Black cats have a bad rap, but is it deserved?Rescue groups and shelters who work tirelessly to save kittens and cats repeatedly say it's harder to find new homes for black felines than any other cat. Black cats inspire fear in many people, dislike in others, and unfortunately, black cats are also more often abused (especially around Halloween) than other cats. These feelings aren't new, however; many originated a long time ago.
Old Egyptian SuperstitionsEvery culture has its superstitions. Although our logical brain may scoff at superstitions in public they can be ingrained in our culture. We may be more apt to observe them in private even when we know, really know, they are silly. One of the oldest superstitions regarding cats goes back to 3000 BC in Egypt. When the Egyptians began practicing agriculture, they welcomed the hunting abilities of cats. The cat's abilities caused people to look upon them as supernatural beings. After all, no one else could catch as many mice and rats as cats could; so people claimed these small predators had supernatural powers. This worship of cats in Egypt came to the forefront when, centuries ago, a Roman soldier killed a black cat. The Egyptian populace killed him in the streets and his death became renowned. The belief that cats have superpowers lead to the creation of one of Egypt's deities, Bast, who had the body of a human and the head of a cat. Bast held cats sacred and it became illegal to hurt or kill a cat and because of this, some historians feel that these prohibitions, as well as Bast's protection, caused some of the populace to fear cats. After all, if you hurt a cat and faced the death penalty for doing so, fear would be a reasonable reaction.
Black Cats in GreeceA fear of black cats alone, though, probably originated in Greece where black cats specifically (not cats of other colors) were assumed to be companions of witches. In Greek mythology, Hecate, who could turn into a cat, was a goddess of the underworld. As time passed and mythologies evolved, she became associated with witches, witchcraft, magic, and ghosts. Many of the stories show her to have a black cat as her companion or to be able to turn into a black cat. Although well domesticated by the medieval era, because cats were associated with witches (not just in Greece but by then throughout Europe) they had become a sign of bad luck; especially black cats. This made the life for cats extremely hard. Welcomed for their hunting abilities, they were tolerated by people until something bad happened. Illness, injuries, or other bad luck would occur and the cat, especially a black cat, would be held responsible.