Updated on October 18, 2018
Black Cats, Black Dogs, and Bad Luck
Around Halloween time, black cats and black dogs get a bad rap for their reputation of bringing bad luck.
Black cats have had a major role in folklore and mythology for centuries. Some of it good, some of it not so good.
In some places owning a black cat is considered lucky. In others, a black cat that crosses your path signals misfortune will come your way. This illustration from thesprucepets.com shows more folklore connected to black cats.
Illustration: Hugo Lin. © The Spruce, 2018
Then there’s all the black cat connection to sorcery, witchcraft, and devil worship. Cats are nocturnal and roam at night. Folklore says witches often take the form of black cats to carry out their nefarious schemes. Satanic cults use animals for ritual sacrifices, particularly black ones. Around Halloween many shelters will not permit black dog or cat adoptions because they fear for the animals’ safety.
But black cats aren’t alone with their associations to ill luck, black dogs also have the reputation. Folklore stories tell of a huge black dog with glowing red eyes that roams the countryside as the embodiment of the devil and warns that meeting a black dog at night is an omen for death.
Big, frightening black dogs appear in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the Harry Potter series, movies like The Omen and even on “Beware of Dog” signs.
Superstitions surround black dogs too. The Irish claim if a black dog visits the grave of a priest that priest was untrue to his vows. In Germany, if a black dog visits a woman’s grave it means she committed adultery. And, if a black dog follows you home, it brings good luck.
All this superstition and folklore has led to the Black Dog/Black Cat Syndrome. Animal shelter workers note that dark colored cats and dogs are overlooked for lighter colored companions. Campaigns to promote adoption of black animals help diminish the phenomenon. However, the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) tends to discount the syndrome. In fact, this 2016 ASPCA blog shows that black animals are actually adopted more.
To me, a dog or a cat is a good dog or a good cat, regardless of appearance. Color has nothing to do with character.
It could be they’re not out to cast a spell or bring you bad luck—they’re probably looking for a little love.