Black Cats

Oct 22, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Helping Hands, James Garcia Jr., Pets

by James Garcia Jr.

When I was young, my family adopted a black kitten. We didn’t have it very long. As I recall, we thought at the time that some neighborhood children had kicked it. Whatever happened, the animal did not survive the experience. My father is a retired Kingsburg Police Lieutenant and heard stories of black cats being thrown into churches. He recalled one story in particular where a black cat had been thrown into someone’s back yard during a party, in order to elicit some negative reaction.

One of the black cats at Cat House

“We always recommend that people that own black cats keep them indoors for several weeks before Halloween and at least a week later,” said Lynea Lattanzio, owner and founder of The Cat House on the Kings. The Cat House is a no-kill, nonprofit sanctuary, rescue and adoption center for cats in Parlier, California.
Since it is October and the month of Halloween, Kings River Life Magazine decided to take a look at black cats: the myths, the prejudice, the cultural stigma and the reality.

In the United Kingdom and Japan, black cats are seen as good luck. Specifically in Scotland, a black cat’s arrival seems to signify prosperity. In some places it is thought that a woman who had a black cat would have many suitors. In Germany, the belief is a cat crossing from right to left is a bad omen; however, left to right means that the cat s granting favor.

Historically, sailors would look for a black cat on their ship because they were thought to bring good luck. The wives of fishermen would also want a black cat, hoping that they would use their influence to protect their husbands while at sea. Pirates of the 19thcentury believed a black cat walking towards someone brought bad luck, while one walking away took the bad luck with it. If the cat was seen to have walked on and then immediately walked off of a ship, it was doomed to sink.

More cat house residents

The view of these cats being favorable was attributed to the Egyptian Goddess Bastet, the cat goddess. Egyptian households believed that they could gain favor from Bastet by hosting these cats in their homes. This was even held as late as the 17th century by English Monarch Charles I. He is said to have lamented the death of his treasured black cat, worrying that his luck had gone with it. As the story goes, he was arrested the very next day, charged with high treason and ultimately beheaded.

In some cultures, however, black cats have not only been looked upon as a symbol of bad luck, but as evil itself. If one were to cross a person’s path it was believed to be an omen of misfortune and death. Some said that the cats could take the shape of humans and spy or courier for witches or demons. The pilgrims arriving at Plymouth Rock came with a devout faith and deep suspicion of anything thought to be from the devil. They viewed the black cat as the companion to witches and thought them to be part demon and part sorcery. Anyone caught with one would be severely punished or put to death.

Cat house residents lounging about

“The Black cat saga seems to be the same with every other shelter we’ve come in contact with,” said Karla Cortez, the Adoption Coordinator for The Cat House on the Kings. “Some people believe that black cats are bad luck and even evil. Every black kitten I’ve ever come across has a great personality and would make a perfect pet for the perfect home.”

During the Middle Ages, these terrible superstitions led people to destroy the animals. An unintended consequence of this action caused an increase in the rat population which helped the spread of the bubonic plague during the time of the Black Death.

Even the gambling world feared black cats. If one were to cross their path, a trip to the casino should be avoided. They brought the player only bad luck.

With all of this, mostly negative prejudice, it is no small wonder that it is extremely difficult to find homes to adopt these animals. Other than brown cats, black ones have the lowest odds of being adopted. During the month of October, some shelters go as far as suspending black cat adoptions, for fear of them being mistreated, tortured or even simply being used as a living Halloween decoration which will be abandoned afterwards.

According to an August 2010 article by the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, black cats and kittens spend an average of nine more days in shelter care awaiting a home.

“We have a few black cats available for adoption,” said Joyce Brandon, co-founder of Animal Compassion Team and Pet Perspectives writer for Kings River Life Magazine. They do adopt black cats during October; however, she has heard the arguments. “I heard a speaker at a seminar discuss the idea. He said he had faith in his adoption agents and told them if someone rode in on a broomstick, don’t adopt to them.”

For two decades, The Cat House on the Kings has saved over 18,000 cats and 5,000 dogs. Currently, Lynea and her staff care for over 700 cats and kittens. All too many of those are black. “We probably have close to 100 black cats here,” said Lattanzio. “We try not to take in black kittens as we know most will remain here for the life of the cat. Last fall we released about 30 kittens that had grown up and were not adopted. Almost all of them were black. We can’t even send black cats off to other rescues as they find it difficult to adopt them, too.”

“I recommend all owners please keep your black cats inside around the month of October,” added Cortez. “You never know what cruel intentions people might have with your beloved pet.”

In order to promote the adoption of black cats, August 17th has been named National Black Cat Awareness Day.

To volunteer or donate to The Cat House on the Kings or possibly adopt your own black cat, check out their website and check out the KRL article on The Cat House.

Learn more about ACT in their article here at KRL & watch for a new adoptable pet from ACT on our home page every week. This week’s adoptable is one of their wonderful black cats!

James Garcia Jr. is an ongoing contributor to our Downtown Doings section and a long-time resident of Kingsburg where his debut novel, Dance on Fire, is set.


  1. Thanks for this article. How heartbreaking that they are hard to adopt!!! They are good luck for anyone fortunate enough to have one. I do wish I could adopt all of them or start a black cat shelter for my area as I have noticed there are many in the shelter in my area too. All of the black cats that have enriched my life have been extra sweet, didn’t realize how many there were until we were having an evening of remembering the great cats of our lives. Our current indoor dear is a black cat and he is one of the great joys of my life. (His late lookalike young ggg-nephew just died and he was so kind & compassionate, beautiful & sweet.)

    The luckiest of our black cats stepped out in the highway in front of friends of mine who brought him to me though I was single and didn’t have the time to give him the attention I thought he needed. My father wanted him and he went to his house, from there to a wealthy neighbor in need of a cat who provided for his every wish for the remainder of his pampered life. The last time I saw him in person was when moving my father’s things he seemed to be coming by to “thank” me for my part in his happy pampered life. I could go on and on with stories of the sweet dears.

    • Thank you so much for commenting, Brenda. I love black cats, too, and am so glad that you were touched by the article. Thanks for sharing some of your stories.


  2. So sad the plight of black cats. I have always loved black cats and find them to have the best personalities. My most beloved cat of all time who passed away of natural causes was a black cat and was the sweetest cat I’d ever met. I always kept him inside during Halloween. I’ve never understood how people can hate black cats.

    • Hello, Christina. I’m sorry for the loss of your cat. I, too, cannot imagine the cruelty of some against any animal, let alone a black cat. I hope this article has opened a few eyes to their plight. Thanks for your note.


  3. Why are people advised to keep their cats inside close to halloween? Are they in some danger?


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