The Mystical Cat -- Superstitions and Legends about Cats  

This article is written by Darlene Norris, who writes Cool Cat Care Stuff, a blog devoted to natural health care for cats, and other cool cat stuff.

"Cats are mysterious creatures who hunt by night. They slink silently about, creeping up on prey that never hears them coming. Their eyes reflect any available light and appear to glow from within...

Is it any wonder that every part of the world has its own superstitions about cats? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of folktales across the world about cats. Many different cultures around the world share the belief that cats are really fairies, witches, or goblins in disguise.

Superstitions about cats by Nora

In this video, a cute little girl named Nora talks about cat superstitions:

Posted in YouTube

A Few Cat Tales From Around The World

Probably one of the oldest stories involving a cat is a Hebrew folk tale. In this story, Lilith was Adam's first wife, before Eve. However, Lilith was banished from the Garden of Eden because she wouldn't obey Adam. After this, she became a demon in the form of a huge black cat known as El Broosha. This demonic cat supposedly sucked the blood from newborn babies.

Another legend states that cats were sneezed out by lions on the Ark. So, since they weren't created by God, cats supposedly come from the devil, and were evil creatures under his control.

A more innocent tale involves Manx cats. When the animals were boarding the ark, the cat lollygagged behind, and he lost his tail when the door closed on it! Given the fact that cats still like to take their sweet time when going in or out of a door, especially if there's a human holding it, this one isn't quite so far-fetched.

Did you know that according to a Chinese legend, cats could not only talk, but they were in charge of the world? But the lazy cats got tired of running things, so they delegated their tasks to us humans, so they could spend all their time lying around. Now they can no longer talk, but they still look superior when they watch us running around doing all the work!

There are many stories surrounding Siamese cats. These felines helped to guard the treasures in Siamese palaces and temples. It's said that they stared so intently at the treasures they were guarding that their eyes became crossed! Sometimes a Siamese cat has a kink in its tail. This came about when a princess put her rings on a Siamese cat's tail for safekeeping while she took a bath. The cat knotted its tail around the rings to keep them from falling off, thus causing a kink in its tail.

Ancient Egyptians refused to kill cats because felines captured the glow from the setting sun in their eyes and kept it safe until the sun rose again in the morning. When Egypt was attacked by Persia, the enemy tied cats to their shields. The Egyptians couldn't fight the invaders because they didn't want to risk injuring or killing the cats.

An old English folktale involves a maiden who had to spin 10,000 skeins of linen to save her lover from a sorcerer's curse. Her three kitties helped her by spinning it all. So a cat's purring is reminiscent of the hum of the spinning wheel.

Even sailors and fishermen have superstitions about cats. Many sailors believed that if a cat fell over the side of the ship into the sea, it would get vengeance by calling up a storm to sink the ship. And fishermen will sometimes toss a little piece of fish back into the ocean "for the cat." This particular cat was really a witch who went to sea with her fisherman lover. When it was discovered that the lady was a witch, the other fishermen wanted to drown her. She changed back into a cat and caused a storm that destroyed the entire fishing fleet.

And if you live in the Netherlands, don't discuss private family affairs in front of the family cat. The little gossip will tell everyone in town what's going on!

Colorful Cat Stories

Tortoiseshell cats, also known as "torties," are pale orange and black. Unlike calico, torties have very little white on them. There are many superstitions involving torties:
* In Scotland and Ireland, if a stray tortie chooses to live with you, it's good luck.
* If you're in England, you can get rid of a wart by rubbing a tortoiseshell cat's tail on it, but only during the month of May. I guess you just have to live with the wart for the other eleven months!
* People who live in Normandy (which is now Northern France) believe that if you see a tortie, you'll die in an accident. I'm glad I don't live there, as I've seen many torties, and I'm still alive and kicking!
* In Japan, a tortie who has more white on her is considered very lucky. And a tortie tomcat (like a calico tomcat, a rarity) is supposed to bring fair weather to sailors.

Edgar Allen Poe had a tortoiseshell cat named Catarina, who kept his wife company when she was sick. This cat often sat on his shoulder while he was writing, and she was the inspiration for his story, "The Black Cat."

In Japan, a black spot on a kitty means that the feline is carrying the soul of a departed ancestor. In Indonesia, the gray Korat cat, which is the color of a rain cloud, is sprinkled with water in a ceremony meant to bring rain for the farmers.

Blue cats bring good luck in Russia, but in China, old, ugly cats are thought to bring good luck. Buddhists believe that dark-colored cats attract gold, while light-colored ones bring silver.

Are Black Cats Really Evil?

Black cats are among the most maligned animals on the planet. There are probably more superstitions and stories about black cats than about any other animal.

This came about during the middle ages. Because cats roam about at night when "all God-fearing creatures should be asleep," it was believed that they were servants of the devil, and that they had supernatural powers. Even Pope Gregory IX said that cats are "diabolical creatures." And black cats were especially hated and feared, simply because of their color.

During the witch hunts of the middle ages, many people, usually old women, were burned at the stake for being witches. Their cats were killed, too. In fact, so many cats were destroyed during the witch hunts that domestic cats nearly became extinct in Europe. With few cats to kill them, rats became very numerous. And rats carried the Black Death, a plague which decimated Europe several times during those centuries.

Today, quite a few superstitions about black cats still linger. Many people associate black cats with witchcraft, which makes them a target for abuse, especially around Halloween. When I worked at an animal shelter back in the '80's, we wouldn't adopt out black cats or kittens around Halloween because sometimes people would do strange things with them.

I just read an article online the other day about the difficulty British animal shelters are having trying to get people to adopt black cats. This is just silliness, as far as I'm concerned. I've been owned by many black cats over the years, and I'm here to tell you that black cats are just as sweet and loving as any other color of cat! Unlike people, cats don't know or care what color they are. We could all learn something from that.

Superstitions about Black Cats

There are probably as many superstitions about black cats as there are black cats! Depending on where in the world you live (and in what century), black kitties are considered either lucky or unlucky.

If a black cat crosses your path in Germany, you'd better hope it's going from left to right, as that's a good omen. But if it's going from right to left, bad luck is coming your way. In England, it's the opposite!

In Italy, if a black cat lies on a sick person's bed, that person will die. And if the funeral procession meets up with a black kitty, someone else in the family will die.

In China, a black cat foretells famine and poverty. But in Latvia, a black feline contains the spirit of a harvest god, and seeing a black cat on the farm is considered a very good sign indeed.

If a black cat is walking towards you, it's bringing good luck. But if the black cat turns and runs away, it's taking the good luck with it. A variation of this belief is that a strange black cat sitting on your porch is a sign of prosperity. But if you chase the cat off, it will take the good luck with it.

To reverse the bad luck curse of a black cat crossing your path, first walk in a circle, then go backward across the spot where it happened and count to 13.

What About White Cats?

If black cats are considered unlucky, are white cats considered lucky? Sometimes, in the US, white cats were thought to bring good fortune. Dreaming about a white cat is supposed to bring good luck.

Apparently if you see a white cat on the road, you're lucky if it's daytime, but unlucky if you see it at night. I suspect it's probably more unlucky for the cat, especially if a car hits it!

Urban Myths about Cats

There have been many stories over the centuries involving cats. These stories still go around today, in the form of urban myths. These can be quite amusing to read about, but just don't take them seriously!

If you'd like to learn more about cats and superstitions, check out Feline Folktails - Cats in Folklore and Superstition, which is where most of the information in this article came from.

Cats are wonderful creatures, and we're blessed to have them in our lives!

Thanks a lot Darlene for your great article. The mysticism around feline has long been captivated us for so many years along side with their behaviors and characters. Indeed cats are the beauty of mystery. Believe it or not, most people here in the place where I live - Indonesia - believe that having a calico tomcat will bring huge and never ending fortune, as well as great luck! (felinesopher)

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