What’s the Connection Between Black Cats & Halloween

Black Cat on Pumpkin

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If you’re like all of us on the PrettyLitter team, you probably think black cats are absolutely adorable.

So where did their ultra-spooky, bad-luck reputation come from?

And why are they so closely associated with Halloween?

Well, we’re on a mission to save black cats everywhere from the bad rep, so we dove into the history books to find out how black cats became an instantly recognizable symbol for the most creepy night of the year.

A Quick History on Black Cats

Black Cat

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Oddly enough, in many other cultures – like parts of the United Kingdom, Japan, and Egypt – black cats are actually seen as lucky!

So how did we end up with this idea that black cats are unlucky and even frightful in the United States?

The luck-lineage of black cats is difficult to trace, but some historians seem to think the black cat’s bad reputation stems from mythology. Greek, Celtic, and Norse mythology references black cats in one way or another.

In ancient times, the Greeks told stories of Zeus and Hera – the king and queen of the gods. Despite being a beautiful and beloved ruler, Hera was full of spite. In one of her many plots, she tried to prevent the birth of Heracles. Galinthias, a servant, foiled her plan and Hera turned her into a black cat out of anger. Later, the now-cat Galinthias became the assistant to Hecate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft, ghosts, the moon, and death. Spooky.

We can thank the Romans for the idea that “a cat running across your path from right to left—if it was a black cat especially—would be an ominous thing,” according to Dr. James Serpell, an expert in zoology and the history of animals.

In Norse mythology, the goddess Freyja is the ruler of love, beauty, fertility, and war (quite the combo!). This fancy lady rode around for seven years on a chariot pulled by two black cats. As legend has it, Freya freed her black cat servants by turning them into witches once their service was up.

Later, the people of Scotland told stories of a fairy creature named Sìth, a black cat that was infamous for stealing souls from dead bodies before the soul could find its proper way to the afterlife. In many of these stories, the black cat Sìth would use these souls to take on human form as a witch.

In the year 1232, Catholic Pope Gregory IX decreed in his Vox in Rama that the black cat is the “incarnation of Satan.” Where he got this idea is unclear, but his opinion carried a lot of weight and resulted in centuries of fear of black cats in Europe.

Only one ruler, King Charles I of England, who ruled from 1625 to 1649, didn’t buy into the Pope’s decree and owned a black cat that he said brought him luck. Unfortunately, the day after his dear feline friend passed away, King Charles I was arrested for treason and, soon after, beheaded.

One thing is clear: people feel very strongly either in favor of or against black cats. While some believe that black cats are a bad omen and take ritual measures to ward off the bad luck black cats bring, others believe their black cat friends are full of love, light, and luck.

Black Cat Symbolism

Witch Cats

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Over the years, as the black cat’s reputation has evolved, the black cat has become a symbol of various omens.

When the Puritans had their bout of bad luck during the Salem Witch Trials, they believed that witches could bond with specific animals, which were referred to as “familiars.” These familiars were often seen as extensions of the witch and evil witchy deeds. Eventually, all black cats were assumed to be affiliated with witches.

Black cats may also get their bad reputation simply because of the color of their fur. Black is often associated with evil, anarchy, and mayhem. This association was made stronger by a branch of anarchists known as “anarcho-syndicalists” who fought for labor rights in the early 1900’s. This group took on the black cat as their symbol and later became known as the Industrial Workers of the World.

After so many years of getting the short end of the stick when it comes to luck and associations, the black cat was eventually added to the traditional cast of Halloween decor amongst ghosts, goblins, and ghouls.

Halloween

During Halloween, you’ll likely see black cat silhouettes in windows, perfectly perched kitties on the backs of broom sticks, and those lovely yellow eyes glowing at you from around every corner. Black cats are most commonly seen alongside witches or even adorning their own witch hat, making them one of the most popular Halloween symbols and decorations.

However, black cats are also among the least frightening and gory decorations you’ll likely see this Halloween, making them a kid-friendly symbol of Halloween fun. Just be sure to teach your kiddos that black cats are no different than other cats – they just get a special mention during this time of year.

Celebrate Black Cats

Black Cat

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Despite a (very) long history of being known for mischief and mayhem, we’re a fan of the black cat. So much so that you may even see some of the PrettyLitter team donning black cat costumes this Halloween. And we’ll do so proudly in celebration of our feline friends and all their gorgeous goodness.

Unfortunately, many people let their superstitions turn them against black cats – especially during this time of year. According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), black cats are far less likely to be adopted than white or tabby cats. One way to celebrate black cats this season is to adopt a new black cat friend in need of a home.

While black cats seem to have loads of fun scaring the socks off us humans on Halloween, they return to being our cuddly, fluffy friends throughout the rest of the year. In fact, every year black cats are celebrated on August 17th, which is known as Black Cat Appreciation Day.

Whether you want to celebrate your black cat with a black cat Halloween costume, a special celebration in August, or an honorary mention this Halloween, we’re all for it. Black cats are all good in our book.

Have you heard of other black cat myths and legends? Share them with us in the comments below. And, of course, since we’re lovers of feline black beauties, we’d love to see your black cat on Instagram @PrettyLitterCats.




Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

Author



20 Responses

Latreasa Ellsworth
Latreasa Ellsworth

November 09, 2018

I have a 6 year old black female her name is onyx She’s a very scared cat has been from day one. She hides when ever anyone but me or my best friend and she loves my boy friend. She’s a sweet heart and is very much my baby. She looks like a typical witches cat short tail and all. I will try and post a picture on Instagram

Danielle E.
Danielle E.

November 09, 2018

I’ve had black cats since I was a little girl. My dad adopted one from the shelter and he lived for 18 years and never let his age slow him down. After my dad passed away several years ago, I honored him by adopting another black kitty, Beau. He’s doesn’t fit the history, as he’s pretty much scared of his own shadow, but I would be lost without him!

Rai Cornell
Rai Cornell

November 04, 2018

Wow! It’s so wonderful seeing everyone’s enthusiasm and support for black cats. :) Keep sharing your wonderful black cat stories, everyone!

@Susan – We’d love that! We always encourage our customers – or any cat lovers! – to tag us in their pictures on Instagram :) We love seeing your fur babies’ happy, smiling faces.

Tanya Scott
Tanya Scott

November 04, 2018

I adopted two black rescue kittens ( they are brothers) on Halloween and I feel like the luckiest person to have them. They are funny and curious and lovable .Jacques and Pierre have been nothing but good luck for me. Thanks for the story on Black cats.

MaryAnn Avon
MaryAnn Avon

November 04, 2018

We have had the good fortune of having our little black tuxedo fur baby, “Kitty-Kat,” for 18 years!!
He’s the most gentle, loving creature I have ever encountered~ Since he’s getting pretty frail, we count our blessings for every day we still get to share with him~ Black cats are definitely not unlucky!!

Mel
Mel

November 04, 2018

#blackcatsmatter

Aurora
Aurora

November 04, 2018

Black cats are beautiful!!!

 Cissie
Cissie

November 04, 2018

This is fun and interesting information – lots of which I had never heard!

Karrie
Karrie

November 04, 2018

Quite educational and entertaining piece. It actually inspires me to go read-up on the myth of Freya, as well as reread The Crucible.

Cindy Adlparvar
Cindy Adlparvar

November 04, 2018

Thank you for the education on black cats and superstitions surrounding them. We adopted a wonderful black cat 2 years ago and have opted to keep her inside to discourage any harmful stunts by over-enthusiastic Halloween revelers. Better safe than sorry!

Sharon Squires
Sharon Squires

November 04, 2018

I love black cats. I have had several in my life time. I have one right now and she so smart, funny and she likes people. She goes to the door when they come in and welcomes with her unique meow, As if saying " hello and come in" But pet me first. I have been able to teach a few tricks and she seems recognize my voice commands. She is my sweet little girl.

Laurie Passeretti
Laurie Passeretti

November 04, 2018

I have 3 black cats currently, lol. One from my daughters cat, one my daughter found walking the streets last Halloween. He cried with his broken meow following the for 4 blocks, before she gave in an called me. We named him Salem and consider Halloween his bday. He was 6 months when we got him, but he was the size of maybe 2 months. I had another baby girl rescue I fell in love with, but lost after about 4 weeks. Lastly I currently have a foster black cat. So obviously I’m not afraid and I love the the same as the other 11 🤪 I have 6 fosters that need homes overall, 3 orange tabby, 1 black tabby, 1 black and momma. I light gray ?? Jut in case anyone’s interested, lol. Thanks for the stories, it was interesting!

SHIRLEY  CROWE
SHIRLEY CROWE

November 04, 2018

We have two Black Cats and love them dearly!

Sarah Kelton
Sarah Kelton

November 04, 2018

Love this article! We have 3 black cats and they’re simply the best. :) Happy Halloween, Pretty Litter team!

Rose Colonero
Rose Colonero

November 04, 2018

So glad you put this out! As the owner of a very affectionate black female cat, I was so very glad to see this article! Black cats are the least to get adopted from shelters because of the superstitions! People need to see them for the true beauties they really are!

Phillip Calkins
Phillip Calkins

November 04, 2018

I just "rescued " an 8 year old black Himalayan. He’s going to be a great roommate. Named him Fritz.

Cheryl
Cheryl

November 04, 2018

I have a black kitty and love her she is very funny on things she does

Susan Hady
Susan Hady

November 04, 2018

You should have peopke submiy pics of their black cats. Esp. When we are your customers.

Leslie
Leslie

November 04, 2018

We just adopted a beautiful black kitten and she’s a treasure. She was the last one in an abandoned litter to be adopted and we’re so lucky it was us. Just meant to be. She’s the fourth black kitty we’ve adopted. The others all lived into their late teens!

Esther Jones
Esther Jones

November 04, 2018

It sounds like Charles I’s black cat really was lucky, and the luck ran out without the cat.

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