Interesting facts about cats

Cats and Superstitions

Our beloved house cat has a long and mysterious history. Who could guess that our adorable, playful kitten has such a famous (and sometimes infamous!) past? The cat is probably the most well know animal that is credited with supernatural powers and therefore associated with a wealth of superstitions. One of the earliest accounts of the cat’s mysterious powers came from the Egyptians. They bestowed divine status on the cat and would not kill one. In fact, killing a cat was a crime, and punishable by death. In those times, if a pet cat died the whole family went into official mourning and the cat’s body would be buried with a grand ceremony. The belief that a cat has nine lives stems from these ancient Egyptian superstitions.

Throughout Europe in later centuries the cat became closely related with witchcraft. Even today, a depiction of a witch is usually accompanied by her black cat. Sorcerers were supposed to be able to transform themselves into a black cat and these witch’s cats were thought to feed on the blood of their mistresses.

In the past, many people thought that a litter of kittens born in May, which is a month associated with the dead and also the practice of witchcraft, should be drowned at once. People of this time would show reluctance in discussing family matters if there was a cat present, as the cat could be a witch’s ‘familiar’ (the supernatural spirit agent of a witch or sorcerer), or even a witch in disguise. In France, cats that were suspected of being witches were often caged and then burned alive. And in Eastern Europe, people often marked a cat with a cross in order to prevent the animal from turning into a witch.

The most widely associated color of a cat associated with the supernatural and witches is entirely black. Most of our superstitions with cats are the ones who are black, although there are other superstitions around the world involving other colors such as white, grey and tortoiseshell (white, orange and black) cats. It is said that if a black cat crosses a person’s path, this will bring good luck to that person, and allow him or her to make a wish. On the other hand, in the USA, Spain and Belgium a black cat brings only bad luck, and white and grey ones are preferred. In the British Isles, the symbol of a black cat is lucky, and just touching this animal will bring good luck. Also, black cats are often a common motif on good luck cards. Throughout Europe, white cats are widely distrusted, and stray tortoiseshell cats are feared if brought into the home because they are thought to bring bad luck with them.

A cat also bestows luck on newlyweds if it appears next to the bride. And it is thought that if a cat jumps over a coffin it must be caught and killed since the soul of the deceased maybe put in peril. But generally, killing a cat is ill-advised, since this act will sacrifice one’s soul to the devil.

Miners are particularly distrustful of cats on the job, and are even reluctant to say the word ‘cat’ while working in the mines. They also have been known to refuse to work underground if a cat was spotted below and allowed to live. On the other hand, sailors and fishermen consider cats as good luck, especially black ones, and will take them on their voyages.

Nowadays, cats have a place in our hearts and homes as a beloved companion to our family. Their long and colorful and sometimes shady history is mostly forgotten as we watch our adorable fluffy kitten playing with a ball of yarn. But in the past, these creatures played an important part in the customs and cultures of our ancestors.

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