The Ever Witchy Black Cat

It’s Black Cat Appreciation Day! Let’s take a look at some myths, facts, and figures about these furry felines to start the day off right.

The Cats

  • The gene for tabby coats might be the most dominant pattern in feline DNA, but the black color gene is the most dominant when it comes to the color of their coats.
  • There are 22 breeds of black cat. Only one breed of black cat, the Bombay, is actually 100% black- including its nose and toe beans!
  • When Ben Rea died in May 1988, he left a £7-million fortune to Blackie, the last surviving of the 15 cats he shared his mansion with. He left his family out of his will and split the majority of his wealth between three cat charities, with the instruction to look after the cat!
  • Black cats are significantly healthier than other colors of cat. The gene associated with their black coats has been linked to having a stronger immune system.
  • At Nekobiyaka in Himeji, Japan, you can relax comfortably while being surrounded by exclusively black cats.

The Myths

  • Greek mythology, a slave named Galinthias was turned into a black cat by Hera as a way of punishing her for trying to prevent the birth of Heracles. Galinthias was sent to the underworld in her feline form and became a priestess of Hecate. This association with Hecate led many to see black cats as a bad omen of impending death.
  • In ancient Egypt, black cats were the physical embodiment of the goddess Bastet, a guardian of crops, women and the home. Cats were believed to perform the same functions on earth, and were fitted with jewelry and treated like royalty. Every home had a cat, there were temples dedicated to them, and to killing one earned the death penalty. Cats were also mummified, which shows just how important they were to the ancient Egyptians.
  • In Celtic cultures, there’s the Cait Sidhe, a magical black cat with a white spot on their chest that was known to be the Faerie King of Cats. Legend has it that if you left milk out for them on Samhain, he would bless your house.

The Legends

  • In Japan, black cats are said to bring love and fortune. Women are told to keep black cats, as they were believed to bring in many good suitors.
  • English brides who receive a black cat as a gift will have a happy marriage, while having one appear on your doorstep in Scotland signals prosperity incoming.
  • The French call black cats “Money Cats,” and treat them with respect in an attempt to bring themselves riches.
  • British sailors often brought cats on board their ships to deal with the mice. Having a black cat also ensured a safe return to shore. The wives of fishermen kept black cats in their home for the same reason – to bring their husbands home safely from sea.

But are they unlucky?

The idea of black cats being unlucky may have arisen from the aforementioned Greek myth that gained favor in the Middle Ages. After the goddess Hera transformed her servant into a black cat as a punishment, the cat aided Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft. This created an association between witchcraft and black cats that persists even now.

As Christianity spread throughout Europe, it saw pagan cultures as aligning with the Devil, and sought to denounce their practices. Taking up the association with witches, Pope Gregory IX declared that black cats were symbols of Satan in 1233. Ever since, the dark-furred felines were thought to be demons in disguise, or helpers of demonic worshipers.

To this day, the superstitions around black cats hurt their ability to get adopted, and a higher number of black cats end up in shelters than other colors of cat. If you are looking for a cat, consider seeing if your local shelter has any black cats up for adoption.

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