Why Do Black Cats Have a Bad Reputation?

Black Cat Facts and Myths

Why do black cats have a bad reputation? Are black cats harder to get adopted? Where does the connection between black cats and witches come from? What is a black cat’s personality like? A.R.F.-Animal Rescue Foundation is here to answer all your questions and bust some black cat myths, just in time for a cat-tastic Halloween. Interested in adopting a black cat of your own? Check out our cats available for adoption.

The History of Black Cat Superstition — Good Luck or Bad Luck? 

Is a black cat really bad luck? Well, it depends on who you ask, where you ask, and what time period. In the U.S., idea of black cats bringing bad luck is well known, but there are many cultures around the world that have seen black cats as signs of good luck:

  1. In the English Midlands, black cats were given as wedding gifts for good fortune.
  2. The sailors of England and Ireland kept black cats on board to assure a smooth journey.
  3. In Scotland, a black cat appearing at a new home foretold prosperity.
  4. A black cat “can charm all ill away” according to a Welsh folklore rhyme from 1896.
  5. In Italy, a sneezing black cat was an absolutely adorable sign of good luck.
  6. Latvians believed that finding black kittens in a silo brought tidings of a good harvest.
  7. Egyptians worshipped the goddess Bastet, a fierce woman with the head of a black cat.
  8. In Japanese folklore, black cats were thought to ward off evil or even attract suitors.

Sometimes, it depended on how a black cat crossed your path that determined whether it was a good or bad omen. In Britain, an approaching black cat was thought to be good, but one walking away foretold bad luck. When a cat in Germany crossed your path from left to right it was seen as a good omen, but the reverse was a sign of ill portent.

So, How Did Black Cats Get Such a Bad Reputation?

One of the oldest recorded black cat legends dates back to the Middle Ages in England: a father and son were throwing rocks at a black cat, and the kitty limped away into the house of a suspected witch. The next day, the alleged witch was seen limping, suggesting she was a shapeshifter who could take the form of a black cat. 

People also thought black cats might be spies or “familiars” for witches, assisting them with evil deeds. So the fear of black cats and witches went hand in hand, growing to a fever pitch during the European witch hunts of the 1600s, leading to mass killings of black cats. The hysteria became so great that if a person was even seen with a black cat, both human and cat could be tried for witchcraft together.

The lesson here is if someone is throwing rocks at cats, they’re the one to fear, not the cat. 

Are Black Cats Adopted Less than Other Cats?

The Black Cat Bias is “the phenomenon where cats with black coats are viewed more negatively, adopted less often, and euthanized more often than lighter colored cats.” A study of over 15,000 cats conducted by Colorado State University found that black cats spend 26.25 days in a shelter on average, compared to 24.01 days for non-black cats. However, a 2013 ASPCA study entitled “A Comprehensive Animal Risk Database” showed that while euthanasia rates for black cats tend to be higher, black cats were adopted at the highest percentage (31%), with gray cats coming in second at 20%.

The difficulty lies in the fact that there are more black cats out there than any other color–the black coloration gene is a dominant gene, like brown hair in humans. This might explain why the data on black cats is hard to interpret.

Are Black Cats at Risk During the Halloween Season? 

The information on whether black cats are mistreated during Halloween is also inconclusive. According to a large no-kill shelter in Georgia, “Black cats often suffer cruelty and harm during Halloween.” For this reason, some shelters won’t adopt out black cats this time of year. However, according to a 2007 National Geographic study, there is not enough data to support the idea that black cats are more likely to be targets of cruel pranks or rituals during Halloween. There are “no confirmed statistics, court cases, or studies to support the idea that serious satanic cult crime even exists.” Perhaps the idea of black cats being in danger during spooky season is leftover lore from the Satanic Panic of the 80’s and 90’s?

Regardless, it’s important to note that responsible animal shelters and rescue organizations like A.R.F. take adoption very seriously. We have steps in place to ensure that any animal we adopt out is going to a safe and happy home.

Do Black Cats Make Good Pets?

Do black cats make good pets? The short answer is yes! Last year we highlighted 16 reasons why black cats are awesome, but when it comes to finding a good fit for your home, personality is more important than coloring. A black cat’s personality can vary, because there are actually 22 different cat breeds that can come with solid black coats. However, Bombay cats are the only breed that are exclusively black. These cats are not actually from Bombay (they were bred in the U.S. in the 1970’s), but are named to honor the Indian panthers they resemble, with their sleek black coats, slinky frames, and golden eyes. Highly social, vocal, and intelligent, they are known to become attached to their owners and follow them from room to room.

Our Current Adoptable Black Cats in DuPage County

We hope we’ve succeeded in melting your hearts with black cat facts! If you want to welcome a new furry family member into your home, check out A.R.F.’s adorable adoptable cats! Our current adoptable black kitties include:


Our Favorite Black Cats from Pop Culture

  1. Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch
  2. Binx from Hocus Pocus
  3. Jiji from Kiki’s Delivery Service
  4. Cosmic Creepers (that name!) from Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  5. Berlioz from The Aristocats
  6. Le Chat Noir from those old timey French posters you had in your college dorm

Black Cats to Follow on Social Media

  1. Owl Kitty on YouTube
  2. Henri on YouTube
  3. Scout of Salem on Instagram
  4. Simon the Backpackingkitty on Instagram
  5. Mikita and Dahlia on Instagram
  6. Tingeling of Tussetroll_and_tingeling on Instagram

Having a hard time getting a picture of your black cat? Check out these photography tips from the RSPCA!

Post written by: volunteer Katie Glaudell, freelance copywriter