We had a black cat when I was a kid,
Salem joined our family as an malnourished stray kitten that our Shepard-mix, Duke, cornered under the picnic table in our back yard.
My mother always claimed to be allergic to cats, so my brothers and I never brought any stray cats home with us. Although we had ample opportunity for them, we mostly brought home stray dogs, and box turtles, and garter snakes, and lizards, and about-to-die baby birds, and crawfish, and mayonnaise jars full of minnows, …….but never a stray cat. Until Salem.
We didn’t have too. Like all the best pets, he found us.
Salem was dark as night, with golden-yellow eyes. He grew to almost 20 pounds. He wasn’t obese, just big. He was never anything but loving with our family, you could hear him purr from the next room, but he brought a reign of holy terror on the chimney swifts that set up home in our chimney every spring. Waiting stealthily on the hearth for hours then pouncing up the chimney to return every time with an unsuspecting sparrow in his fangs, which he would parade through the house for everyone to see untill my mother would finally shoo him and his prize out the back door. We lived in the country where our animals were strictly outside only. But not Salem, he had in/out privileges. We rarely had rats, or mice, or even the snakes that eat the rats and mice. Salem was in charge of that.
He lived a long happy life until he had to be put down my junior year of college. Salem developed a tumor on his nose that all too quickly became worse.
He was a good guy, and the only cat we ever had.
I’m glad that he had found us.
So why are black cats considered bad luck?
(image via Folio Illustration Agency)
Black cats weren’t always feared or considered bad luck. In early Egyptian times, cats were the rock stars of the word held in very high esteem. In fact it was considered a capital crime to kill one. It wasn’t until the middle-ages that cats began to be associated with witches. The hysteria of witches practicing black magic spread across Europe, and unfortunately stray cats were often fed by the poor lonely old ladies who were later accused of witchery. This lead to many people killing cats, which had the unintended consequence of increasing the rodent population. Thus only spreading the bubonic plague even faster.
In folklore, black cats act as spys for witches. The Pilgrims had a very devout biblical faith and were suspicious of anything associated with the devil. They considered black cats to be part demon and the companions of witches. Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even put to death.
Why is it considered unlucky for a black cat to cross your path?
The folklore tells of a father and son making the rounds in their village on a moonless night when a black cat ran across their path. Being men, the started throwing rocks at the poor creature until it retreated under the house of a woman suspected of being a witch. The next day, both men witnessed the old woman bruised and limping, and believed that it was more than a coincidence. From that day forward, it was thought that witches could turn into black cats at night.
Even today the association of black cats and witches still holds strong during Halloween celebrations.