By Cindy Orti
If you’ve ever looked a cat in the eyes, then you’ve probably felt that they know something you don’t. Indeed, it is their slightly superior enigmatic gaze that has earned them their sordid reputation and surrounded their species with various superstitions. Time and time again our feline friends continue to be regarded as mystical, powerful and even magical creatures, even though we are still reserved the lovely task of cleaning out their litter boxes.

Cat superstitions aren’t really a new phenomenon. Famous rumours of black cats being bad luck and trouble have been swirling around for generations. However, history reveals that not all cat superstitions come from menacing origins. In Ancient Egypt, cats were revered. The Egyptians believed that a cat’s eyes glowed in the dark because they stored and protected the sun’s rays. This made them very special creatures, companions to the gods, and earned them a lot of respect within everyday society. They became figures that were worshiped and even prayed to. Favourable cat superstitions can be found in other religions too. Some claim that a cat curled up in the manager with baby Jesus to keep him warm , while protecting him from snakes and rodents. According to another biblical story, a cat once saved the Prophet Mohammad’s life from an vicious attacking snake. Mohammad then blessed the cat with multiple lives, nine lives to be exact.
Despite these pleasant associations, however, things eventually did take a turn for the worse for the universal cat. Part of their so-called ‘evil’ reputation developed from the unfortunate fact that they are nocturnal. Cats are most active during the night, a time traditionally reserved for ‘all God fearing creatures’ to sleep. Forgoing sleep in lieu of a lively mouse hunt, the cat became a victim of wild speculation. Skeptics in the old days became convinced that cats who prowled around the nighttime scene were cavorting with the Devil. Then when all the witchcraft rumours and fears began to emerge, the ball really got rolling against poor Mittens. Elderly people who were lonely would keep cats as company, but also became the perfect target for witchcraft charges. People believed that witches could transform themselves into cats, thus the feline reputation was persecuted almost as much as the unfortunate souls accused of being involved in witchcraft.
By Cindy Orti
Eventually, much to everyone’s relief, history calmed down and the witch-hunting phase passed. However, cat superstitions still managed to creep into other areas of life. The sailing profession and cats, for example, go way back. Sailor’s wives would keep their cats inside, because they believed it would help keep their husbands safe while they were away at sea. Having a cat on board is considered good luck, but if a sailor throws a cat overboard, then a storm will supposedly come. Why sailors would be throwing cats overboard is beyond me, because logically it makes sense to keep felines around since they would help get rid of any rat stowaways.
Generally, these superstitions aren’t as powerful as they once were, but probably the most common belief that has carried over into modern day society involves a black cat crossing your path. Internationally, however, it does not always mean the same thing. In North America a black cat crossing your path is considered a bad thing, yet in England, it’s considered good because the bad luck is passing you by. In Germany, however, it gets a bit trickier. If a cat crosses your path from right to left, it’s bad news. But left to right, means good things are heading for you!
There are funnier feline superstitions still. Take note. If you can find a single white hair on an all black cat and are able to remove it without getting scratched, then you will have great luck and a wonderful marriage. Now I have never tried to remove a single hair from a cat, but I imagine that if you can accomplish that without getting scratched, you have quite a bit of luck indeed!
Superstitions, although often amusing, can damage the truth of a matter and result in misinformation. All this business about black cats for instance is believed to be the cause of so many black cats remaining in shelters. According to Black Cat Rescue, a Boston rescue agency that specifically works to overcome these superstitions, black cats are half as likely to be adopted as cats of other colours. Now how is that fair?
Maybe we should all learn to disregard the unflattering superstitions and instead focus purely on the positive. Did you know that in some countries petting a black cat is actually believed to bring luck? So take a moment to appreciate all the cats in your life. If you do, you will be the luckiest person of all!
By Allison Vorstenbosch