Few pets are as misunderstood as the humble black cat. Myth and superstition have surrounded these animals for centuries.
Were you aware that there is only one genuinely black cat in the world, the Bombay? Did you know that cat shelters will not rehome black cats during October? Do you have August 27th circled in your diary for Black Cat Appreciation Day?
These are some of the fun facts about black cats that are worth knowing. Forget the legends that surround black cats. These felines are fascinating enough without attributing tall tales to them.
Table of Contents:
- 1 1) There are More Breeds Than Any Color
- 2 2) The Bombay is the Only Pure Black Cat in the World
- 3 3) Black Fur in Cats is Caused by Melanism
- 4 4) Black is a Dominant Gene, but Tabby is a Dominant Pattern
- 5 5) Considered Lucky in Some Cultures, Unlucky in Others
- 6 6) Ancient Egyptians Worshipped Black Cats as Gods
- 7 7) Considered Omens of a Good Love Life
- 8 8) In Scotland, the Arrival of a Black Cat is Believed to Signify a Windfall
- 9 9) Fisherman and Sailors Always Welcomed Black Cats on Their Boats
- 10 10) Pirates Were Very Superstitious
- 11 11) Witch Association Since the 17th Century
- 12 12) Shelters Don’t Struggle to Rehome Black Cats
- 13 13) Many Shelters Don’t Allow Black Cats to Be Adopted in October
- 14 14) Most Popular Kids’ Halloween Costume
- 15 15) Could Have Stopped the Black Death Plague Throughout Europe
- 16 16) The Temperament is No Different from Any Other Color
- 17 17) Believed to be More Resilient to Disease
- 18 18) Sometimes Live Longer Than Other Colors
- 19 19) All Male Kittens Born to a Black Cat Will Have Black Fur
- 20 20) More Male Black Cats Than Female
- 21 21) Black Fur Can Fade to Brown in Sunlight
- 22 22) Have Their Own Appreciation Day
- 23 23) Once Inherited a $15m Fortune
- 24 24) A Café in Japan is Devoted to Black Cats
- 25 25) Older Black Cats Turn Gray
- 26 26) Black Panthers are Leopards and Jaguars
- 27 27) Name of a Marvel Comics Superhero
1) There are More Breeds Than Any Color
22 breeds of cat list black as a possible color, according to the Cat Fanciers’ Association.
Many people consider black cats to be a breed unto themselves. In fact, 21 different cat breeds could have black fur among other shades.
2) The Bombay is the Only Pure Black Cat in the World
There is only one black cat in the world of domestic felines. This is the Bombay cat, which was first bred in Kentucky in 1958.
The breeder, Nikki Horner, wanted a cat that resembled a black panther. She achieved this by crossbreeding a Burmese and American Shorthair. It remains a popular family pet to this day.
3) Black Fur in Cats is Caused by Melanism
Melanism is the opposite of Albinism. It’s a mutation that causes animals to appear black.
This does not mean that a melanistic cat will be pure black. That remains the sole reserve of the Bombay cat. It may, however, be difficult to tell the difference at a glance. Melanism is also responsible for the striking golden eyes that we associate with black cats.
4) Black is a Dominant Gene, but Tabby is a Dominant Pattern
The black fur found in a cat is compliments of a dominant gene. This means that any kitten with one black cat parent will carry the gene.
It takes two black cats mating to guarantee a black litter, though. Tabby remains the dominant pattern of any cat. Unless the kitten in question is a Bombay, their black fur will contain a tabby pattern.
5) Considered Lucky in Some Cultures, Unlucky in Others
If you’re superstitious, encountering a black cat will fill your heart with glee or horrify you. In the United Kingdom, Ireland and Japan, a black cat crossing your path is considered to be a lucky omen. In the USA and much of Europe, black cats are considered to be bad luck.
In Germany, things get even more complicated. German superstition dictates that black cats crossing your path from right to left is a bad omen. However, they also believe that the same cat walking from left to right brings good luck.
So, are black cats good luck or bad? Black cats are no more likely to change your luck than any other animal.
6) Ancient Egyptians Worshipped Black Cats as Gods
Black cats were truly revered in Ancient Egypt. One of the civilization’s figures of worship, Bastet, was known as the Cat Goddess.
Black cats that roamed the cities of Egypt were believed to be reincarnations of this Goddess. If anybody was caught harming a cat in any way, they were punished.
It is believed that the concept of a black cat being lucky originated with Ancient Egypt. The legend of a black cat being unlucky stems from Greek mythology.
Hera, the wife of Zeus, punished somebody that displeased her by turning her into a black cat. This cat was then banished to the Underworld. Superstitious Greeks then began to link black cats with death and the afterlife.
7) Considered Omens of a Good Love Life
Japanese superstition considers a black cat to be lucky. This is even more so for single ladies in the country. It’s believed that a single woman with a black cat will attract plenty of eligible suitors.
In the Midlands (UK), the black cat is commonly associated with a happy marriage. It’s believed that making a gift of a black cat will ensure a successful union. For this reason, black cat-themed wedding favors, cards, and gifts are very popular.
8) In Scotland, the Arrival of a Black Cat is Believed to Signify a Windfall
One of the many curious, local superstitions around black cats arises in Scotland. Here, it is believed that a strange black cat arriving at a doorstep signals impending money.
9) Fisherman and Sailors Always Welcomed Black Cats on Their Boats
Black cats played a prominent role in early fishing expeditions. It was custom to bring a cat aboard to keep mice at bay. This feline would be referred to as a ‘mouser.’ Black cats were particularly sought after though, as they were considered to bring good fortune.
It was believed that having a black cat aboard a vessel meant it would never sink. Naturally, this meant that black cats became sought-after shipmates.
If it wasn’t possible to have black cats on-board, the sailor’s wives would keep one at home. Some fishermen and boat captains could not afford these lucky charms as they became so valuable.
10) Pirates Were Very Superstitious
If life on a fishing boat was simple, the same was not true of pirate ships. 18th Century privateers and Buccaneers were extremely superstitious about black cats, with a list of rules.
The most prominent of these was the direction a black cat was heading in. Pirates believed that if a black cat approached them, they were cursed with bad luck. They also thought that a black cat walking away signified good fortune. If the cat climbed onto the ship then off again, many pirates would leave too. This was believed to be an omen that the ship would sink.
11) Witch Association Since the 17th Century
Black cats have long been associated with witches. This link started to take hold in the 17th Century, during the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
Black cats were seen as devilish and Satanic by puritanical souls. This led to them being cast out, and made stray. Many women of the time would take care of stray cats, feeding and sheltering them.
During the hysteria of the period, these women were accused of witchcraft for every possible reason. Due to the innate distrust of black cats, they were often tried alongside the women.
Black cats were believed to be working in conjunction with witches to plot terrible deeds. Some especially superstitious individuals even believed that witches could turn into black cats.
To this day, black cats are associated with witchcraft in pop culture. The black cat is a mainstay of Halloween imagery. This is both a blessing and a curse. It raises awareness of the animals, but further enhances superstition surrounding them.
12) Shelters Don’t Struggle to Rehome Black Cats
It’s a myth that shelters struggle to find homes for black cats. Reports often circulate that black cats are left behind and not adopted. This is blamed on superstition, and the fact that black cats do not photograph naturally. It’s claimed that people looking online consider black cats to look unfriendly.
This is because it’s tricky to capture a black cat’s beauty with a camera. It takes a particular angle and lighting to complement shadow. The fact is, though, black cats are adopted at a fair and happy rate.
It’s true that there are more black cats in shelters than other colors. However, it’s also true that more black cats are left at shelters than other colors. For now, take solace from black cats standing an equal chance of finding a forever home.
13) Many Shelters Don’t Allow Black Cats to Be Adopted in October
Sadly, this fact is not a myth. As superstition still abounds, many shelters will not allow black cats to be adopted in October. Sad but true – crimes against black cats sharply rise around Halloween time.
Shelters keep their black cats during this period for their safety. There are fears that people will adopt a black cat with ill intent. There is also the risk of well-meaning but selfish people adopting a black cat as a Halloween prop. Rehoming a cat takes patience and understanding. Returning a cat to a shelter the day after a party will make the animal insecure.
If you are looking to adopt a black cat, make plans well in advance of October. It’s important that you have a bond established with your feline by this point. You may want to keep them home at Halloween, and building trust will make that easier.
14) Most Popular Kids’ Halloween Costume
Perhaps it’s the simplicity that makes this costume so appealing. Maybe it’s the fact that children can acknowledge the elegance and beauty of a black cat. Whatever the reason, children wear cat ears and black leotards for Halloween more than any costume.
15) Could Have Stopped the Black Death Plague Throughout Europe
Here’s a cautionary tale about how dangerous the superstition surrounding black cats can be. Back in the Middle Ages, people still believed black cats to be agents of evil and devilry. As a result, black cats were often destroyed on sight.
As a further result, rat populations were not controlled and the bubonic plague spread like wildfire. If cats were left alone, they would have hunted and killed the plague-carrying rats. European history might have been very different if this were the case.
16) The Temperament is No Different from Any Other Color
Cat behavior facts and fallacies are often mixed up. This is never more common than where black cats are concerned. For example, are black cats more affectionate than other colors?
The fact is that black cats are cats. That’s it. Some black cats are loving and affectionate, others a little more aloof. Some black cats are playful balls of energy; others want to snooze all day.
Perhaps this reputation for black cats being particularly affectionate comes from the Bombay cat. This breed is certainly playful and attention-seeking, actively enjoying the company of humans.
It could also be overcompensation, attempting to counteract the superstition that surrounds these animals. Whatever the reason, do not expect black cats to act in particular ways because of their fur.
17) Believed to be More Resilient to Disease
There is one thing that separates black cats from other colors. Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) is a condition similar to HIV that plagues certain cats. Immunity to this virus is a side effect of the melanism that gives black cats their coloring.
Human researchers that continue searching for a cure to HIV are taking heart from this. Black cats are not being experimented upon. The fact that they have evolved and developed this immunity, however, bodes well for humankind.
18) Sometimes Live Longer Than Other Colors
If black cats are less likely to get sick, there must be a knock-on effect. How long to black cats live?
It depends on the cat in question. A black cat that stays free of any mishap and is well cared for could easily live to see two decades.
Black fur is not a promise of immortality or invincibility, though. These cats are just as likely as any other to fall victim to all kinds of health problems or unfortunate accidents. If you have a black cat, offer them as much care and attention as any other.
19) All Male Kittens Born to a Black Cat Will Have Black Fur
Male kittens get inherit their fur color from their mothers. This means that a male born to a black female will be black too.
The coloring of the father will be involved somewhere, but the dominant black gene will rule. If the father was also a black cat, however, the kitten will likely be very dark.
20) More Male Black Cats Than Female
The above fact may explain why they outnumber black female cats. The more male black cats that mate, the more dominant black genes will spread.
21) Black Fur Can Fade to Brown in Sunlight
If you have ever glanced at your black cat and thought they looked ginger, you’re correct. In addition to a few black cats being purely black, their fur can rust in the sun. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays can change the shade of a black cat’s fur.
We refer to this as rusting because it turns a shade of orange. This is because the sun’s rays are breaking down the cat’s melanin pigment. Also, red is the other dominant color gene in cat fur. As a result of all this, the tabby pattern in your cat’s DNA will be exposed.
22) Have Their Own Appreciation Day
Get out your diary, and ensure that August 17th is marked. This is Black Cat Appreciation Day!
The ASPCA is among the official bodies that get involved in this fun initiative. If you want a black cat, this is the day to take the plunge.
If you already have one, treat them extra special on this day.
23) Once Inherited a $15m Fortune
If you need a few bucks and are looking for a new cat, head to Rome. Here you will find Tomassina, a formerly stray black cat turned millionaire.
Maria Assunta adopted Tomassina from the streets, and quickly fell in love with him. When Ms. Assunta passed away in 2011, aged 94, she left her entire $15.6m fortune to Tomassina in her will. Despite his windfall, Tomassina was only the third richest animal in the world at the time. He was, however, the richest cat.
Italian legal process prevented Tomissina from inheriting the funds directly. Fortunately, Ms. Assunta foresaw this. She left other instructions to donate the funds to a worthy animal association, if one could be found.
It is unclear which charity received these funds, but it is safe to assume they found a good home. Ms. Assunta left no living family members behind – aside from her beloved black cat.
24) A Café in Japan is Devoted to Black Cats
Black cat lovers owe it to themselves to make a pilgrimage to Himeji in Japan. This small town is home to Nekobiyaka, a cat café. So far, so what – there are dozens of cat cafés all over Japan. Nekobiyaka is dedicated exclusively to black cats.
Anybody can sip a coffee while playing with an adorable black cat in this café. Each feline is adorned with a different colored bandana to avoid any identify confusion.
25) Older Black Cats Turn Gray
It’s not just cat owners that see their hair fade to gray over time. Black cats also find their lustrous fur changing color as they age.
The truth is, this happens to all felines. It’s just more noticeable with black cats, as they were darker, to begin with. These pets will develop patches of gray or white fur, which gradually spread throughout their body.
26) Black Panthers are Leopards and Jaguars
These big cats are frequently subject to misunderstanding. These animals are not an independent species. Black Panther is the catchall term for other big cats with melanism.
A black panther that spotted in Africa or Asia will be a melanistic leopard. These big cats still have spots, but they’re so densely packed they mask any lighter coloring.
A black panther spotted in North or South America will be a melanistic jaguar. These animals are a little more distinct, as they will frequently have spotted fur.
27) Name of a Marvel Comics Superhero
To conclude with a bit of fun, Marvel uses the codename Black Cat for a character. Black Cat, aka Felicia Hardy, is a cat burglar bestowed with feline-themed superpowers.
These include agility and night vision, talons, and the ability to inflict misfortune upon her enemies. Black Cat even dated Spider-Man in the comic books. We’re sure to see her in a big-budget blockbuster soon.
Myths and legends still abound about black cats, and it is entirely unfair on the animals. The more people come to appreciate that black cats are nothing to fear, the better. Given time and understanding, these stunning beasts will receive the love and devotion they deserve.