Why Are Black Cats Associated With Halloween?

In the US many shelters won't put black cats up for adoption, as they are worried that people would only want them for Halloween.

    Halloween is a time of year where we get dressed up in scary outfits and decorate our homes with spooky trinkets.

    But have you ever wondered why black cats appear at Halloween, or why we dress up as them on this day?

    The furry mysterious creatures have played an important part in history and have become associated with witchcraft.

    But where did this come from? And what makes a black cat different from any other cat?

    Why do we display black cats at Halloween?

    Two scary black cat decorations outside somebody's house

    On October 31st every year we decorate our homes with spooky decorations and black cats are used as part of these.

    This is mostly because of their superstitious reputation.

    As Halloween is known for its window to the dead, in more recent years many people have started to decorate their homes with anything associated with witchcraft and superstition.

    The idea was that by displaying spooky elements, it will scare off any bad souls that might be passing.

    It is thought that displaying a black cat will offer protection to the household.

    This was how black cats became a symbol of Halloween.

    Why are black cats associated with witchcraft?

    A black cat wearing a witches hat

    Across medieval Europe, black cats were associated with superstition and bad luck.

    This association led them to be the perfect sidekick to any witch who wants to curse you.

    It was also believed that witches would transform into black cats, much like vampires become bats.

    In the US, the association with black cats started with the Puritan Pilgrims from the Plymouth colony.

    The puritans distrusted anything related to sorcery and witchcraft and brought these ideas over to the US.

    It became a tradition to burn a black cat on Shrove Tuesday, to ensure you will not have any house fires that year.

    In the US many shelters will not put black cats up for adoption as they are worried that people may obtain them solely for Halloween.

    Are black cats bad luck?

    A black kitten inside a cauldron

    Globally black cats have different meanings and not all are associated with bad luck.

    Ancient Egyptians worshipped cats, specifically black cats, and saw them as gods.

    In Japan, black cats are seen to be a form of cupid. They believe you are more likely to find love if you have a black cat.

    But across France and Spain during Medieval times, cats were associated with bad luck and curses.

    In medieval Germany, it was believed that if a black cat crossed your path from left to right, you would be cursed.

    Other myths of what black cats will bring to you include; if a black cat is resting on the bed of an ill person, it will bring them death and if you turn your back to a black cat, you will become cursed.

    These myths and superstitions have stuck with us and are the initial building blocks to our mystical associations with black cats.

    Are black cats magical?

    Silhouette of a cat with fire behind it

    Many people believe that black cats are magical and have the power to change form. More specifically, it’s believed that black cats can transform into witches. 

    Most of these associations have stemmed from popular culture but some are in fact natural happenings.

    For example, certain breeds of black cats can change color.

    The black tabby cat appears black, but beneath its fur, it can have what is called a stripe pattern. 

    This is only visible when a cat has been sat in the sun for days. The sun lightens the fur and it will appear a rusty brown color, with some stripes.

    Sunlight changes the pigment in the fur, much like if we are exposed to an increased amount of sunlight, our hair will lighten.

    Who is the most famous black cat?

    A picture of Salem the cat from Sabrina the Teenage Witch

    Black cats have featured in horror movies, television shows, and comic books since the early to mid-1900s.

    Some of the earliest black cat horror movies include; The Black Cat – 1934, Tales of Terror – 1962, and The Legend of Hell House – 1973.

    But one of the most famous black cat characters is Salem Saberhagen from Sabrina the Teenage Witch series.

    The story of Salem is that he went against the head witch in a fictional town in America, and as a result, was sentenced by the witches council to living life as a cat for 100 years.

    He first appeared in a comic book in 1962, but as his character developed over the years he became famous for being Sabrina’s sidekick.

    This is just one example of many fictional black cats that live alongside witches.

    These stories have played a huge part in creating this idea that black cats are mystical creatures.


    For hundreds of years, black cats have become associated with mystery and suspicion.

    Their stories of being witches sidekicks and having the ability to curse those who cross their path stem from myths across the globe.

    Popular culture has played on these ideas and as a result, has cemented the black cat into being an icon of Halloween.

    By displaying a black cat at Halloween, it is thought to protect the household.

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About The Author

Becca Marsh
Becca Marsh

Becca Marsh is a travel enthusiast and a lover of nature. She is the co-founder of Global Convoy, a travel production company. When she is not filming, she enjoys writing about culture and travel.

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