Be it Binx in “Hocus Pocus” or Salem in “Sabrina The Teenage Witch”, recent forms of media, including Netflix shows, web series, and even fantasy fiction novels, have carried forward the tradition of associating black cats with magic and witchcraft.
In fact, the association of black cats with witchcraft has become so common that there is a new ongoing school of thought among a lot of cat parents and cat lovers about how the lives of black cats are at increased risk during Halloween.
But how solid is the basis of this claim? Are black cats really endangered during Halloween? Or is this just a plain rumor based on false accusations and misinformation? Read along as we navigate through these questions and more.
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History Of Black Cats And Halloween
Black cats have shared a complicated relationship with superstitions for ages. There have been periods when black cats were considered sacred and worshipped as gods.
There have been periods when black cats were considered cursed creatures and bad omens.
There is a rich history of black cats and superstitions, which has trickled down to now making black cats a go-to symbol for Halloween.
Positive Myths Associating Black Cats With Divinity
The earliest connection between black cats and superstitions was made in ancient Egypt, where these little creatures were considered sacred omens.
The history of black cats in ancient Egypt dates as far back as the Second Dynasty (2890 BCE). It was since then, that one of the goddesses was highly revered in Egypt, called Bastet.
Bastet was the goddess of the sun. Later on, her role as a goddess evolved into becoming what was called the “eye of the moon”.
As civilizations progressed and superstitions got more and more modifications due to a lack of written scriptures, Bastet eventually became a symbol of fertility, childbirth, and pregnancy.
Black cats have shared such positive reputations in several other cultures, such as the Japanese and British myths which regard black cats to be harbingers of prosperity and affluence.
But, sadly, the majority of superstitions that involve black cats have given them a bad reputation and associated them with black magic, curses, misfortune, and even death.
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The Transition Of Black Cats From Divinity To Witchcraft
The earliest historical reference that associates black cats with negative notions can be found in Greek mythology.
Hecate, the Greek goddess of witchcraft, ghosts, death, and the full moon, was said to have an assistant in the form of a black cat.
For the ancient Greeks, thus, the sight of a black cat was a sign of the presence or arrival of the goddess Hecate – who brought, along with her, black magic, misfortune, the undead of the afterlife, and even death.
The Greeks are not alone in their misgivings about black cats. In the United States as well, the widespread belief about black cats is that they are a symbol of witchcraft and all ominous things.
To see when the United States started fearing black cats as an omen, we need to travel further back to Europe in the year 1232. This year, the then-Catholic Pope Gregory IX denounced the black cat because he feared it was an incarnation of Satan himself.
As this statement came directly from the church, entire of Europe became influenced by it and started regarding black cats as signs of Satan. This belief came to the United States through the Plymouth Colony, with the incoming pilgrims.
The Purist Pilgrims who came to the Plymouth colony were god-fearing people who had great disbelief in all things related to black magic and witchcraft, including the black cat.
As the influence of the Pilgrims’ ideologies spread across the United States, so did the belief that black cats are an omen of bad luck.
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Why Are Black Cats Associated With Halloween?
The modern-day festival of Halloween dates back to the early pagan holiday of the Celtic people, called Samhain.
Through a lot of chaotic history, changes in rituals, and the conversion of pagan symbolisms, we have what we see as Halloween today.
But the crux of the festival of Halloween is its connection with the afterlife.
And as soon as the undead, afterlife, and black magic came to the fore, black cats were instantly connected to Halloween as well.
Owing to the same superstitions of witchcraft, black magic, and death, that are shared by both – black cats and the festival of Halloween – it did not take a lot of time for people to make connections between black cats and Halloween.
The association of black cats with Halloween is all fun and games as long as it is kept to simple symbolism. There is nothing wrong with hanging images of black cats or dressing up your black cat in a cute witch costume for Halloween.
The problem starts to arise when people, even in modern times, take this superstition too seriously, and start harming, and even mutilating, black cats on Halloween.
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What Do People Do To Black Cats On Halloween?
A report by PETA on its website peta.org, dated October 29, 2019, lists the gruesome horrors faced by black cats in the name of Halloween.
The incidents mentioned in that report are too horrifying to seem real, but sadly, all of those incidents are based on true events that happened to those poor black cats.
The link to the actual report has been provided in the references. However, a trigger warning is issued for those who cannot deal with the gruesome incidents described in the report. Please view the whole report at your own discretion.
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A summary of that report has been listed down here:
- In Texas, a poor black cat was found dead in front of the owner’s lawn. Its body was badly mutilated.
- In Asheville, North Carolina, another cat’s strung up and mutilated dead body was found in a grocery store.
- A black cat was shot in the eye in Texas during Halloween. After long and painful treatments, and risky surgery, she managed to survive.
- A Pittsburgh couple, too, had to lose their beloved pet owing to the superstitions of Halloween. Their black cat, too, was attacked and had to be euthanized due to grave injuries.
- An outdoor cat in Montcalm County, Michigan, lost its limbs due to being shot on Halloween.
- Another black cat in Laguna Beach was lynched to death on Halloween.
- In Sacramento, California, a woman found a bag containing a brutally mutilated black cat that then had to be euthanized.
- A black cat in Oakland County was found dead with grievous injuries to the skull.
Detailed accounts of these horrors are given in the report on peta.org – however, it is advised to only view the report at your own discretion.
These are just some of the reports, that got recorded. There are many unaccounted reports that never get reported by the cops or by the media.
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Do People Kill Black Cats On Halloween?
As may have become clear from the aforementioned incidents, it is a sad but true fact that even in modern times, there are people who kill black cats on Halloween.
While some do it out of deranged superstitions, some others do it just for some twisted version of “fun”.
Although there are several controversial claims made about a lack of evidential data that indicates an increase in danger to black cats during the time of Halloween, the anecdotal shreds of evidence found across the United States are enough for a lot of shelters to put a hold on the adoption of black cats during Halloween season.
Moreover, even pet owners with black cats exercise greater caution in not letting their black cats outdoors unattended during this season.
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Why Do People Kill Black Cats On Halloween?
The association between black cats, witchcraft, and Halloween, runs deep in the history of religion in Europe and the United States.
When, after the Purist Pilgrims spread the ideology of black cats being a bad omen across the United States, it became a catalyst for the further bad rep of the poor animals.
The North California-based author of “Broth from the Cauldron: A Wisdom Journey Through Everyday Magic”, Cerridwen Fallingstar, had explained the entire history of black cats, witches, and the inhumane killings that followed.
“Black cats and Halloween are both connected to witches. Europe’s pre-Christian pagans were known as witches.
While the early Christian church in Europe coexisted with the witches, when the church rose to power, they started persecuting, hunting, torturing, and executing them in great numbers because they were in direct competition for the hearts and minds of the populace.
Witches have a high regard for plants and animals and venerated the natural world. As a result, human-animal affection started to appear demonic or satanic, and the elderly woman with her cats was viewed suspiciously.
Like the ladies charged with witchcraft, cats frequently displayed a healthy disdain for authority. Independent ladies and independent animals were not accepted in the religion.”Cerridwen Fallingstar
This war of religion between the two schools of thought, sadly, led to the black cats bearing the brunt of it all.
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How Many Black Cats Are Killed On Halloween?
There is no report available indicating an exact number of black cats that are killed in the name of Halloween rituals.
However, anecdotal shreds of evidence suggest that a minimum of 10 to 20 black cats are killed specifically due to Halloween and superstitions every year during the Halloween season across the United States.
This is in addition to the number of black cats that are euthanized on a daily basis. Each day, about 800 cats are euthanized in the United States, of which black cats make up about 10 to 15 percent. That brings the number close to 80 to 85 black cats being killed every day.
Come the Halloween season, the number goes up to 100 black cats being killed in a single day.
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What Are The Top Dangers To A Black Cat On Halloween?
The top dangers that a black cat faces on Halloween include:
- being shot at
- being abandoned after the Halloween celebration
- serious injuries that may lead to euthanasia
The safety and life of black cats are at risk when such superstitions run high among communities.
How Do We Protect Black Cats On Halloween?
The best way to protect black cats on Halloween is to keep them indoors. Do not let your cats outdoors unattended. Preferably let your cats stay inside for the 2 days of celebrations – Halloween and the day after it.
If you see any stray black cat in the streets, get it to a shelter. If you are unable to capture the cat, then report to the shelter about the cat – they may be able to help.
If you notice any injured cat on the street, report the incident to the police and take the cat to the vet immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I keep my black cat inside on Halloween?
On Halloween, it’s advisable to keep cats inside, especially black cats. On this night, several black cats go missing as a result of tricks or other heinous causes. Being safe is preferable to being sorry. Finally, make sure that your cat cannot access any confectionery, especially chocolate, which is harmful to cats.
Is Halloween safe for cats?
One of the riskiest periods of the year for outdoor cats is around Halloween. Sadly, Halloween also sees an increase in animal cruelty cases, especially against black cats, in addition to the eerie costumes that could scare cats.
Black cats have been bearing the unfair brunt of superstitions for ages. Even modern times have shown little improvement.
Even when you do not consider the atrocities of Halloween, black cats remain the hardest to place in forever homes because not a lot of people want to adopt them.
Letting a cat’s fur color determine how you treat it is an indictment of humanity. Black cats are just that – cats with fur that is black in color. It is neither rational nor fair for us humans to determine the value of a cat based on its fur color.
This discrimination intensifies during Halloween, and it is our duty as pet owners and as humans to take care of black cats and all other animals that may encounter abuse.
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- https://www.peta.org/blog/halloween-horror-stories-black-cat-outdoors/ (Reader discretion is advised.)