In July, amongst the chaos of my sister’s accident and her home care, we found ourselves taking in more responsibility in the form of an orphaned black kitten. For two weeks, we thought the kitten was a girl, and called her Lilith. After the first vet visit however, we came to learn that Lilith was in fact a boy. (Damnit Google!) He grew accustomed to his new name, Sammy, after only a few days. He was a bright patch in a dark and hard time.
The folklore surrounding black cats varies from culture to culture. In Great Britain, black cats are seen as lucky. The Scottish believe that a strange black cat's arrival to the home signifies prosperity. In Celtic mythology, a fairy known as the Cat Sìth takes the form of a black cat. Black cats are also considered good luck in Japan. Furthermore, it is believed that a lady who owns a black cat will have many suitors. (I wish) However, in Western history, black cats have often been looked upon as a symbol of evil omens. Most of western and southern Europe considers the black cat as a symbol of bad luck, especially if one crosses paths with a person, which is believed to be an omen of misfortune and death. In Germany, some believe that black cats crossing a person's path from left to right, is a bad omen. But from right to left, the cat is granting favorable times.
When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, they brought with them a devout faith in the Bible. They also brought a deepening suspicion of anything deemed of the devil. They viewed the black cat as a companion, or a familiar to witches. Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even killed. They viewed the black cat as part demon and part sorcery. During the Middle Ages, these superstitions led people to kill black cats. This had the unintended consequence of increasing the rat population and the spread of the Black Death. (Iiiiiirony!)
Black cats have been found to have lower odds of adoption in American shelters compared to other colors. Some shelters also suspend or limit adoptions of black cats around Halloween for fear they will be tortured, or used as "living decorations" for the holiday and then abandoned.
So next time you are in the market for a new cat, give your heart to the often ignored black kitten. You won't regret it!
August 17 is Black Cat Appreciation Day