National Black Cat Appreciation Day is August 17
Whether you’re superstitious or not, there’s no denying that black cats have a spooky stigma. Historically associated with bad luck, witchcraft and Halloween, they often conjure a sc-sc-scary stereotype.
Unfortunately, these old superstitions may mean cats with black fur have a harder time finding their fur-ever home. Some shelters report cats with dark fur take longer to get adopted than calico, tabby and other lighter fur colors.
To break through these stereotypes, August 17 is National Black Cat Appreciation Day—a day to celebrate all the positive qualities of these beautiful creatures!
Where did superstition of black cats come from?
Black cats have suffered from the stigma of cultural superstitions and myths for hundreds of years.
Let’s dive into some of the most common superstitions about these ebony felines, and separate fact from fiction.
Superstition #1: Black cats are a symbol of bad luck
Bad luck is a black cat superstition tied all the way back to medieval times. During the Middle Ages, the population of these cats grew in cities and they were seen as pests.
Back then, black animals symbolized death. If you lived in Italy in the 1500s and a black cat laid on your sickbed, it was considered a sign that you were a goner.
In other cultures, if a cat walked into the room of someone who was sick and they later died, it was blamed on the cat’s “powers.”
Even today, the superstition persists that it’s bad luck if you see a black cat crossing your path. Some people believe seeing one during a funeral procession is an omen that another death will soon follow.
Cats are nocturnal and roam at night. Their near-invisibility at night and their “glowing” eyes represent mystery and evil to some people.
The Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s website includes a historical superstition that’s quite labor-intensive: “If a black cat crossed a person’s path without harming them, this indicated that the person was then protected by the devil! To reverse the “bad luck,” it was said you should walk in a circle, then go backward across the spot where you crossed paths with the cat, and count to thirteen.
Whew. That’s a lot of work!
Superstition #2: Black cats are witches in disguise
Back in medieval times, folklore perpetuated the idea that ebony-coated cats were associated with witches. The backstories varied, but may have stemmed from someone seeing a black cut running into an alleged witch’s house.
Eventually these cats developed an association with black magic. When they roamed at night, people thought they were witches in disguise.
People took this connection so seriously that as recently as the Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts in the 17th century, these cats were killed along with suspected witches.
The link to witchcraft continues, although these days in a more playful sense, and most often around Halloween or Friday the 13th.
Superstition #3: Black cats are GOOD luck
Finally, a lucky break for our dark-furred friends.
In some cultures, raven-coated felines are actually associated with good luck. In ancient Egypt, black cats’ resemblance to Bastet, the goddess of home, fertility and protection of disease, meant they were revered. The ancient Egyptians worshipped cats, honoring them with treasures and jewels.
In the 18th century, pirates took black cats on their ships in the belief it would bring them good luck and great fortune.
In Japan, spotting one is considered a sign that your love life is about to heat up.
Meanwhile in France, seeing a black cat signals that something magical is going to happen.
In Ireland, England and Germany, it’s believed to bring good luck if one crosses your path—but only if it crosses from left to right. (Huh?)
In some cultures, finding a rogue white hair in a coat of black fur is considered a sure-fire sign of good luck.
Superstition #4: A black cat crossing your path while driving is good luck (or bad luck, depending)
Similar to the other myths and beliefs above, it’s thought that if a black cat crosses your path from left to right while you’re driving, it’s supposed to bring you good luck. If it crosses from right to left, though, watch out.
Groucho Marx was right
Are black cats bad luck? Or are they good luck?
After clawing our way through black cat superstition history, we think it’s safe to say these supposedly freaky felines aren’t any more or less scary than any other color fur.
As Groucho Marx reportedly said, “A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere.”
The only bad luck actually associated with these animals may be that some animal rescue workers say they take longer to get adopted than other fur colors.
Do black cats really get adopted less than other colors?
There are conflicting reports about whether black cats really do get adopted at lower rates than other colors. Thankfully, the ASPCA reports this bias, if true, might be slowly fading.
According to the ASPCA, there are more black-furred cats than other colors because that gene is more common. More of these felines in the population may contribute to the perception that they hang around shelters longer.
Anecdotally, shelter workers say they do notice darker color cats taking longer to find their forever homes. Their fur color also makes them harder to photograph, so potential adopters scrolling through a website might overlook an unflattering photo.
Sadly, unless a shelter has a no-kill policy, taking too long to get adopted can mean an otherwise adoptable animal winds up euthanized instead of in a loving home.
Why adopt a black cat?
Although positive and negative superstitions have persisted over hundreds of years, ebony felines really do make loving, wonderful pets.
The ASPCA came up with this creative list of “Reasons to Adopt a Black Cat”:
- They go with everything, and they’ll never go out of style!
- You can tell your kids you adopted a miniature panther.
- Their fur won’t show on your little black dress.
- In most cultures, they are a sign of good luck.
- Black cats are just as loving, sweet and wonderful as any other cat!
To that list, we say, “Meow!”
Where to adopt a cat
There are thousands of animals in shelters all over the country who need to find a new home. Join the ASPCA in celebrating National Black Cat Appreciation Day on August 17 by going to your local animal shelter and adding a black cat to your family.
Whether you wind up choosing a black cat or another furry friend, here are some reputable sources for finding adoptable pets:
Your local Humane Society and other animal rescues or shelters
Fun Facts About Black Cats https://petalive.blog/2020/07/31/fun-facts-about-black-cats/
- Syufy, Franny. “Myths and Superstitions About Black Cats.” The Spruce Pets. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://www.thesprucepets.com/black-cat-folklore-554444
- “Celebrate Black Cat Appreciation Day on August 17!” ASPCA. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://www.aspca.org/news/celebrate-black-cat-appreciation-day-august-17
- “Origins of Black Cat Superstitions!” Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://aercmn.com/origins-of-black-cat-superstitions/