Why is It Considered Bad Luck to See a Black Cat?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The black cat, for those who are not superstitious, can only be viewed as the victim of several millennia of smear campaigns. Many cultures have viewed the animal as an unlucky beast, and there are dozens of different superstitious thoughts regarding black cats. The poor ebony furred animal seldom gets good press, though there are certainly some cultures that have revered rather than despised the animal, and many rumors just as superstitious, but more positive about the black cat.

Black cats were often thought to be familiars of witches.
Black cats were often thought to be familiars of witches.

In ancient history, especially in the Fertile Crescent, there were opposing beliefs about the black cat, and how you viewed the animal depended upon your culture and religion. Ancient Egyptians treasured the black cat and some even felt the cat possessed spiritual qualities. Egyptians often mummified their family pets, especially black cats. The Jews and the Babylonians, however, felt all cats were related to serpents, especially in their habit of curling up near warm places like hearths. All three cultures believe the cat had inherent spiritual qualities. Ancient Greeks, like the Egyptians, associated cats with godliness, and believed that Artemis often took the form of a cat.

The black cat has been loved and hated in various cultures throughout history.
The black cat has been loved and hated in various cultures throughout history.

Some contend that the strongest influence on the negative attitude toward the black cat stems from the Crusades first, and the Early American preoccupation with witchcraft. This may be in part true. Still tied to some type of spiritual origin, black cats were often thought to be the familiars of witches, a belief dating to the Middle Ages. To own or possess a black cat was to potentially suggest you were a witch or worshipper of the devil, and that the cat was your familiar. The color was important too, since black cats couldn’t be seen well in the dark when you’d conduct your evil schemes. Edgar Allan Poe furthered suspicions regarding the animal by writing undoubtedly one of the most frightening short stories The Black Cat which maintains the connection between feline and the spirit world.

Actually, evidence suggests that the theory that a black cat crossing your path is unlucky does not come from Early America. The superstition is most active in India, and in several Eastern European nations that weren't much involved in the Crusades, particularly Romania. In other parts of Europe and in Japan, a black cat crossing your path is good luck, and in Ireland, killing a cat of any color was thought to bring seventeen years of bad luck. Scotland is most generous to the kitty; a black feline at your doorstep meant prosperity was coming your way.

Association of black cats and bad luck in the Americas has led to some problems, particularly around Halloween. Though there’s scant evidence of huge pockets of Satanic Cults in the US, there are some sick-minded people who take and kill especially black cats around this day. The US Humane society and others suggest keeping all your cats in a few days before Halloween and until after the holiday is over.

The many superstitions regarding black cats, and their frequent connection to the spirit world, arising independently in numerous cultures may have much to do with the nature of cats. They can stare into space, and look as though they see something, a somewhat unsettling experience for some cat owners. Black cats do seem to blend in with the dark, with only their shining eyes glowing if a light hits them. Cats generally are curious creatures, with wills of their own and a great deal of independence. Though humans have long owned cats, this independent streak may assert their wild nature, even among the most pampered and affectionate pusses.

Many people view black cats as lucky.
Many people view black cats as lucky.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Strangely (to some), at the age of five my parents gave me a totally black cat. She became my closest friend and playmate. By the time I was nine years of age, Dixie and I could communicate more clearly than any two human beings I knew.

When I became eighteen, I enrolled in a university and "took" Dixie with me. My studies included Statistics, Business Administration, and Special Arts. With Dixie with me, I obtained a B.A. in each, and later a Masters and Doctorate in Corporate Structure. Within two years after graduation, I had founded a corporation developing cat food and a cat litter disappearance chemical.

Today, the corporation is valued at twelve billion dollars by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The dividends have averaged twelve percent annually since its inception. Obviously, I love all black cats: especially Dixie!


What's wrong with you?

I saw one the other day! Nothing happened. It's all foolish. They are like any other cat. It's sort of racist. It's not bad luck to see a black guy, or a black dog. So why should a cat be any different? Just because they had a 'history' does not make them bad luck. If so then why hasn't it happened? Exactly.

I agree with all the comments above. If you believe it, then karma's going to bite you on the butt! So hah!


I have had my Black Cat for 14 years and never had any instances or strokes of "bad luck". The only thing I have encountered is frequent hairballs. otherwise my dear little Puss n Boots has been a blessing to my family. And will continue to entertain us until his time expires. --animalluvr


I for one do not believe in this superstition. Black cats are beautiful animals. I'm not denying anyone who believes in superstition, but you should not go and kill cats because of a belief. That is cruel and inhumane.

My best friend has many black cats and nothing bad has ever happened to me when they've crossed my path. I don't believe anything will soon either.


I have a beautiful black cat. She's my baby. my belief is, if you cross a black cat, you'll be OK. I think all those myths about black cats are not true. ignore the bad things that are being said. My black cat has brought so much happiness and joy into my life and my husband's as well. Treat black cats just like you would any other.


@ Jparker- The black cat superstition, like all superstitions, is only true for those who believe in the superstition. If you believe that a black cat crossing your path will give you bad luck, you will surely be able to find some kind of bad luck that you can relate to the superstition. I believe it is all up to what you believe in. Religious people can view good fortune as a miracle, while those who are non-religious will view the same event as a matter of chance.


A black cat crossed my path today. I stopped, backed up and turned in the driveway and went the other way. Did I detour the bad luck, was I being foolish, and if I get bad luck how long will it be just today? help me out here people.

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