What’s the Connection Between Black Cats and Halloween?
Cats have been venerated and persecuted in equal measure over the years. Their roles in major historical events, such as rodent-ridders at the dawn of organized agriculture, were not insignificant. Likewise, their influence on people has been immeasurable over the course of millennia, perhaps reaching its zenith in Ancient Egypt.
Black cats have, perhaps, experienced the greatest intensity of both human fear and admiration. Through no fault of their own, blacks cats began to be seen as pawns of the devil. The result? An odd connection between black cats and Halloween may not be easy to untangle.
A Halloween Cliche
Every year, Halloween decorations flood the stores and eventually find their way to homes around the country. Decor may be ruled by ghosts, zombies, vampires, and witches, but black cats are definitely part of the fray.
Bastet was an ancient Egyptian goddess of violence and fertility, and was often represented in one of her sacred colors: black. As the Egyptians also worshipped cats, Bastet was depicted as half-human, half-feline. This was possibly the first (but not only) example of black cats having a direct link to the spiritual, or unknown, world.
Thanks to the Greeks
Hecate, the goddess of magic, witchcraft and sorcery, had a maid that she turned into a cat as punishment for rudeness. Perhaps this was history’s first “familiar”, or the token demon-gift from the devil to a witch.
On To Rome
When Christianity became the official religion of ancient Rome, the independent and willful natures of cats made them automatically suspicious.
The Catholic Church continued its battle against cats throughout the middle ages. Lucifer was described at that time as taking a half-cat shape at night when he tempted those that doubted the Bible. Anti-cat bias flourished in the late 1400s when the pope stated that cats were the devil’s favorite animal and the idol of witches.
Black Cats and Halloween
The connection between black cats and Halloween seems like a natural fit when we take all of the above into consideration. Victorians embraced ancient Egyptian art, thus elevating the status of black cats. But superstitions are hard to break.
Edgar Allen Poe had some fairly damning descriptions in his story The Black Cat, in which a black cat’s spirit haunts their killer and drives them to madness. If this didn’t solidify the link between black cats and Halloween, think of these other examples:
- On October 31 each year, black cats were sacrificed to the Lord of the Dead in Druid circles dating back 2000 years.
- Witches were burned at the stake along with their black cats in the Middle Ages
- Black cats were widely thought to bring bad luck or death to the ill
- Black cats continue to be harmed in the weeks before and after Halloween
Because of the link between black cats and Halloween it is critical to enforce extra safety measures in the weeks surrounding the Fright Fest. Be sure to keep your black cat indoors and reduce the chances of them darting outside.
Part of the club of delightful pets, black cats deserve to be pampered and protected. As always, let our staff members know if you have questions or concerns. Happy Halloween from New Haven Pet Hospital!