Myths About Black Cats: The Good, The Bad & The Silly

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi
Dina Fantegrossi is the Assistant Editor and Head Writer for HomeLife Media. Before her career in writing, Dina was a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.Read more
| Published on October 10, 2016

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 beautiful animals at risk of abuse and death.

Sadly, many archaic beliefs about the evil powers of black cats still exist. They spend more time in shelters than other cats and some rescues even restrict their adoption around Halloween in order to protect them.


The following myths are among the most well known, but certainly not the full extent of what has been believed about black cats throughout our history.

All Cats Represent Strength & Protection

As far back as 3100 BC, all cats, regardless of color or characteristic were worshiped as sacred beings in Egyptian and Muslim cultures. They were considered symbols of grace, strength and protection. Although no longer worshiped, cats still retain a positive reputation in these cultures as well as Japan and most of Europe.


Black Cats Are Symbols of Luck & Prosperity

In the south of France, black cats are referred to as “matagots” or “magician cats.” According to local superstition, they bring good luck to owners who feed them well and treat them with respect.

In nautical history, black cats were chosen to accompany ships on long voyages because of their association with good luck. The wives of sailors and fishermen also kept them as pets, believing their presence would keep their husbands safe at sea.


In the English Midlands, a black cat was a common good luck wedding gift to the bride, and some superstitious stage actors still believe that a black cat in the audience on opening night means a successful run for the show.


Black Cats Are Omens of Death

According to Greek mythology, a slave named Galinthias was turned into a black cat by Zeus’ wife, Hera as punishment for trying to prevent the birth of Heracles. Galinthias was sent to the underworld in her feline form to become a priestess of Hecate, Goddess of Death and Queen of the Witches. This association with Hecate led many to see a black cat as a bad omen indicating impending death.


Black Cats Are Incarnations of Satan

In the Middle Ages, black cats became associated with black magic and the devil. The 1233 document “Vox in Rama” – which translates as “To Deal With the Topic of Devil Worship” – Pope Gregory XI claimed that Satan could take the form of a black cat when walking the earth. The result was panic and slaughter of thousands of black cats over the following century.


Black Cats Are the Familiars of Witches

In most of Europe a black cat arriving at one’s home is actually considered good luck. Somewhere along the line as the separatists fled to America for religious freedom, they became associated with evil and witchcraft. Many early settlers believed that witches could take the form of black cats in order to sneak around in the darkness and wreak havoc.

The association with witchcraft is also how the myth that cats have nine lives began. It was rumored that a witch had the ability to shape-shift into a cat nine times.


Black Cats Are Harbingers of Bad Luck

The most common American myth is that a black cat crossing your path is a catastrophic symbol of bad luck, on par with walking under a ladder or stepping on a crack.

Every myth – good or bad – about black cats has been imposed on them by humans. They are the last to get adopted and the first chosen for euthanasia in shelters because of the difficulty in finding them proper homes.


Here are 10 great reasons to ignore the myths and make a black cat a part of your family, courtesy of Full Circle News:

Top 10 Reasons To Adopt A Black Cat

10. You’ll save $$ on their Halloween costumes.
9. You can always find them in the snow.
8. Holding a black cat is very slimming.
7. Black cats will match any decor.
6. A lint brush isn’t required for a black-tie affair.
5. When you love a black cat, Luck is on your side.
4. Black cats are like onyx, a beautiful gem.
3. Hey, they don’t care what color you are!
2. Love knows no color.

And the number one reason to adopt a black cat…

1. They are the least likely to be adopted.

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