National Black Cat Day
Throughout history, black cats have been given a bad rap. They have been seen as bad luck and even thought to possess evil spirits. But, as black cat lovers can attest, owning a black cat means neither bad luck nor getting hit on the head with a ladder. The history of black cats is broad, and has gone from irrational fear to worship to anywhere in-between. November 17th, known as National Black Cat Day, intends to enlighten people who are apprehensive or superstitious about black cats.
Going back as far back as 3000 B.C., the ancient Egyptians worshipped cats, and black ones in particular. They believed that black cats were symbolic of Bastet, the cat-headed goddess of protection. In contrast to ancient Egypt, during Europe’s middle ages, black cats were believed to be witches’ accomplices. This led to a massive elimination of black cats, causing the rat population to soar and, in turn, causing the Black Plague. During the Salem Witch Trials, black cats were believed to be witches who changed form into cats so that they could continue their witchcraft at night undetected.
Despite the myth that black cats bring bad luck, there are many regions of the world who believe them to bring good luck. In parts of England and Ireland, when a black cat crosses someone’s path, it is supposed to signify good luck. In the English Midlands, giving a cat to a bride is also believed to bring good luck. And in Scotland, a black cat showing up on a household’s doorstep is a sign that they will win the lottery (or enjoy some other good fortune)! In Japan, black cats are also considered symbols of good luck--for single women in particular, since owning one is thought to attract more potential romances. In Russia, all cats are viewed as lucky. Even 18th-century pirates had superstitions about black cats, believing them to be tokens of good luck, as did fishermen and their wives, with both professions keeping them on their ships or in their homes. This notion became so popular that black cats actually became hard to afford.
Black cats are beautiful, and what makes them so unique is their genetic background. Black cats have something called melanism, which makes their eyes golden because of the higher levels of melanin. A black cat is not just black. In fact, there are 19 cat breeds in the Cat Fanciers Association directory that list “black” as a color option. Interestingly, there are also more male black cats than females.
Plenty of black cats have been portrayed in pop culture over the years. Felix the cat was a 1920s cartoon that was called the world’s first cartoon superstar. Sabrina the Teenage Witch had a black cat named Salem who had been turned into a cat as punishment for trying to take over the world. A movie character in the popular movie Hocus Pocus was turned into a cat and punished with immortal life. And there was Socks, a stray cat that was adopted by then-President Bill Clinton and lived in the White House. Socks even occasionally hosted his own press conferences.
The nation’s shelters have thousands of black cats waiting for their forever homes, and, sadly, still people who believe that black cats bring problems, when the opposite is true. If you are interested in adopting a black cat, you will find many listed on shelter or adoption websites, including http://www.adoptapet.com/ and https://www.petfinder.com/.