It's Black Cat Season and unfortunately these beautiful beings have a bad reputation...just for their color! Over the years and across many cultures several myths have developed about black cats. Some are positive, others are downright silly, and a few actually put these animals at risk of abuse and death.
Black cat superstition in Western culture dates back to Ancient Greece. According to Greek mythology, Zeus’s wife Hera once transformed her servant, Galinthias, into a black cat as punishment for impeding the birth of Hercules. Galinthias went on to become an assistant to Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, and black cats have had unique meanings in various cultures ever since.
Black cats spend more time in shelters than other cats and some rescues even restrict their adoption around Halloween in order to protect them. In honor of National Black Cat Day on October 27th, the following myths are among the most well known, but certainly not the full extent.
MYTH: SEEING A BLACK CAT BRINGS BAD LUCK
You’ve probably heard that it’s unlucky if a black cat crosses your path. Although the origin of this common black cat myth is uncertain, it may have to do with the cat’s slick demeanor. A black cat’s sly movements might suggest to some superstitious spectators that he’s up to no good.
DEBUNKED: Who has had a black cat cross their path? And, how many of you have been doomed to a life of bad luck? Black cats are considered good luck in many cultures. In Scotland, it’s lucky for a strange black cat to arrive at your doorstep. In Japan, black cats are thought to help single women find suitors.
MYTH: BLACK CATS ARE WITCHES
Many early American settlers believed in witches who could take the form of black cats. This would allow them to sneak around unnoticed as they performed magic spells. It was also believed that a witch could shapeshift into a black cat up to nine times, which may have something to do with the belief that cats have nine lives. In today’s pop culture, black cats are often featured either as witches or alongside witches.
DEBUNKED: If you’ve ever had a black cat purr up against you, you’d know he’s way too cuddly to be a witch. We’re going to go out on a limb and say the evilest thing yours has ever done is scratch up the sofa.
MYTH: YOU SHOULDN'T ADOPT A BLACK CAT
Black cats have some of the lowest adoption rates and highest euthanasia rates in shelters across the United States. It’s also harder to attract adopters, as rescues and shelters often feature photos of their adoptable cats online, and black cats are more difficult to photograph than lighter-coated cats. It’s been reported that potential adopters perceive black pets as less friendly than lighter-coated pets solely based on a photograph.
DEBUNKED: These statistics don’t mean that you should stay away from adopting a black cat. You shouldn’t choose an adoptable pet simply based on a photo; meeting the pet in person is the best way to gauge if he or she is the right fit for you. (Not to mention, black cats are great for avoiding light hairs showing up on all your clothes!)