The Cat and the Darkness!

Since ancient times, few animals have been as loved and as loathed as the cat... here are some superstitions, heard and unheard.
"...She's into superstitions, black cats, and voodoo dolls", sang Ricky Martin. He's not the first; since ancient times, few animals have been as loved and loathed in equal measure as the cat. They are surrounded by myths and superstitions, ranging from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, but somehow terrifying. Unlike other domestic animals, which can be trained and are generally loyal, affectionate, and friendly, cats seem to have a mind of their own. In fact, according to a Chinese legend, the Gods had chosen the cats to rule the world and had even given them the power of speech, but the cats, wanting to laze around and not work, passed on the powers to humans.

Although the awe and fear apply to all cats in general, it is more so with black cats. The likeliest reason is that the color black has always been associated with the night, which is when evil is said to thrive. Black is also symbolic of, amongst other things, power, sexuality, sophistication, wealth, mystery, bad luck, misfortune, fear, emptiness, and mourning. The most evil type of magic is also called 'black magic'. It is, thus, not surprising that in most parts of the world, black cats are considered harbingers of evil.

Cats have been connected to the Gods, the devil, witchcraft, religion, and the supernatural for centuries and across various cultures. In Britain and Australia, black cats are generally considered to be a symbol of good luck, and some people even consider white cats to be unlucky (maybe we should send all those 'unlucky' black cats there).

Some more common superstitions about cats:
  • If a black cat crossed your path, you would be blessed or cursed, respectively, with good or bad luck, depending on local customs and beliefs.
  • To reverse the bad luck brought by a black cat, a simple solution was to walk in a circle, then go backward to the spot where it happened, and count to 13.
  • Cats were believed to be either witches in disguise or their helpers.
  • They were also thought to have demons and spirits residing in their bodies, and thus were thought to possess supernatural powers.
  • It was also believed that spirits could return by possessing a cat's body, and only an evil spirit would occupy the body of a black cat.
  • To see a black cat after midnight was believed to be equivalent to seeing Satan himself.
  • A cat sitting on a grave meant that the dead person's soul was possessed by the devil, while two cats fighting on a grave meant that the devil and the deceased person's guardian angel were fighting for the soul.
  • In Ireland, a black cat crossing your path in moonlight was considered a harbinger of death by an epidemic.
  • It was also said that if a black cat left a house, misfortune would befall its occupants.
  • Dreams of black cats were supposed to be warnings about something unfortunate about to happen.
  • If a black cat came into a house or onto a ship by its own accord, it was considered to be a very good omen, and the cat was never to be chased away, lest it take the luck away with it.
  • Fishermen and sailors, who tend to be very superstitious, had a lot of cat-related beliefs.
  • If a cat ran ahead of a sailor on the dock, it was a signal of good luck, but if it crossed his path, it meant disaster!
  • It was believed that a sailor would have good luck if a cat on a ship approached him; but if it turned back midway, it meant bad luck.
  • A "guaranteed" way to raise a storm in the sea was to throw a cat overboard!
  • Wives of sailors and fisherman would keep a black cat at home, so as to ensure that their husbands would avoid danger at sea, this led to black cats being stolen.


There is absolutely no scientific evidence to prove that cats, or indeed any other animal, can influence luck. In fact, an experiment conducted by Mark Levin proved that neither a black nor a white cat produced any notable change in the subject's luck.

But in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, superstitions about cats are so ancient and so ingrained in our psyche that it will take centuries for the cat to be considered completely innocent and harmless. Of course, knowing cats, I don't think they would like that. As someone said once, 'cats were treated like royalty once, and they remember'!
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