When I was 5 years old, my family moved from Southern California to Northern California. My first friend in our new apartment complex was a black cat, unoriginally named “Blackie,” according to the tag on his collar. Blackie would arrive on our patio on Saturday mornings just in time for breakfast. My parents used to sleep in, so I’d sneak him inside and we’d share my cereal and watch cartoons together until I heard mom and dad stirring. At that point, I’d scoot him out the patio door with a smooch to the top of his head, pretty sure we’d never get caught. I thought I was pretty sly until my dad mentioned that I probably ought to get rid of the black cat hair on the couch if I was going to continue to invite my new feline friend indoors and have my mom remain none the wiser!
Black cats often get a really bad rap, so in honor of Black Cat Appreciation Day this August 17th, I’d like to share with you the wonders of these special felines:
1. The Cat Fanciers Association recognizes 22 different cat breeds that can be blessed with a solid black coat.
2. Black cats have the highest abandonment rate with not just solid black cats, but those with varying degrees of black in their coat showing up more often in shelters and rescues
Mokey the therapy cat. Photo by Patty Guthrie.
3. While black cats are often considered harbingers of bad luck, in many cultures it is believed that black cats can actually bring good fortune through their ability to shape shift into humans and ward off demons and other bad spirits.
4. Freyja, the Norse goddess of fertility and good health, is often depicted with black cats pulling her chariot.
5. While many a ship’s captain desired a cat onboard to keep the vessel free of rodents, a lot of sailors preferred black cats for the job as they were believed to also insure a safe journey home.
6. In Japan, it is believed that owning a black cat could mean more suitors for their owner.
7. In Germany, if a black cat crosses your path, this means good luck. That’s my kind of superstition!
8. The genetic mutation that makes a cat’s coat black also makes them more resistant to some diseases and is the same gene mutation that leads to HIV resistance in humans.
Wookie, therapy cat in training. Photo by Patty Guthrie.
9. A black cat’s fur can temporarily turn a reddish brown due to prolonged exposure to sunlight. The melanin returns to normal when they aren’t exposed to all that sunshine.
10. While all cats’ fur can gray with age just like people, it is most strikingly noticeable in black cats.
Bonus fun fact: More black cats are male than female!
And for black cat lovers of all ages, pick up a copy of “Black Cats Get a Bad Rap,” by J.G. Piper and charmingly illustrated by Linda Apple.