Black Cat Myth: Are Black Cats Really Bad Luck?

This article is republished from my column on Examiner.com, with minor alterations

How many times have you been walking along, and suddenly decided to go out of your way to avoid having a black cat cross your path? It’s a dark, glowing-eyed, silent-footed little piece of bad luck. Or is it? What’s behind the black cat myth?

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There’s actual history behind the black cat myth

Generally, the black cat myth comes from the association of black cats with witchcraft. First of all, the color black itself tends to be associated with evil, and thus, black cats became associated with witches. It was also thought that black cats were a common animal for witches’ “familiars,” or animal helpers from the devil.

Some even believed that black cats were witches themselves, in disguise, and Pope Gregory IX denounced black cats as Satanic in 1233. Today, the black cat myth is so ingrained that we use black cats as Halloween images, either alone or alongside the stereotypical image of a witch.

Not every black cat myth involves bad luck

Interestingly enough, there are other myths surrounding black cats as well. For instance, in the UK a black cat is considered to be good luck, and having a white cat cross your path there is considered bad luck. Finding a white hair on a black cat is also considered good luck, but if you pluck it your luck will turn bad.

In Scotland, a black cat appearing on your porch is considered good luck as well. And in ancient Egypt, black cats were often buried with Pharoahs lucky enough to own one.

Black cats also have trouble getting adopted, because of superstition and media portrayal. Oftentimes, in film and television, and even fiction, an evil animal is a black animal, and if it’s an evil cat it will be a black cat.

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Furthermore, people still carry with them the superstition that black cats are bad luck. According to an article in the Chicago Sun Times, the Humane Society of Naperville works to match a cats’ personality to a potential owner, and tries to educate when that person reacts to the idea of adopting a black cat or kitten. They want people to know that, like other superstitions, this one has no basis in reality and a black cat with a great personality can make a great pet.

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