Why Are People Suspicious of Black Cats?

people-suspicious-black-cats Credit: Iban Torras/CC-BY-2.0

The superstition that black cats are somehow harbingers of bad luck or evil is related to European folklore that dates back to the Middle Ages, when genuine belief in witches and evil magic caused people to adopt some specific fears. Black cats were singled out due to their dark color and the idea that witches, human beings with magic powers, would often be accompanied by a black cat with supernatural abilities known as a familiar, or that witches were capable of changing physical forms to appear as animals such as black cats. Other folk legends that tied black cats to the occult and even to demons appeared in different parts of the world, including in the American South.

However, not all humans have been spooked by black cats. In Japan, black cats are the subject of positive superstitions, including one that holds that a single woman who owns a black cat will attract many romantic admirers. In some parts of England, it is considered good luck to own a black cat, and black cats may even have been given as wedding gifts in this part of the country. There are many different iterations of black cat superstitions, both positive and negative. It is difficult to say exactly why the black cat, of all domesticated felines, attracts this kind of attention.