Black cat

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For other uses, see Black cat (disambiguation).
Some cultures are superstitious about black cats, ascribing either good or bad luck to them.

A black cat is a domestic cat with black fur that may be a mixed or specific breed. The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) recognizes 22 cat breeds that can come with solid black coats.[1] The Bombay breed is exclusively black. All-black fur pigmentation is slightly more prevalent in male cats than female cats. Their high melanin pigment content causes most black cats to have yellow (golden) eyes (irises).


Black short hair domestic cat.
A black feral cat.

Any cat whose fur is a single color, including black, is known as a "solid" or "self". A "solid black" cat may be coal black, grayish black, or brownish black. Most solid-colored cats result from a recessive gene that suppresses the tabby pattern. Sometimes the tabby pattern is not completely suppressed; faint markings may appear in certain lights, even on a solid black cat. A cat having black fur with white roots is known as a "black smoke."[2]

Black cats can also "rust" in sunlight, the coat turning a lighter brownish shade.[2]

A black cat "rusting" (coat turning a lighter brown shade) in sunlight

In addition to the Bombay, the Cat Fanciers' Association allows solid black as a color option in 21 other breeds. The color description for those breeds is:

Black: dense coal black, sound from roots to tip of fur. Free from any tinge of rust on the tips. Nose leather: black. Paw pads: black or brown.

The exceptions are:

  • OrientalEbony: dense coal black. Free from any tinge of rust on tips or smoke undercoat. Nose leather: black. Paw pads: black or brown.
  • SphynxBlack: black. One level tone from nose to tip of tail. Nose leather: black. Paw pads: black or brown.
  • Ragamuffin – Although black is not specifically mentioned, the standard allows for "any color, with or without white," so technically speaking, an all-black Ragamuffin would be allowed under the breed standard.[3]

Historical associations[edit]

Superstition, prejudice, bringer of good or bad luck[edit]

The folklore surrounding black cats varies from culture to culture. The Scots believe that a strange black cat's arrival to the home signifies prosperity. In Celtic mythology, a fairy known as the Cat Sìth takes the form of a black cat. Black cats are also considered good luck in Japan.[4] Furthermore, it is believed that a lady who owns a black cat will have many suitors.[5] However, in Western history, black cats have often been looked upon as a symbol of evil omens, specifically being suspected of being the familiars of witches, and so most of Europe considers the black cat a symbol of bad luck, especially if one crosses paths with a person, which is believed to be an omen of misfortune and death. In Germany, some believe that black cats crossing a person's path from right to left, is a bad omen. But from left to right, the cat is granting favorable times.[6]

The black cat in folklore has been able to change into human shape to act as a spy or courier for witches or demons. When the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, they brought with them a devout faith in the Bible. They also brought a deepening suspicion of anything deemed of Satan and were a deeply suspicious group. They viewed the black cat as a companion, or a familiar to witches. Anyone caught with a black cat would be severely punished or even killed. They viewed the black cat as part demon and part sorcery.[7] During the Middle Ages, these superstitions led people to kill black cats. There is no evidence from England of regular large-scale massacres of "satanic" cats, or of burning them in midsummer bonfires, as sometimes occurred elsewhere in Europe.[8]

However, the supernatural powers ascribed to black cats were sometimes viewed positively, for example sailors considering a "ship's cat" would want a black one because it would bring good luck.[9] Sometimes, fishermen's wives would keep black cats at home too, in the hope that they would be able to use their influence to protect their husbands at sea (see Ship's cat). The view of black cats being favorable creatures is attributed specifically to the Egyptian goddess Bast (or Bastet), the cat goddess. Egyptian households believed they could gain favor from Bastet by hosting black cats in their household. This view was held in the early 17th century by the English monarch Charles I. Upon the death of his treasured pet black cat, he is said to have lamented that his luck was gone. True to his claim, he was arrested the very next day and charged with high treason.[10]

Pirates of the 18th century believed that a black cat would bring different kinds of luck. If a black cat walks towards someone, that person will have bad luck. If a black cat walks away from someone then that person will have good luck. If a black cat walks onto a ship and then walks off it, the ship is doomed to sink on its next trip. Black cats have been found to have lower odds of adoption in American shelters compared to other colors except brown, although black animals in general take more time to find homes.[11][12] Some shelters also suspend or limit adoptions of black cats around Halloween[13] for fear they will be tortured, or used as "living decorations" for the holiday and then abandoned.[14][15][16] However, in the history of humane work, no one has ever documented any relationship between adopting black cats, and cats being killed or injured. When such killings are reported, forensic evidence has pointed to natural predators, such as coyotes, eagles, or raptors as the likely cause.[15] August 17 is "Black Cat Appreciation Day".[17][18]

In the early days of television in the United States, many stations located on VHF channel 13 used a black cat as a mascot in order to make sport of being located on an "unlucky" channel number.


The black cat of the Industrial Workers of the World, also adopted as a symbol by anarcho-syndicalists

Since the 1880s, the color black has been associated with anarchism. The black cat, in an alert, fighting stance was later adopted as an anarchist symbol.

More specifically, the black cat—often called the "sab cat" or "sabo-tabby"[19]—is associated with anarcho-syndicalism, a branch of anarchism that focuses on labor organizing (see Wildcat strike).

In testimony before the court in a 1918 trial of Industrial Workers of the World leaders, Ralph Chaplin, who is generally credited with creating the IWW's black cat symbol, stated that the black cat "was commonly used by the boys as representing the idea of sabotage. The idea being to frighten the employer by the mention of the name sabotage, or by putting a black cat somewhere around. You know if you saw a black cat go across your path you would think, if you were superstitious, you are going to have a little bad luck. The idea of sabotage is to use a little black cat on the boss."[20]

Famous black cats[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Black Cat Breeds
  2. ^ a b "Cat Colors FAQ: Common Colors". Cat Fanciers Chat ( Archived from the original on 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2011-10-08. 
  3. ^ Syufy, Franny. "Facts About Black Cats". Archived from the original on 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2011-10-08. 
  4. ^ "Superstition Bash Black Cats". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-10-09. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  5. ^ Singer, Jo (2009). "Black Cat Myths". Archived from the original on 2011-10-09. Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  6. ^ "Black Cats... Do black cats mean good luck or bad luck for you?". 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-10-09. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  7. ^ Miller, Mary Ann (2011). "The Mystique Behind Black Cats". The Cat Archived from the original on 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2011-09-26. 
  8. ^ "A Dictionary of English Folklore". Oxford University Press. 2000. Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  9. ^ Eyers, Jonathan (2011). Don't Shoot the Albatross!: Nautical Myths and Superstitions. London: A & C Black. ISBN 978-1-4081-3131-2. 
  10. ^ Parkinson, Ann. "Black Cats". Love To Know Cats. Archived from the original on 2011-10-09. Retrieved 2011-10-09. 
  11. ^ "The REAL scary truth about black cats". 2012-10-24. Retrieved 2013-06-11. 
  12. ^ Lepper, Merry; Kass, Philip H.; Hart, Lynette A. (2002). "Prediction of adoption versus euthanasia among dogs and cats in a California animal shelter". Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2002;5(1):29-42. School of Veterinary Medicine University of California. Archived from the original on 2006-09-25. 
  13. ^ Rodriguez, Rachel (October 31, 2014). "To be a black cat on Halloween". CNN. Archived from the original on October 31, 2014. 
  14. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara; Mikkelson, David (October 27, 2005). "Cat o'Nine Tales". Archived from the original on 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2011-10-08. 
  15. ^ a b Boks, Ed (6 Oct 2010). "The truth about black cats and Halloween". The Daily Courier. Archived from the original on 2011-09-25. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  16. ^ Crump, Morgan (October 25, 2011). "Humane Society refuses black cat adoption during Halloween season". Archived from the original on 2011-11-05. Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
  17. ^ Mills, Jeremy (August 15, 2011). "Black Cat Appreciation Day is August 17". Archived from the original on 2011-08-18. Retrieved 2011-08-17. 
  18. ^ O'Day, Robin (August 17, 2012). "Black Cat Appreciation Day for animal shelters". Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  19. ^ "IWW Union Dictionary and Glossary". Industrial Workers of the World. May 1, 2005. Archived from the original on 2011-10-09. Retrieved 2011-10-09. A symbol for "sabotage" (i.e. inefficiency at the point of production by disgruntled workers), usually represented by a black cat with bared teeth. Also called "sab kitty", "sabo-tabby", or "the cat". 
  20. ^ Salerno, Salvatore (1989). Red November, Black November: Culture and Community in the Industrial Workers of the World. SUNY Press. p. 178. ISBN 0-7914-0089-1.  from U.S. v. W.D. Haywood, et al., testimony of Ralph Chaplin, July 19, 1918, IWW Collection, Box 112, Folder 7, pp. 7702 & 7711, Labor History Archive, Wayne State University