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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

OPINION: The real (and sad) history behind the black cat superstition

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Makenzie Miller
(Illustration)

We’ve all heard the superstition “if a black cat crosses your path, it’s bad luck,” but have you stopped and thought about the history behind the superstition? This superstition is the main reason why many animal shelters won’t let you adopt black cats around Halloween out of fear that they would be harmed. 

While black cats getting harmed on Halloween is purely a “myth,” many animal shelters don’t want to take the risk. This is also the reason why October was declared as International Black Cat Awareness Month in recent years. 

Let’s dive into some history. As early as the 13th century, Catholic churches linked the dark-colored felines to the occult and were known to be companions to witches. In 1233, Pope Gregory IX issued an official church document known as the “Vox in Rama,” which declared that black cats are the reincarnation of Satan. 

During the Middle Ages, black cats were also the subject of blame for the bubonic plague as another reason to get rid of them, which backfired almost instantly.  Since fleas and mice started the bubonic plague, cats were helping the plague by killing off the mice with fleas. With a reduced number of cats due to ignorance, this caused more cases of the plague to rise. 

While some European folklore considers black cats to be bad luck, other countries consider them to be the opposite and find them to be helpful in some cases. 

In Welsh folklore, black cats bring good luck to a home and are known as a reliable weather predictor. In Scotland, it’s considered lucky for a black cat to show up on your doorstep. In Japan, it is said that black cats help single women find suitors. 

Sadly, most European countries, with the exception of Wales and Scotland, aren’t the only ones that think black cats are bad luck – Americans also believe the superstition too. 

Many early American settlers believed that black cats were witches in disguise. They believed that, if witches were able to shapeshift into a black cat, it would allow them to perform spells and go unnoticed while doing so. 

This also led to the belief that witches could shapeshift into a black cat nine times, which could possibly be linked to the idea that cats have nine lives. That myth has since been debunked as shapeshifting is physically impossible, but the superstition remains.

Sadly, not only have these superstitions led to a rule on not being able to adopt a black cat around Halloween, but they have also led to black cats having lower adoption rates and higher euthanasia rates

There are many benefits to owning a black cat, including the fact that they are easy to find and they can live longer than other cats. Black cats tend to have a longer life span because they have stronger immune systems and because their fur color is a result of melanism. It increases resistance to certain diseases such as feline immunodeficiency disorder (FIV). 

They are easy to adopt because cats are born with two coat colors: they are either black and/or red. All other cats with different fur coats are a variation of those two. 

Black cats are one of the sweetest creatures you will come across, even if they are chatty little terrors (I’m looking at you, Bongo). They make great companions and are not bad luck like most myths and urban legends make them out to be. 

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About the Contributors
Jacinda Hall, Podcast Editor
Jacinda Hall is the podcast editor for The Sunflower. Hall is a junior majoring in communications with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in English literature. Her favorite quote is by Kurt Cobain: “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.” In her free time, Hall likes to go to the gym, crochet and make fancy beverages. Hall's pronouns are she/her.
Makenzie Miller, Illustrator/Designer
Makenzie Miller is an animation major and a first-year illustrator on The Sunflower. She is from Eureka, Kansas, and enjoys not only art but also cartoons, video games, softball, and literally any type of animal. She hopes to one day be a storyboarder/concept artist for an animation company.

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  • AnonymousNov 16, 2023 at 9:57 am

    I think that black cat aren’t unlucky there just misunderstood and don’t believe in everything people say what you think is what you think

    Reply