Feline Folklore: The Stories Behind the Superstitions

Why are Black Cats Considered Bad Luck?

True cat lovers will agree that all cats are lovely – regardless of the color of their fur! But, we’ve all heard the old superstition that black cats bring bad luck to those whose paths they cross.

Where on earth did that silly idea come from? Black cats weren’t always considered bad luck. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages when people began fearing witchcraft, that black cats fell out of favor. Old English folklore held that witches could shapeshift into black cats and roam the nights, spying on people and wreaking havoc. That belief crossed the seas with the American settlers and was firmly held during the Salem witch hunts.

Even today, the association between witches and black cats can be seen at Halloween. And, though logic would tell us the idea that black cats being unlucky is a completely absurd notion, black cats are the least likely to get adopted from a shelter and hold the highest euthanasia rate – a likely side-effect of this silly superstition. 

If you have the love of a black cat, we think you’re the lucky one! Check out this collection of cool stuff we found that celebrates the beauty of black cats! 

Why Do They Say Cats Have 9 Lives?

No one is really sure why we say cats have nine lives, but we do know this myth has been around for a very long time! An ancient proverb says, “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.” And William Shakespeare makes a reference to the cats’ nine lives in his play, Romeo and Juliet. Some say that the 9 lives myth is related to a cat’s ability to always (ok, usually) land on his feet when he falls. Yes, cats have incredible dexterity – and many people have witnessed them survive incredible situations, which may have led them to believe they have multiple lives. Perhaps the myth began in ancient Egypt. Legend says that the Egyptian sun god, Atum-Ra took the form of a cat upon visits to the underworld and gave birth to 8 other gods – thus representing 9 lives in one. 

Not all cultures believe cats have 9 lives, though. In some regions of Spain, cats are said to have seven lives and legends in Turkey claim that cats only have six lives!  

Why Do They Say Cats Will Steal A Baby’s Breath?

Poor cats – they’re always getting a bad rap! A very common superstition about cats, behind the one that says black cats are bad luck, is the one that says cats will steal the breath from a baby and kill it!

Shocking as this sounds, it is a widely believed bit of folklore that’s even been published in recent history. The superstition probably began when someone noticed a house cat sniffing a baby’s breath – most likely attracted to the scent of milk. In one case from over 300 years ago, in 1791 in Plymouth, England, a coroner’s report actually states the cause of death of an 18-month old child was a cat sucking out his breath! This was, of course, well before the world was aware that babies can die without any known causes, known as sudden infant death syndrome. Also, remember that this was during the time that cats were regarded as the familiars of witches – and not held in the highest regard. 

Even more surprising, as recently as 1929 the Nebraska State Journal quoted a doctor as saying he’d seen the family cat sitting on a baby’s chest, paws on its face, in the very act of sucking out a child’s breath! It’s no wonder the myth continues to live on.  

That said, cats cannot and do not actually steal a baby’s breath. In fact, cats and babies can be taught to live harmoniously together! If you’re a new parent, start your little cat-lover-in-training off early with this adorable cat collection – just for babies! 

What’s the Story Behind the Japanese Lucky Cat?

More likely than not, you’ve seen Maneki-Neko – the Japenese Lucky Cat. Maybe she was waving a paw from the front counter of your favorite Japanese restaurant or shop, in hopes that she’d bring luck and prosperity and more customers.

Did you know, the cat’s color, her clothing, collar, and even what paw was raised were of special significance? For example, a white cat is said to bring good luck and a black cat will ward off evil spirits. A gold cat, commonly seen in shops, is said to bring good fortune, whereas a pink cat is said to bring love. Does the cat have her right paw raised? That brings good luck with money. Is her left paw up? That’s for luck in the form of many customers. Maneki-Neko might wear a scarf, a bell, a coin, and each trinket she is adorned with has its own symbolism. Even the height of her paw bears a certain meaning! 

So, what is the origin of the lucky cat? Well, there are many tales. One of the most popular stories is the Legend of the Gotokuji Temple. It is said that a wealthy samurai was taking shelter under a tree near the temple when he noticed the temple priest’s cat beckoning him to take shelter inside. Just as he approached the cat, the tree he’d been sheltering under was struck by lightning. Grateful that the cat had saved his life, the wealthy samurai gifted the temple with funding for its upkeep. When the cat died, a statue was created in his likeness, thus creating the lucky cat we know today. 

Would you like to have your very own Lucky Cat? You can find Maneki-Neko’s likeness on just about anything, from jewelry to phone covers, to the classic beckoning cat statue

What other cat symbols and superstitions have you come across?

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