Lucky black cats- Superstitions and stories behind our favourite monotone moggies

Happy Halloween (almost…!)! Yesterday was 27th October which is National Black Cat Day! Now, we would like to pitch you a question- are black cats a symbol of good luck? Or bad luck?

Here in the UK, the black cat has been a symbol of good luck and prosperity for centuries. And yet, for reasons that are beyond us, these soft and affectionate black cats are often overlooked at animal rescue shelters in favour of the more colourful tabbies and tortoiseshells in the pen next door. In an attempt to rectify the balance, National Black Cat Day was launched, using the hashtag #blackcatday in an attempt to get more people to take home a black kitty.

Research by the Cats Protection unearthed that the average black kitkat has to wait around 22% longer to find a forever home, compared to its more colourful counterparts. The study indicated that people were under the false perception that black cats are “less playful and friendly” than other cats… and in some cases the association with bad luck and being un-photogenic are to blame.

blackcat1
Un-photogenic?! Me?!

And yet, here at MedicAnimal where we believe that beauty is more than fur-deep, this furry-coloured bias has left us scratching our heads.

The Americanisation of Halloween has brought with it the motif that black cats are associated with bad luck, when traditionally in the UK sooty moggies have been a symbol of good luck and fortune! Dating back to the Ancient Egyptians, it was believed that hosting black cats in the household would bring the favour of the cat-goddess Bastet.

bastet_britishmuseum
© The British Museum

While it has been mixed up with American folklore of black cats being associated with witches and Satan, black cats are a symbol of good luck in Britain and when a black cat crosses your path it is perceived as a positive omen. In times gone by the wives of sailors would keep a black cat at home in hope that they would be able to use their influence to protect their husbands at sea. The importance of the ‘Ship’s Cat’ has ascended through the ages and is still practiced today, since cats are excellent predators to common vermin like mice and rats who gnawed at ropes and strings on ships, and into the modern day, upset wiring. It was believed that if the Ship’s Cat fell or was thrown overboard, the ship would be cursed!

winston_churchill and blackie
Blackie of the HMS Prince of Wales was a famous example of a lucky ship’s cat, having been present during the WWII alliance talks between the UK and USA; here he is receiving a pat on the head from Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941!

In Scotland, if an unfamiliar black cat was seen sitting, or turned up on the porch of a house, it was symbolic that good fortune would befall the household, and even the 18th Century monarch, King Charles I was besotted by his pet black cat, claiming that if any ill fate fell upon it, the kingdom would fall. As the story goes, upon the death of his treasured black cat, King Charles I was grieved and lamented that his good luck was gone. The very next day he was arrested and charged with high treason!

blackcat

And let’s do-away once and for all with the association of cats and lonely spinsters; it was once believed that if a young woman owned a black cat, she would have plenty of handsome suitors! Lastly, black cats were given as wedding presents, symbolising a happy and prosperous marriage.

It’s an outrageous shame that black cats are being overlooked for adoption in favour of other coloured kitties. If you are ever thinking of expanding your family and bringing home a cat, make sure you visit our friends at Wood Green- The Animals Charity who re-home hundreds of delightful cats and dogs every year.

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4 comments

  1. I have a multi cat house hold.
    The latest one to join us was a tiny all black kitten that we found in our front garden.
    We are so glad we gave her a home. She has fitted in so well with the others. She is a real darling,
    so playful and loves a cuddle.
    It is not the first time I have had a black cat and I have found all of them to be very lovable.
    So please think about giving one or two a home.

    1. Agreed, absolutely nothing wrong with black cats , used to have one called Percy, adorable little fella, not the brightest cat but that is not a crime 🙂

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