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Are Black Cats Really Bad Luck?

3 minutes
Where and when did the superstition that almost led to the disappearance of dark-colored felines begin?
Are Black Cats Really Bad Luck?
Last update: 18 March, 2018

Would you like to know why black cats are associated with bad luck? If you’re at all curious, then do not hesitate to keep reading.

 Black Cats in Ancient Times

To begin our story, we have to time-travel several centuries back. More precisely: to Ancient Egypt. Since then, cats have been  excellent household companions. The Egyptians loved cats because they helped elminate the plagues of rats.

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In fact, the Egyptians worshiped a goddess named Bastet. She had the shape of a feline. If anyone dared to kill a cat, they were sentenced to the death.

The Pharaohs were often times buried with their cats.  They even had a momentous place in the royal cemeteries. For example: the Valley of the Kings of Luxor. Most likely, there were several hieroglyphs featuring the cats near the monarchs.

The Greeks wanted to replicate a great deal of the Egyptian customs. That is why they took several black cats back to their country. This is how they arrived in Europe to begin with and, of course, they spread throughout the continent. It was from that moment on when the story would begin to change.

Why are Black Cats Considered Bad Luck?

We continue our journey in time, but time we’re going back to the Middle Ages. At that point, the Catholic Church was already a very powerful entity, and made decisions that had great repercussions on society. At the end of the 12th century, in France, a process known as “The Inquisition” began, under which the various courts were in charge of identifying witchcraft and heresy.

Many lonely and mysterious women were persecuted as witches. There destination was being burned at the stake. In the same way, they began chasing dark-colored cats with the suspicion that they were being used by these women to commit witchcraft and cast evil spells.

What was actually happening was that the cats were very reserved and shy, and hid from people, unlike the dogs, who looked for shelter and food in different houses. It was then said that the cats were actually camouflaged witches who took the form of an animal. That way they could not be trapped at night, and could thus perform their spells without issues.

Black Cats and the Plague

The first document where black cats are directly related to witchcraft and heresy was written in the thirteenth century. In the document, Pope Gregory IX indicated that black cats were associated with the devil. Therefore, society began to fear them and, of course, try to exterminate them in the same way they did with witches: using torture and fire.

Since the cat population had declined markedly, the proliferation of rats did not take long to appear, and with it, large amounts of disease and death. The Black or Bubonic Plague annihilated more than 25 million people in Europe for three long years.

At the time, it was not common knowledge that the cause of transmission was a parasite present in the rats.  Since cats are natural-born rodent hunters, they were associated with the epidemic. Thus, the slaughter of these animals almost made them disappear in the year 1400. What people did not know was that, the less cats there were, the more rats and Plague there would be.

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More Superstitions About Black Cats

One of the most widespread legends about the supposed bad luck associated with black cats arose in the English county of Lincolnshire. It was the year 1560 when a man and his son were walking down the street at night, and met a dark-haired feline.

When the animal hid in a corner, the man threw stones at it in an effort to it. Wounded and helpless, the cat ran to the house of a woman who lived alone and was suspected of being a witch. The next day, they saw the old woman covered in wounds and bruises, and “came to the conclusion” that she had taken the form of a feline the night before.

In Spain, it is currently believed that if a black cat walks by, it is a sign that something bad is about happen. They are also often related to Halloween celebrations.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.