5 Pawsitively Fascinating Facts About Black Cats

This feline is more than just a Halloween symbol

Black cat sitting on a gray couch looking away

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Black cats are well known for their association with Halloween, witchcraft, and luck. Despite their reputation, they are unique felines that are known to bring good luck in different countries and have a rich history dating all the way back to the Middle Ages.

If you're interested in learning more about these historical icons—read on for some fun facts!

  • 01 of 05

    The Background of Black Cats and Witches

    Fascinating Facts About Black Cats

    The Spruce / Theresa Chiechi

    Black cats are quintessential Halloween icons—and the number one costume choice for both elementary-aged children and women in their freshman year of college, oddly enough—but do you know how they got such a spooky rap?

    Beginning in the Middle Ages, black cats became associated with Satan, witches, and witchcraft; some people went so far as to believe that black cats were cohorts to witches or even witches who had taken on another form. This widespread superstition resulted in the horrific mass killing of black cats—and sometimes even their owners.

    Aside from continuing to represent all things eerie, the fear of black cats still has some influence today. Many animal shelters won’t place black cats in homes during the month of October for fear of them being used sacrificially.

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  • 02 of 05

    Black Cats Can Help Your Love Life

    black cat

    juliaorige / Pixabay / CC By 0

    Forget the stereotypical depiction of the perpetually single cat lady. In some parts of the world, it’s believed that black cats can actually improve your love life.

    In Japan, for example, single women who own black cats are believed to attract more suitors. In Great Britain’s English Midlands, a black cat is the ideal wedding gift; they’re believed to bring good luck and happiness to the bride.

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  • 03 of 05

    Black Cats Can Bring You Luck

    black cat

    Pezibear / Pixabay / CC By 0

    Not only can black cats better your love life, but they can amp up your good luck and improve your finances, too. Historically, sailors brought cats aboard ships to hunt mice—and, presumably, for companionship—but British sailors believed a black cat would bring the ship good luck and ensure a safe return home.

    It was a little more complicated for pirates, though. They believed a black cat walking toward you was bad luck, a black cat walking away from you was good luck, and if a cat boarded the ship and then jumped off, the ship was going to sink.

    For those of us not in a maritime profession, a black cat arriving at your doorstep signals prosperity (a common belief in Scotland), and a black cat crossing your path signals good luck (in England and Ireland).

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  • 04 of 05

    Black Cats Can Resist Disease

    black cat

    henrikveres / Pixabay / CC By 0

    Researchers at the National Institutes of Health discovered that the genetic mutations that cause cats to have black coats may offer them some protection from diseases. In fact, the mutations affect the same genes that offer HIV resistance to humans.

    Since cats can experience many of the same health issues as we do—cancer, HIV, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few—they make perfect models for studying human disease. By figuring out how cats have evolved to resist diseases, researchers can, potentially, learn how to prevent disease in humans as well.

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  • 05 of 05

    Black Cats Can Change Color

    black cat looking out of a window

    pxhere / CC By 0

    If your black cat has a tabby stripe gene and loves to spend his days lounging in the sun, his fur can turn a rusty brown color. Why? The sun’s rays break down the pigment in their fur to reveal the underlying tabby stripes.

  • How long do black cats live?

    The average lifespan of a house cat is about 15 years, give or take.

  • What breed are black cats?

    There are more than a dozen breeds of black cat, but the ones you'll encounter most often are mixed-breed American shorthair.

  • Why do black cats have bald spots?

    Black cats have a reputation for getting more bald spots than other cats, but it's really an optical illusion: we notice the spots more because the cat is black. That being said, cats get bald spots for many reasons, from fleas to parasites. If your black cat has a bald spot, ask your vet why!

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