It’s a friday night, you and your friends are walking down the sidewalk, laughing, smoking and talking, when suddenly a black cat jumps in front of your group. The feline stares, looking you up and down, and then quickly leaps away in a hurried frenzy. This friday just happens to be the 13th. The first thing that crosses everyone’s mind is: “Bad luck”. But why does that cross your mind? What has been ingrained into our modes of thinking to believe that seeing a black cat leap across our path is a premonition of malcontent? Well, as it turns out, these superstitious beliefs about cats (particularly dark colored, jet black ones) reach far into the history of humankind.
Black cats have been associated with either good or bad luck in the different regions of the world. The Western world, for example, has often considered black cats the associates of witches, and hence bad luck. The Salem witch trials, which occurred on American soil, possibly contributed to black cats being negatively thought of. In parts of the Eastern world, like Great Britian, black cats are premonitions of good. Women who kept a black cat in their home were supposed to have lots of male suitors. The Scottish, being located very close to Britian, believed that black cats owned by fishermen’s wives would keep their spouses safe at sea.
Ancient religions have often exalted cats or considered them to be higher deities that are mute and cannot interfere with human affairs. Ancient Egypt, notably, was one of the first nation-states to recognize the intelligence, importance, and godliness of felines. In fact, the Egyptian penalty for killing a cat was death. If one owned a cat and it died, the entire family in possession would have to shave off their eyebrows in mourning.
Although the Muslim culture does not acknowledge a sacred species, the Prophet Mohammed supposedly had a cat Muezza that he loved and cared for. The ancient Chinese culture regarded the Cat as the offspring of a lioness and monkey, with pride from the lion and curiosity from the monkey. The Japanese culture acknowledges the feline’s importance with Mi-Ki, a good luck bringing cat with its left paw raised to bring good fortune.
Of course, too much cat discrimination (such as black cats) is often evident as well. Black cats have one of the lowest adoption rate in the United States. In fact, when Europeans killed off the black cats, from suspect that they were with witches, the Black Plague emerged from uncontrolled fleas on rats. These cats could have prevented the plague by killing the rodents, as nature intended the little furry friends.
– Ruling Cats and Dogs, Cat legends, feline myths
– Wikipedia, Cat History and Mythology