Sunday, 13 March 2011

Why Black Cats are Lucky....

As the owner of a black cat, I think they are lucky, but over the centuries their reputation has run the full gamut from being sacred in ancient Egypt, to satanic in medieval Europe.
So where did it all start? How did black cats first get their reputation for bringing good luck?

Firstly, let’s go back four millennia, to 2,000 BC, and consider how rare black cats were. Wild cats were striped or spotted, to match the dappled sunlight. They originated either in forest environments as existed in the early history of North Africa, or Savannah type environment, which lead to more tawny colored coats. It was only a mutant allele, or gene, that led to the first solid coat colour such as pure black or white, and as they started to appear, in Egypt, black cats became associated with the goddess Isis.

Isis was the goddess of earth’s fertility and all living things (also the goddess of ships and sailors but more of this shortly.) She wore a black cloak, to symbolize night – which at the time was associated with calm and gentle love, rather than something demonic. The rare black cats were said to be the re-incarnation of Isis and became revered as sacred.

In Isis’ role as protector of ships and sailors, it was a logical step that black cats became the essential good luck charm on a sea voyage. Not only did they control the rodent population, but also invoked Isis’ good will on the voyage. To bring even more good luck images of cats were carved near the ship’s prow to please Isis. This superstition gained such strength that even as late as the 20th century, it was considered bad luck to sail without a ship’s cat, and a ship’s cat was mandatory on British Royal Naval vessels until 1975!

“A black cat I’ve heard it said,
Can charm all ill away
And keep the house wherein she dwells,
From fever’s deadly sway.”
Old English folk poem.


  1. Great post! I have always had at least one black cat at a time. I love their glossy fur, and the way their eyes are magnified because of the dark face. If they have brought me luck, I am not sure, but I am a happy person.

    I love your blog..this is my first comment, but I do read it regularly! Keep up the good work!

  2. Oh that's great Melli, so glad you are enjoying the blog.
    One of my five cats is black - the only problem being that he's really difficult to photograph. All the detail of his lovely face and whiskers just disappears into itself, and at a distance he looks like a black blob (my lack of photographic skills, he's not a blob at all but a miniature panther in fact.)
    Grace x

  3. Great post. I love black cats, too. I had a black Manx for fourteen years and would have gotten another black one but my son moved out and left Toonces, a tuxedo. She will be 19 in June.

  4. Thanks, Grace, for another fascinating post!

  5. What a cool post. I'm going to hug my favorite black cat right now. I don't know if Pyewacket is any help with the rodent population, but he's very skilled at keeping my lap warm.

  6. Loved the history. I knew my black cat was special when my son brought him home to me.
    We have no mice, but he does love to play
    with our southern gekcos.

  7. Thanks for the post, Grace! I have a small colony of ferals that I care for (all TNR'd), with a black female. She's very friendly with me (she won't eat unless I pick her up first), but won't come in, even in the worst weather. I always worry about her around Halloween, because some folks are just cruel!

  8. Loving this post. I had two back cats, the only ones who survived a litter of seven. I called them itsy and bitsy. I loved those two miscreants. They died within two days of each other. I still say they were spiritually linked together in some way.

  9. Lovely cats!!!♥


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