Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Truth About Black Cats

It's October in New Orleans and that means transitioning to fall weather and routines, the impending end of longer daylight hours, and the kick off to the holiday season with the arrival of Halloween. Pumpkins are making their way onto porches and front steps around town while skeletons and the like are popping up on lawns of particularly enthusiastic households.

This time last year we talked about Feline Fitness and posted information on Fall Pet Health and Safety shortly after in November. While autumn specific topics and holiday safety are still very important issues which we can't say enough about, we thought we'd focus this month's blog post on an age old October icon - the black cat. Celebrated in some cultures, maligned in others, human history with black cats goes way back - at the very least, all the way back to ancient Egypt.

Christy's cat Gonzo regally reclining.

For centuries black cats have been at the center of an array of superstitions and blamed for any number of maladies from deadly plagues and night dangers to flat out human "bad luck." Somewhere in the Middle Ages (mid fourteenth century) in Europe black cats began to be associated with fairies and witchcraft. As a result, a plethora of misinformation as well as widespread fears has led to a host of inhumane horrors, including the persecution of caretakers of these poor humble felines.

The irony in this is that in many European countries, black cats are actually symbols of good luck. In Scotland, for example, (home of the soul stealing Cat Sith legend) black cats are a sign of prosperity. In parts of England, black cats are considered a bridal good luck gift. Also, English sailors once found black cats to be so lucky that acquiring one became cost prohibitive and their offspring were sometimes victims of kittnapping.

Our client, Merlin perched atop his tower.

Black cats get their coloring from a pigment called eumelanin. However, the dominant fur pattern in cats is tabby; that means in order for a cat to be born "truly black," both its parents have to have the dominant color gene. Interestingly enough, more black cats tend to be born male than female.
The earliest "domesticated" cats, descended from the African Wildcat would likely have had tabby markings like their ancestors. That would have made the first occurrences black cats pretty special.

In ancient Egypt (around 3100 BC) black cats were revered and kept as pets as an homage to the goddess Bastet. These beauties (and all other cats) were held in such high regard that it was even illegal (a capital offense, no less) to intentionally kill a cat. Of course their excellent abilities in pest control were of huge benefit as well to keep such undesirable critters such as rodents and snakes out of food stores and from threatening human life as well.

Our client, Nubba.

Asia has its fair share of ideas about cats and luck as well. For instance, it's believed in Japan that single ladies who keep a black cat companion will attract more than their fair share of suitable mates. In Chinese Feng Shui, placing your black cat's bed in the north portion of your home can ward off evil.

Ever wonder about those waving cat figurines in Japanese restaurants? Maneki Neko lucky "fortune cats" come in a number of colors (each with a different meaning) with the black ones being used to ward off all manner of evil, including stalkers. Have a friend who's allergic? Send some luck their way with a black cat figurine.

Our client, Stumpy, apparently aghast.

The most common/easily recognized black cat breed is probably the Bombay. Of the twenty-two breeds of cats than can possibly have a coat of black fur, this yellow-eyed hybrid beauty, nicknamed the "parlor panther" is the only breed of which there are only black cats. It may surprise many to learn that black cats are believed to have a better immune system than their otherwise colored counterparts. In fact, their genes may some day help solve some of the medical problems associated with human health.

Since it's October and the month of Halloween, we'd be remiss in not mentioning that according to thespruce.com, black cats are still the number one costume choice for elementary aged school girls as well as college freshmen. If you have little ones at home (the two-legged human variety), cater to trick-or-treaters, or plan on entertaining grown up style, be sure to keep alcohol and sweets - especially chocolate, out of reach of your fur babies.

Being that we're also a few weeks into autumn, we'd also be remiss in not mentioning that fleas reach their height at this time of the year. As the weather changes so do concerns for fall allergies, acorns, and other potential hazards. For information on fall pet care be sure to see our Pinterest board, Autumn Pet Care.

Useful links:

5 Pawsitively Fascinating Facts About Black Cats

8 Hair-Raising Facts About Black Cats

Black Cat Breeds and History

The Mystique Behind Black Cats

7  Ways Black Cats Bring Luck Around the World

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