Why Are Black Cats Considered Unlucky?

DALL·E 2022 10 30 20.03.59 an unlucky black cat
DALL·E 2022 10 30 20.03.59 an unlucky black cat

Since Halloween is just tomorrow, you might be asking why black cats are so dreaded. Why do they have this unlucky reputation?

Originally, black cats were seen to be good luck. In England, black cats were given as wedding gifts as they were seen as a sign of good fortune. In Scotland, a black cat appearing at a home was considered a sign of prosperity. Even in Italy, a sneezing black cat was seen as a sign of very good luck. The list of good luck and black cats goes on and on.  Our friends the Egyptians began worshiping the goddess Bastet, who was a fierce woman with the head of a black cat.

The cat’s reputation worsened with the Catholic Church, which described witchcraft and devil worship, and in particular, mentioned black cats as part of their rituals. Whether this was just a passing mention or a direct attack, once Pope Gregory the IX issued the Papal Bull, it only worsened things. Pope Innocent the Eighth incited even more anti-cat anger with his own Papal Bull, describing the prosecution of witchcraft in Germany. Cats were guilty by association of being owned by alleged witches.

It seems this change continued though in the middle ages in England. One of the first legends was about the father and son throwing rocks at a black cat and the next day, a witch was seen limping, implying that the cat, of course, took the shape of the witch. The story went further that cats could be spies, or “familiars”  for witches, even assisting them in their evil deeds.

With the witch hunts of Europe and Salem, these rumors increased more and more.

The Puritans took these legends to heart and considering how Thanksgiving and Halloween grew here, the myth continued.  Black cats were clearly associated with witches and with witches and Halloween, the rumors increased.

In fact, this common folklore has now sadly affected animals to this day. Some animal shelters and pet stores stop adopting or even selling black cats during the month of October to protect them from being the target of cruelty. There is a study called the Black Cat Bias, which found that black cats are much less likely to be adopted. They found black cats can possibly suffer abuse by owners as compared to lighter-colored cats.

Of course, none of these rumors are true, but there was this scaling of hatred towards black cats, leading to the now suspicion of black cats being bad luck.