Halloween, a time for all zombies, werewolves and vampires to make an appearance. Witches will also be coming out in vast numbers. So it may not be surprising that a few days before the big night, a day has been dedicated to an animal that has often been placed beside them, the black cat- one of the witch’s favourite familiars.
In Scotland and in Japan, the black cat is believed to bring good fortune to those it comes across, but unfortunately elsewhere it does not have such a favourable reputation. Across other cultures, it is considered to be bad luck for a black cat to cross your path. In 17th century America anyone harbouring a black cat was severely punished or even put to death. They were believed to be harbingers of misfortune and wickedness, largely due to their association with witchcraft.
According to the cat fanciers association, 22 species of cat may have a solid black coat. However, it is not restricted to domestic cats. Lots of wild cat species have been seen with this trait including servals, ocelots and even big cats such as leopards. You may have heard of black panthers. These were thought to be their own species for a long time, but studies have shown they are actually jaguars or leopards.
Here at Wingham you may have spotted one. Our female jaguar, Luna is a perfect example. She lives with her partner, Loki who is a typical golden, rosetted jaguar. The proper name for her condition is Melanism.
Melanin is a colour pigment found in skin, hair, eyes, fur, plumage etc. melanism occurs when too much melanin is produced making the animal darker than it should be. This is the opposite of albinism where no melanin is produced making the animal lighter. However, while she is nicknamed a black panther she is not actually black, just very, very, very dark brown. If you look carefully at her fur when the sun hits her side, you can see her rosettes. This is because the rosettes are black which is darker than brown.
Even though in the present day, superstitions do not have the same impact on people’s lives as they once did, black cats are still suffering. Black cats have a lower adoption rate and higher euthanization rate then other cats. So a day has been put aside just for them in the hope it may help improve their chances.
So the next time you see a black cat, whether it is your neighbourhood moggy or a wild cat, remember they may just bring you some good luck.