Black cats: separating the myths from the facts

What are the origins of black cat superstitions? We separate the myths from the facts.

For centuries, black cats have played an important role in superstition, mythology and folklore – with many of these superstitions continuing to this very day.

In fact, in a survey conducted by Cats Protection, it was found that, rather than dying out, some myths about black cats being unlucky have some currency with young people. Of those surveyed aged 18-24, 12% said that black cats were unlucky, while only 2% of over 55-year-olds did.

Why is there prejudice against black cats?

Black cats can take longer to rehome than other coloured cats. Some reasons for this are:

  • people are superstitious about black cats
  • they think black cats aren’t photogenic or ‘Instagrammable’
  • they consider black cats to be less friendly or playful due to not being able to read their facial expressions

Black cat superstitions

Black cats weren’t always the subject of superstitions or thought of as bad luck. In fact, as far back as 3000 BCE, the Egyptians held cats (including black cats) in high esteem, and to kill one was considered a capital crime.

In Europe, during the Middle Ages, black cats’ glorified status started to crumble, as they became associated with witches. It was thought that black cats were the cause of bad luck, assisting witches in dark deeds, or that they were reincarnated witches in feline form.

The hysteria of witches practising black magic struck European cities during these times. Alley cats were often cared for and fed by poor and lonely ladies, who were later accused of witchery.

This is where the idea began to develop that if a black cat crosses your path, something bad will happen.

Black cats don’t photograph well

Black cats have been shunned for not taking good selfies. Many people display their lives on social media and think that black cats don’t show up well in photos and therefore aren’t photogenic or ‘Instagrammable’.

It’s hard to read their facial expressions

Black cats are considered to be less friendly or not playful due to people finding it difficult to read their facial expressions. The dark-furred felines are then classed as aggressive and less adoptable.

Are black cats lucky?

In some parts of the world black cats are actually considered to be good luck. For example:

  • In parts of England, a black cat as a wedding gift is thought to bring good luck to the bride.
  • Owning a black cat in Asia is considered lucky.
  • In Scotland, if a black cat appears on your doorstep, it is seen as a sign of prosperity.
  • In the south of France, black cats are referred to as ‘matagots’ or ‘magician cats’ and, according to local superstition, feeding and treating them well will bring good luck to the owner.
  • In northern Europe, taking in and caring for a black cat can ensure fair weather and safe passage during voyages on the sea.
  • If you hear a black cat sneeze in Italy, you’re in for a streak of good luck.
  • Black cats are a symbol of good luck in Japan and if someone sees a black cat crossing their path, they say ‘konnichiwa’ and take control of their own luck.

Do you have a black cat? Have they brought you good luck? Tell us about them on social media using the tag #PethoodStories.

Back to top