When Trick or Treaters come knocking at your door at Halloween, you’ll often open up to see kids dressed up as witches, ghosts and, of course, black cats, but as these black cat facts reveal, there’s a lot more to these beguiling creatures than meets the eye.
While many people associate black cats with Halloween or witchcraft and think of them as being bad luck, in many cultures they’re regarded as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.
Whatever you think of black cats, these dark-colored kitties are super popular, and for good reason. Read on to find out what makes these mysterious felines so intriguing and why they’ll make just as wonderful a pet as any other color cat.
1. The Ancient Egyptians revered them
In Ancient Egypt, black cats represented Bastet or Bast, the goddess of women, the home, cats and fertility, who had the head of a black cat and the body of a woman. Black cats were worshipped as gods and treated like royalty, adorned with jewelry and even mummified like humans. Most Egyptians owned a black cat and temples were dedicated to them. It was even a crime punishable by death to harm one of these felines.
2. People thought they were bewitching
During the Middle Ages, people associated black cats with witches, black magic and heresy. It is not known where this link came from, but it could be the presence of black cats in non-Christian religions. In Ancient Greece, for example, Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, was served by a black cat. In 1233 Pope Gregory IX declared that black cats were satanic and throughout the Middle Ages they were persecuted and killed.
3. Some cultures consider them lucky
Not everyone thinks black cats are bad luck. In Germany, if a black cat crosses your path from left to right it is a good omen and in Scotland, if one shows up at your door it is believed that good fortune is on the way. The French call black cats “money cats” and it is thought that if you show black cats respect, you will be rewarded with riches. There are many other superstitions surrounding them. English sailors used to bring black cats aboard to catch mice, but also believed it would help them return home safely.
4. There is only one exclusively black ‘black cat’ breed
According to the Cat Fanciers’ Association, there are 22 breeds of cat that come in a black variety including Persians, Norwegian Forest Cats, Ragamuffins, Scottish Folds, and Japanese Bobtails. However, there is only one exclusively black cat: the Bombay. This breed was established during the 1950s when breeder Nikki Horner decided to cross an American Shorthair with a Sable Burmese in an attempt to create a breed that looked like a smaller version of a black panther.
5. They can change color
If your black cat likes to lounge around in the sun, you may notice its fur change color. This is because if a black cat has a dominant tabby gene, the sun may break down the pigments in its fur and turn it a rusty, reddish-brown color. This can also occur if they don’t get enough of the amino acid tyrosine in their diet as this produces melanin, the dark pigment in their fur. As black cats get older you may also start to see their hair turn grey just like a human’s. This is more noticeable in black cats.
6. They often have yellow eyes
Have you ever looked at a black cat and noticed their striking yellow eyes? The melanin which causes a cat’s fur to be black is also what makes their eyes golden yellow or amber. You’ll find that most black cats have yellow eyes because of the extra melanin in their bodies. Some have green eyes which just means less melanin. Blue eyes are rare in black cats and generally found in lighter-colored cats.
7. They may help ward off disease
According to the National Institutes of Health black cats have stronger immune systems and are less likely to suffer from certain diseases. This is because of the gene mutation that causes their coats to be black. This mutation affects a gene in the same family as one that causes resistance to HIV in humans. Because cats suffer from diseases similar to us, we are able to learn a lot from them about how we can prevent disease in humans.
8. They are Hollywood stars
Black cats have made it big in Hollywood. Being known as a witch’s cat may not have done them any favors in the Middle Ages, but it brought stardom to Salem in the 1996 TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch as well as the many film adaptations of the story and Binx from Disney’s Halloween classic Hocus Pocus. Other famous black cats include Looney Tunes’ Sylvester, Pinocchio’s Figaro, Felix the cat and Star Trek’s Isis.
9. There’s a café devoted to them
It’s not only movie-goers that are fans of black cats. In Japan, they have an entire café devoted to these famous felines. There are hundreds of cat cafes all over the world, but Nekobiyaka in Himeji, Japan is the world’s first and only black-cat café. Here you can relax, enjoy a drink while getting the chance to pet one of their six black cats. It’s definitely one for cat lovers to try, especially if you believe, like the Japanese, that they bring good luck.
10. There are two days dedicated to them
Black cats must be special. After all, there are two days dedicated just to them. National Black Cat Appreciation Day is celebrated every year on 17th August and National Black Cat Day on 27th October. The latter was started by Cats Protection to raise awareness about black cats who take longer to rehome than other cats. This may be because of their reputation as bad luck symbols. In fact, some shelters won’t rehome black cats in October for fear of what may happen to them. Hopefully, after reading this you’ll see that black cats are just as special as any other cat.
Feline lucky in love?
If you’re single and looking for love it may interest you to know what certain cultures believe about black cats. The Japanese believe that they bring love and good fortune and in England giving a bride the gift of a black cat is a symbol of a happy marriage. You’ll have to test the theory out yourself, but if you decide to bring home a black cat, you’re sure to find at least one loving companion.
Former editor of World of Animals magazine, Zara is a freelance writer with a passion for wildlife. Born in South Africa, she developed a love of animals from an early age. She is currently looking for a bigger house just so she can get a cat and a dog.
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