Spotlight on Black Cats: Witch’s Familiar or Magic House Panther?


Did you know that October is Black Cat Awareness Month?

Nearly 3 million cats are euthanized every year—and the majority of them are black cats. There are also more black cats at shelters than any other cat, and some shelters have reported they take longer to rehome, too. At Ten Lives Cat Rescue, black cats hold a special place in many of our hearts, so today’s post is dedicated to them. Read on to learn some fascinating facts and myths about these little house panthers!

Toni, an adoptable female kitten at TLCR

It’s hard to know exactly when and why black cats were first considered bad luck, but it seems likely to have begun in Medieval Europe. Stray cats were often cared for by poor, unmarried women, who themselves were accused of witchcraft. Thus, cats too were wrongly accused, and as witch hunts increased, black cats specifically were singled out as witches’ companions. While such superstitions are far less common today, black cats are still thought to be bad luck by some. An old pirate superstition states that a black cat who boards a ship only to get back off is a sign the ship will sink, and it’s considered bad luck if a black cat passes you from right to left in Germany.

Myths about black cats don’t always pertain to bad luck, though—in other countries they’re considered blessings! In fact, in many Asian countries, Russia, and much of the U.K., black cats are considered good luck in general. Sailors’ wives believe these black-furred family members can protect their husbands out at sea. In England, black cats are said to bless a marriage; while Feng Shui practices consider black cats forces for good, and powerful ones at that. In southern France, respect for a black cat supposedly brings good luck and prosperity—and they are often referred to as matagots, which roughly translated means “magician cats.” Traditional Japanese culture says that single women with black cats will attract more suitors.

Screech, a male baby currently in our foster care

As fun as these positive superstitions about our beloved companions are, there are plenty of fascinating facts, too! Did you know that, while black cats can be any gender, they are more commonly male? They aren’t restricted to one particular breed, either; over eighteen cat breeds can have all black coats. Similarly, while they can have any eye color, they are most often found with amber or gold irises due to the high melanin levels that produce their fur color.  

Speaking of a black cat’s fur, did you know it can both turn white with age and “rust”? Rusting refers to the coat lightening—often turning orange in hue—when exposed to sunlight for long periods of time. During this process, their coats often reveal that they were never solid black at all, but rather faintly striped or spotted!

The most interesting aspect of a black cat’s fur, however, might just be that it provides them with some level of disease resistance. Humans don’t fully understand the extent of this yet, but it’s believed their excess melanin levels are linked to stronger immune systems and resistance to certain diseases! Which means black cats aren’t just incredibly adorable mini house panthers, but also potentially the luckiest cat of all!

Ten Lives Cat Rescue has some amazing black cats waiting for their forever homes right now—click here to meet them!

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