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Cats have been both feared and worshipped by different cultures throughout history, but the reasons behind this contradictory reverence are largely unknown. Chinese and Egyptian cultures held cats as sacred, while in India, early America, and parts of Europe have associated cats – and especially black cats – with devils and witchcraft.
At one time, it was widely believed that cats were a vessel for the spirits of the dead, and on All Hallow’s Eve, the veil between the living world and the dead was especially permeable. This led to several supertitions that placed cats in a position of fear and distrust during the season.
Where there’s a witch, there’s a black cat. Throughout history, black cats have served as a witch’s familiar and companion, often believed to be her connection to the Devil. The story goes that a witch can send her faithful companion to observe those who may do her harm, or, of course, to lure unsuspecting victims into her castle where. . . well, you know what happens next.
All of this imagery and superstition certainly appeals to some folks, but it has also caused a certain amount of danger for black cats during Halloween – some intentional, some not.Many families seek to adopt black cats from local shelters in the weeks leading up to Halloween, and may not take the time to consider the long-term care and responsibility associated with bringing home a new cat. This often leads to a rash of black cats returned to shelters in early November.
Even more nefarious characters adopt black cats to include in activities as innocuous as haunted house setups and as ominous as real-life sacrificial practices that may include the actual torture and execution of the cat. For these reasons, many shelters have gone so far as to ban the adoption of black cats during the month of October. Unfortunately, this leads to the abduction of roaming or stray cats, as well. Bring your outdoor cats – and all pets – inside during the Halloween season to keep them safe.