of these cats. The high levels of melanin produce yellow irises. Melanism is most prevalent in male cats.
- Cats with black coats have a genetic mutation that may offer them some protection from diseases. These mutations affect the same genes that offer HIV resistance to humans.
- Both parents need to have the black color gene for their offspring to be considered a true black cat. Two black color genes must be present to overpower the dominant fur pattern of tabby. The tabby pattern leads to multiple fur colors.
- If your black cat turns rusty brown after spending his days soaking up the sun, he has a tabby stripe gene. The sun’s rays break down the pigment in the fur and reveal the underlying tabby stripes.
- Black cats with white roots are called smokes.
- If a black cat appears as a brown cat in the bright summer sun, they may have a recessive red gene. This is most common in longhaired black cats.
There are some areas of the world where black cats are considered good luck.
- In Scotland, if a strange black cat appears at your door or on your porch it is bringing prosperity.
- In Japan and Britain, a black cat crossing your path is considered good luck.
- If you spot a black cat in Japan, you will be lucky at finding love.
- In France, if you see a black cat something magical is about to happen.
- In Asia and the U.K. if you own a black cat you will be lucky in life.
- In Europe and Ireland sailors believed that if you brought a black cat on the ship you will have a safe journey. Cats also served a purpose on board ship by keeping the rodents away from the ship’s stores.
How did black cats become associated with witches in the US?
In the Middle Ages in Europe, black cats were often associated with witches. In the 1560s in Lincolnshire, England, on a moonless night a father and son were traveling when a black cat crossed their path. They pelted the cat with rocks, until the poor animal fled into the home of a woman who at the time was being accused of being a witch. The next day, the father and son saw the woman who lived in the house. She was limping and bruised, so they assumed witches could turn into black cats at night to roam around unobserved. This belief spread to the USA with the first settlers and was held firmly during the Salem Witch trials. (1)
These negative connotations continue to haunt black cats today. They are less likely to be adopted from a shelter than cats of other colors. If you are looking to adopt, please consider giving a black cat a forever home.
Let’s show Black Cats our love on National Black Cat Appreciation Day and every day!