Myths and Facts About Black Cats

Updated April 23, 2019
Close-up of black cat outdoors

As the subject of feline folklore and superstition, myths about black cats abound. Whether you believe these dark-colored kitties are bad luck, you can't deny their charm and beauty.

Are Black Cats Good or Bad Luck?

Black cats are highly mysterious creatures. The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry has written considerably regarding the cultural superstitions that surround black cats.

  • The views surrounding these felines are often contradictory.
  • For example, in Britain or Japan, having a black cat cross your path is associated with future good fortune.
  • In contrast, citizens of Germany or the United States view this occurrence as an ill-omen.

Cats in Ancient Cultures

Until the 17th century, many cultures such as Egypt and Rome deified cats. In Egypt, the death of a cat was equated to the death of a family member. Cats were mummified, and families wept and mourned as for a human counterpart.

Cats and Witchcraft

Things went sour for cats by the 1600s when felines became associated with witchcraft. In fact, many households burned cats on Shrove Tuesday as a means to protect the family from natural disasters and calamitous events.

Black Cats and Magic

In some cultures, black cats are a symbol of magic and witches. This goes all the way back to ancient Roman times when black cats were associated with the goddess of witchcraft Hecate.

  • They were also thought to be symbols of the devil during the Middle Ages and were often killed because people believed they were the living incarnation of the devil.
  • In colonial America, the Puritans believed that black cats were the companions of witches.

Black Cat Superstitions

Superstitions regarding black cats still remain active today.

Good Fortune

Good luck omens associated with black cats include:

  • A black cat wandering into your home
  • A black cat greeting you at the door
  • Hosting a black cat in your home
  • Encountering three black cats in succession
  • A black cat sitting on your porch

Black cats were also considered lucky onboard ships as not only an omen of good fortune but also for keeping the rodent population down.

Bad Fortune

Bad luck omens include:

  • Encountering a black cat in the early morning
  • Frightening a black cat from your property
  • Having a black cat turn its back to you
  • Having a black cat cross in front of you from right to left

Black Cat Breeds

Black cats are not an actual breed in their own right, although many breeds can produce a black coat. There are 22 breeds that can have a completely black coat and this coloring is not rare among cats. Some popular breeds that are particularly known for their black coloring and are easily found are:

  • American Curl is a medium-sized cat known for their distinctive curled ears.
  • American Shorthair is one of the most popular breeds owned by cat-loving Americans.
  • British Shorthair is a medium-to-large size cat with dense fur popular in the United Kingdom.
  • Cornish Rex is a unique-looking cat with an elegant, slender frame and tight, curly coat.
  • Devon Rex is a small-to-medium sized cat with huge ears and a pointed face for an "elfin" appearance.
Devon Rex Black Cat
Devon Rex
  • Exotic Shorthair has a similar look to a Persian but with a short, dense coat.
  • Maine Coon is one of the largest cats, they have gentle, calm dispositions and lovely long coats.
Black Maine Coon Cat
Maine Coon
  • Norwegian Forest Cat is another large, long-haired cat, this breed has a thick double-coat to handle extreme cold.
  • Oriental Short Hair is a slender cat with an angular head and an amusing, intelligent personality.
Oriental Short Hair Black Cat
Oriental Short Hair
  • Persian is one of the most popular cat breeds in the United States and a favorite at cat shows.
  • Scottish Folds are known for their adorable folded ears and big eyes giving them a cartoonish but sweet expression.
  • Siberians are big, fluffy cats hailing from Russia thought to be hypoallergenic.
  • Sphynx is a cat that is hairless, although some can have a soft bit of fuzz and despite their lack of hair, will still show coloring and patterns on their skin.
Sphynx Black Cat

Breeds that are known for having a lovely solid black coat but are harder to find include the:

  • American Bobtail is a medium-size cat with a playful temperament that gets its name from its bobbed tail.
  • The Japanese Bobtail, like the American Bobtail, has a distinct bobbed tail and is one of the oldest cat breeds.
  • Selkirk Rex is a fairly new breed; they are large-to-medium sized with distinctive curly hair.
  • Turkish Angora is a rare breed that is considered a national treasure in their home country of Turkey.

One rarer cat breed, the Bombay, comes only in solid black.

The Beauty of Black Cats

Black is a very attractive color for cats. The deep single-toned black color can highlight the shine of a feline's coat. The stark contrast between a cat's eyes and its black coat color also serves to make this animal all the more striking.

Black cat with green eyes

Black Cats With Gold Eyes

Truly, it is the contrast of eye color to coat that makes black cats so mysterious and sometimes foreboding. The color black is already sufficiently associated with metaphysics and spiritual avenues to make a pair of gold eyes shining from a shroud of black fur seem very intimidating. For this reason, some individuals and cultures have not associated black cats with favorable qualities or good fortune.

Black Bombay Cats

Black Cats With Blue Eyes

Blue eyes are actually rare among black cats because the gene for blue eyes is associated with paler colored cats. Of course you will find black kittens with blue eyes like all other types of kittens but their eyes will change color as they grow older. However there is a rare breed that naturally has dark blue eyes and dark colored coats, including black, known as the Ojos Azules cat.

Black cat with blue eyes

Owning a Black Cat

Aside from the good luck associated with owning a black cat, there are other factors that can propel potential owners towards getting a black cat. Black cats are really no different in terms of personality and temperament than their lighter-colored counterparts. However, the attractive contrast of coat to eyes that translates into such a mysterious effect will make your cat the topic of many future conversations with superstitious guests.

Black Cat Health

Research has found that black cats may have a definite edge over other cats because of their fur pigmentation. It's possible that their fur color evolved to help them become resistant to diseases and genetic study is underway to see how this may help human health as well.

"Rusting" Black Cats

One unique quirk that potential black cat owners should be aware of is the chance your cat's fur may change color if he spends a lot of time in the sun.

  • Because many black cats are not "truly" black but carry the gene for tabby coloration, exposure to the sun's rays can lead to the pigmentation in their fur changing to a "rust" color.
  • As a result the tabby pattern may become clearer to you when you look at your black cat in the light.
  • Some black cats may also turn a rusty shade if they lack an enzyme in their diet called Tyrosine.
  • Liver disease, thyroid problems and kidney disease have also been known to cause a black cat's fur to turn a brownish shade.

Lucky Black Cat Lovers

While some people still cling to the baseless superstitions that black cats are unlucky, anyone who has the pleasure of a black feline's company knows how off base this idea is. Personality-wise black cats are no different from other cats and they can run the gamut from silly and fun to gentle and calm. Just rest assured that having one in your life will never bring you bad luck, but years of loving companionship instead.

Myths and Facts About Black Cats