The black cat, for those who are not superstitious, can only be viewed as the victim of several millennia of smear campaigns. Many cultures have viewed the animal as an unlucky beast, and there are dozens of different superstitious thoughts regarding black cats. The poor ebony furred animal seldom gets good press, though there are certainly some cultures that have revered rather than despised the animal, and many rumors just as superstitious, but more positive about the black cat.
In ancient history, especially in the Fertile Crescent, there were opposing beliefs about the black cat, and how you viewed the animal depended upon your culture and religion. Ancient Egyptians treasured the black cat and some even felt the cat possessed spiritual qualities. Egyptians often mummified their family pets, especially black cats. The Jews and the Babylonians, however, felt all cats were related to serpents, especially in their habit of curling up near warm places like hearths. All three cultures believe the cat had inherent spiritual qualities. Ancient Greeks, like the Egyptians, associated cats with godliness, and believed that Artemis often took the form of a cat.
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Some contend that the strongest influence on the negative attitude toward the black cat stems from the Crusades first, and the Early American preoccupation with witchcraft. This may be in part true. Still tied to some type of spiritual origin, black cats were often thought to be the familiars of witches, a belief dating to the Middle Ages. To own or possess a black cat was to potentially suggest you were a witch or worshipper of the devil, and that the cat was your familiar. The color was important too, since black cats couldn’t be seen well in the dark when you’d conduct your evil schemes. Edgar Allan Poe furthered suspicions regarding the animal by writing undoubtedly one of the most frightening short stories The Black Cat which maintains the connection between feline and the spirit world.
Actually, evidence suggests that the theory that a black cat crossing your path is unlucky does not come from Early America. The superstition is most active in India, and in several Eastern European nations that weren't much involved in the Crusades, particularly Romania. In other parts of Europe and in Japan, a black cat crossing your path is good luck, and in Ireland, killing a cat of any color was thought to bring seventeen years of bad luck. Scotland is most generous to the kitty; a black feline at your doorstep meant prosperity was coming your way.
Association of black cats and bad luck in the Americas has led to some problems, particularly around Halloween. Though there’s scant evidence of huge pockets of Satanic Cults in the US, there are some sick-minded people who take and kill especially black cats around this day. The US Humane society and others suggest keeping all your cats in a few days before Halloween and until after the holiday is over.
The many superstitions regarding black cats, and their frequent connection to the spirit world, arising independently in numerous cultures may have much to do with the nature of cats. They can stare into space, and look as though they see something, a somewhat unsettling experience for some cat owners. Black cats do seem to blend in with the dark, with only their shining eyes glowing if a light hits them. Cats generally are curious creatures, with wills of their own and a great deal of independence. Though humans have long owned cats, this independent streak may assert their wild nature, even among the most pampered and affectionate pusses.