Why Are Black Cats Associated With Halloween?

Since their domestication in ancient Egypt, cats have held a special place in our hearts and in our stories for thousands of years. It’s easy to see what can inspire that: their grace, mysterious glances, silent stalks, affection, and agility. Since their domestication, cats have played an important role in keeping pests from food stores.

The popularity of cats spanned multiple different places: from Egypt, Celtic and Norse regions, and to Japan and the United States. In Egypt, cats were sacred and had their own goddess, Bast. All cats were believed to be an extension of her. Celts believed cats guarded the Other World and served to people to it. Norse legends associated cats with the Freya, goddess of healing, love, and beauty. In the Middle East, the M on a cat’s forehead was thought to stand for the Prophet Muhammad. In Japan, cats played a dual role of being both givers of good fortune or gifts of evil spirits to people.

Cats weren’t always so popular. Black cats, unlike other cats, were believed to be evil by the Celts and were used in sacrificial ceremonies. In the Middle Ages, cats were considered a pest and killed. They were also believed to be familiars to witches. Black cats in the United States were killed by Puritans for their associations with witchcraft.

This mythology informs how we think about cats today. When you think of Halloween, you think of pumpkins, costumes, ghosts and black cats. Who can forget the iconic picture of the scared black cat silhouette with the arched back and raised fur? I have two cats, black and orange, because of how much I love Halloween (and them!)

Today, although cats are not thought to be evil, there’s still some concern about satanic rituals and adoption of cats during this time. Some shelters reported prohibiting black cat adoptions during October for fear that it will be just a convenience adoption or the cat could be used for some other unsavory purpose. Although not widely reported, some recommend keeping your black cats indoor for the month for fear of them being stolen.

Thankfully, most of this is considered hype. There are many conflicting reports and most people say these reports of stealing are overblown. They’ve made such a turn-around that they’re now considered to be good luck when they cross someone’s path in Ireland, Scotland, and England! Personally, I love black cats. I make the sacrifice not to have light furniture. In return I get a wonderful sweet cat that worms her way into my lap in the winter and sits at my shoulders on the couch during the summer.

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