According to an old preconception, black cats bring bad luck. Even nowadays, many people still reject them. In animal shelters, they wait an above-average amount of time for a new home. What people are missing out on are loving, elegant pets with a beautifully glossy coat.
Why black cats are great pets
© Bianca / stock.adobe.com
Even nowadays black cats still – unjustifiably – have a bad reputation.
Do black cats bring bad luck?
The French author Max O’Rell has a clear answer to this question: “Whether a black cat means good or bad luck depends on whether you are a human or a mouse.”
People have nothing to fear. In fact, humans meant terrible luck to black cats for centuries.
Black cats and superstition
The superstition that black cats bring bad luck has a very long tradition in Europe. As early as the Middle Ages, cats were linked to black magic and witchcraft.
Witch hunts began in the early modern period. An estimated 40,000 to 60,000 people were executed because they were suspected of witchcraft. The witch hunters did not stop there and burnt as many cats – if not more.
Black cat crosses path from the left
If a black cat crosses your path from the left, this is said to bring particularly bad luck. This superstition can be traced back to Christian philosophy.
The Bible states that at the Last Judgement, the good people line up on the right and the bad people on the left (Matthew 25:31-46). Hence, black cats coming from the bad, inauspicious side is supposed to be more negative.
White hair as a lifesaver
Other cruel customs also persisted for many centuries: on 24 June, St John’s Day, black cats were burnt alive as ‘creatures of the devil’. However, cats thrown in the bonfire had to be completely black. They were only considered true devils when they had no white hairs on their body.
This led to fully black cats becoming rarer over time. In contrast, cats with white markings survived and were able to pass on their colouring to subsequent generations. This is why completely black cats are rarer to find.
Although there are still many superstitions about the unluckiness of black cats, there are just as many that say the opposite:
Sign of prosperity
In Scotland it is believed that finding a black cat at your doorstep brings future wealth and success.
Lucky charm in England
In England, people believe that black cats bring good fortune – especially to women. For instance, there is a proverb that says “when the cat of the house is black, the lasses of lovers will have no lack”.
According to lore stemming from the Midlands, black cats are a good wedding present, bringing good luck and happiness to the bride.
Worse rehoming prospects for black cats
Black cats generally stay in animal shelters for longer. In a survey by the German Animal Welfare Federation, 48% of the animal shelters questioned confirmed that cats with black fur are harder to rehome.
When asked about the reasons for this rejection, almost half the animal shelters (47%) named suspicion and prejudice. 32% named aesthetic aspects. In other terms, many people find black cats less attractive and prefer cats of different colours.
Another obstacle for rehoming black cats is that they are harder to photograph. They require softer lighting or cloudier weather to avoid harsh shadows or strong contrast. This will also make the editing easier afterwards.
The Jungle Book as good PR
Bagheera from the Jungle Book inspired the creation of this new cat breed.
Bombay cats are medium-sized with short, black fur. They are considered curious and intelligent family cats. Black is the only permitted fur colour for this breed.
A holiday for black cats
In order to do away with prejudices and improve the poor image of these cats, animal welfarists in English-speaking countries have come up with the idea of Black Cat Appreciation Day every 17 August. Britain additionally celebrates National Black Cat Day on 27 October.
46% of UK households own a pet, with a total pet population of 58 million, including 7 million cats and 0.5 million indoor birds. Many pet owners provide a home for more than one type of pet, with cats sometimes sharing a home with a budgie, parakeet or other bird, but what happens when you have a cat and a small pet?