Mum is busy stocking up on Halloween candy, so I’ve taken over this week’s column in an effort to help black cats everywhere.
I’m happy to be a beautiful calico cat who’s considered to be good luck. How cool is that? But what about those poor black cats? How did they get such a bad rap? The answer requires a brief history lesson.
We cats started hanging around humans 10,000 years ago when you first started growing food instead of hunting it. Cats were observant and noticed rodents wherever corn and wheat were stored, and rodents meant a meal. Soon enough, cats grew to like people and vice-versa.
Most everyone knows that the Egyptians worshipped cats. They realized that we made fine pets but still had minds of our own. Does that sound like the cats you know? I mean, do we come when called?
The Egyptians also worshipped gods and goddesses that were part human and part cat. The goddess of violence and fertility, Bastet, was one of those combos, and one of her favorite colors was black. Don’t ask me how you combine violence and fertility. Humans come up with the strangest ideas, but Bastet is why black cats were seen as special. Note, I said special, not bad luck or evil.
Perhaps it was this pagan affinity for cats that caused medieval Christians to distrust us. Distrust is too mild a word. Heck, they accused us of participating in orgies with the devil. From then on, it got worse for cats, especially black ones. We were all described as favorites of the devil and of witches, and you know what happened to the witches, don’t you?
Years later, cats were better appreciated with intelligent people like Charles Dickens and Mark Twain holding us in high regard. Having a few admirers still didn’t do away with most people’s fear of cats, black ones in particular, and Edgar Allan Poe’s horror story “The Black Cat” didn’t help matters. I mean, honestly, he described a dead black cat driving some poor human mad, and people believed him.
Even today, black cats remain unpopular. Because they’re the least likely of all cats to be adopted from shelters, August 17 is Black Cat Appreciation Day in the U.S., and the UK has Black Cat Day on Oct. 27 for the same reason.
I guess superstitions die hard, and just as people avoid walking under ladders or living on the 13th floor, some also avoid black cats. Seeing black cats as Halloween decorations, along with witches and monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein, likely reinforces this aversion.
There’s never been any proof to support these wrong-headed beliefs about black cats, but then, when have humans ever needed proof? My mum, of course, has never believed any of this hooey. She once had a stunning black cat named Sheba and loved her dearly. Just because Mum went on to own a white cat and two calicos doesn’t mean she thinks there’s anything wrong with black ones.
The fact is all cats are magnificent creatures, and black cats are exceptionally striking; though, of course, not quite as striking as we calico kitties. I know I can’t solve this black cat problem myself, but I have a suggestion for the Humane Society: Run a one-month ad campaign in August to coincide with Black Cat Appreciation Day or in October to counteract all the Halloween hoopla. The slogan? A black cat for every lap.
I hope you’ll do your bit to help black cats and all cats by adopting a cat from a Lifeline location today. No need to thank me for my community service announcement!
Kathy is a Sandy Springs resident, and Puddin’ is her highly intelligent cat. Contact both at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow Kathy on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/, and/or read her blogs at https://theinkpenn.blogspot.com.