Why Are Black Cats Bad Luck?

Written by: Adri Sandoval
Adri Sandoval is the Special Projects Manager for iHeartDogs and iHeartCats. Her work has deepened her love for animals, fostering a strong passion for rescue and animal advocacy.Read more
| Published on June 15, 2015


Everyone knows that black cats are associated with bad luck, but not everyone knows why. Because of the fear of death over the ages, many myths and legends have been invented to help the fearful feel as though they have some control over death and their fate. This is where superstition is born. People want to cheat death and if they can find someone (or something) to blame for death (or more generally bad luck), then they feel there is hope to avoid it. Humans are also attracted to the idea that luck can be obtained by choice, or at least bad luck can be avoided through certain actions.

This human tendency combined with the stealthy and aloof demeanor of feline species has made them a target for irrational belief. No one knows for sure when cats became linked with the idea of the devil and evil, but as far back as the Middle Ages, cats (especially dark ones who can blend into the shadows and seem to appear out of nowhere) have been thought devilish. Cats were originally blamed for the Black Death during the 14th century. This is ironic since the actual bearer of Yersinia pestis (the causative agent) was the mouse and exterminating all the cats merely prolonged the tragedy.

In Scottish folklore, there is a demon called Cat Sith who is said to have stolen the souls of the recently deceased before they could ascend to the gods. This belief created some unique rituals associated with death, like watching over the corpse and making sure there are no fires in the room since cats are attracted to warmth. (1) According to legend, Cat Sith was a black oversized cat with a white spot on his chest who tried to blend in with the domesticated cats to gain entrance to homes.

It is also interesting that the female gender is most often associated with cats (Think “crazy cat lady” jokes) and our society seems to link cats more to women, even today.  Women (and their beloved cats) have been the object of superstition down through the ages, like the Salem witch trials. In the Cat Sith legend, some say that certain women were able to transform into a cat form 8 times during their lives and then transform back to human form.  But if one of these sorceresses altered the ninth time, a cat she would remain for eternity. This legend may be the source for the “nine lives of the cat” myth. Perhaps chauvinism was the original birthplace of the witch’s cat familiar story.

Maybe the impression that cats are not a friend to everyone and seem to show preferences for certain people has made them the object of ridicule. Maybe it is because they are silent and dark. I think cats always seem like they have a secret wisdom that I can never hope to comprehend. I really think that it is a cat’s independent nature that creates the mystique.  People tend to fear what they cannot control or understand. We will never make cats less furtive and there will always be superstition.  If you love a cat and a cat loves you, count yourself as one of a lucky few.

  1. Cait Sidhe, Scottish legend. http://deborahmacgillivray.co.uk/scotlore_caitsidhe.htm


vet thumbnailAbout The Vet: Dr. Kathryn Primm is a practicing small animal veterinarian. She has consulted on articles for national magazines, done numerous radio interviews and appeared on local television. She has contributed to an article for Prevention magazine and Woman’s Day in Feb 2014 and June 2015 on shelves now.

She has a social media presence on TwitterFacebook and Google+ and enjoys interaction with others about her passions, animals and communication. She is a regular contributor to Boomeon, the online community which can be found at www.boomeon.com . She has also written a book, Tennessee Tails:Pets and Their People. The book received recognition as Runner Up in the Memoirs category at a national book festival. You can read more about Dr. Primm and how to get the best value for your pet care dollar at her website, www.drprimm.com.