The Secrets of the Black Cat | Black Cat Appreciation Day
Black cats, these fascinating felines have had many roles throughout history and are considered to be incredibly important by different cultures all around the world. They have been associated with both bad omens and good fortune. But why are there so many superstitions centred around these mysterious moggies? Today, we will be exploring some of the lesser-known history of the black cat as well as their role throughout history. Plus, we will learn what causes their sumptuous sable fur...
Cat pictured in 'A Rehearsall both Straung and True, of Hainous and Horrible Actes Committed by Elizabeth Stile' (1579)
During the Middle Ages in Europe, black cats were often associated with witchcraft and were assumed to carry out the evil deeds of witches. This is because of a folklore tale about a man and his son who came across a black cat, which they began to throw rocks at. The injured cat ran into a woman’s house who was suspected of being a witch and when the woman was seen limping and bruised the next day, people suspected that the cat must be the woman in disguise. This resulted in widespread fear of these cats, which eventually meant they were neglected. This in turn contributed to an overpopulation of rodents, aiding the spread of the Bubonic Plague. The fear and superstition surrounding black cats travelled to America with European migration and was sometimes used to justify their mistreatment and neglect. When the Puritans settled in Salem, black cats were persecuted alongside humans suspected of owning a black cat.
Yet in other cultures, black cats have been revered throughout history, such as by the Egyptians, who linked them closely to the gods. In fact, in Ancient Egypt is was believed that back cats kept evil spirits away. The goddess Bastet was often depicted as a woman with the head of a black cat and was worshipped as a goddess of protection and defender against evil. Similarly, the Japanese viewed black cats as bringing good luck, prosperity and are even considered to welcome romantic love into your life. You might have seen the “Fortune Cats” or Maneki Neko in Japanese shops and restaurants. These cat figurines with the raised paw are thought to draw good luck, wealth and prosperity to their owners. A black Maneki Neko is even thought to ward off evil energy and demons.
So, what's the secret to their dark coats? The fur colour of black cats is genetic, caused by high levels of production of the pigment melanin, but their colour can subtly change over time. Too much time in the sun can cause the fur to turn a reddish dark brown colour, but this isn't permanent. This can also occur due to dietary deficiencies, such as in tyrosine, an essential amino acid. There are 22 breeds of domestic cat with solid black coats, although only one of these breeds has exclusively solid black fur, the Bombay cat. The Bombay was bred in the 1950s by crossing the Burmese and black American Shorthair in an attempt to resemble a small black panther. It is believed that cats have black fur as, in the wild, it makes it easier for them to camouflage themselves whilst hunting at night. Their dark coat also makes it easier for cats to regulate their body temperature in the cold.
Thinking of adopting a black cat? Check out the reasons why you should over on our previous blog post!