Are Black Cats Really Bad Luck? What They Actually Mean + What To Do When You See Them
Whether you have a black cat yourself or one recently crossed your path, you've likely heard at least some of the lore surrounding these creatures. While they have a reputation for being bad luck in some cultures, others believe black cats actually indicate quite the opposite.
Here's what to know, from what black cats really mean to what to do if you see them.
Black cat misconceptions.
Black cats have a reputation for being bad luck, so much so that they have a hard time getting adopted. As one 2013 study found, black cats, regardless of age or sex, take the longest time to adopt, followed by cats that are mostly black.
And this bad rap for black cats is nothing new—it can be traced all the way back to the 13th century, when the Vox in Rama was issued by Pope Gregory IX. There, he asserted that cats were associated with witchcraft, and further, black cats were a symbol for Satan. During the Renaissance1, cats were tortured and killed throughout Western Europe to "drive out the Devil," particularly during Lent.
Before they were persecuted, though, cats (regardless of color), had a reputation for being protectors and companions in Europe, friends to the Gods in Ancient Egypt, and simply warding off pests on farmland.
Unfortunately, fast-forward to today, and black cats still haven't been able to shake the more negative rumors. And as one 2019 study2 on black cat bias found, "People exhibiting higher degrees of black cat bias had higher levels of superstition," and further, "People who had difficulty reading the emotions of black cats tended to exhibit a stronger bias against adopting black cats."
They still take the longest to get adopted, and as animal communicator Nancy Mello tells mindbodygreen, there even are some shelters that won't adopt out black cats around Halloween in order to protect them from sacrificial rituals.
What do black cats really mean?
Black cats' reputation for bringing bad luck couldn't be further from the truth. "Honestly, they are some of the most loving, connected cats you will ever find," Mello says, noting that when she communicates with them, they come across as very grateful. "It's almost like they seem to understand not everyone likes them and they're not looked at kindly," she adds.
Rather than being bad luck, in fact, Mello says they can signify good luck, or that good things are coming to you. She also notes that she's found people who are drawn to black cats "tend to be more empathetic, more understanding, more compassionate, and that in turn can equate to what [black cats] mean."
After all, cats in general have been revered as a symbol of the divine feminine, curiosity, and intelligence, and more recently, resistance to authority. In terms of the color black, Mello notes, we associate black robes with clergy and the word of God, and the color itself with grounding and protection—so why should black cats wind up with such a distorted reputation?
For these reasons, Mello says black cats can better be thought of as symbols of good luck, grace, wisdom, protection, and safety.
What it means if you keep seeing black cats.
According to Mello, our guides and loved ones will often use animals to connect with us and send messages. In the case of black cats, Mello says if you're seeing them often, it could very well be a message from your guides or loved ones that they are around and you are protected.
Quite the opposite from interpreting them as a symbol of bad luck, consider a black cat crossing your path an indication of protection or good fortune. "They can be thought of as a guide, as something you can trust, and that you're being watched over," Mello adds.
What it means if you dream about black cats.
Oftentimes, animals can show up in our dreams to give messages just as they do in real life. If you're dreaming of black cats, Mello says, this can relate to cats' inquisitive nature. They're curious creatures, for sure, so dreaming of them can mean there's something you're curious about.
As Mello explains, black cats don't have a good reputation, "but then when you start to look underneath, they're the most wonderful, kindhearted creatures." So in a dream, then, "It's you really pondering something, really wanting to get underneath. They can indicate that you're looking more closely at something, and in that sense, they can be seen as a sign of growth, too," she adds.
Get 10 minutes with a psychic for $1.99
Thinking About Trying Keen? Here's What To Know First, Based On My Experience.
What to do when you see black cats.
If you would have previously been scared to see a black cat cross your path, Mello says not to worry. "Definitely don't be afraid," she says, and remember their reputation stems from unwarranted religious persecution dating back centuries.
Rather than running the other way, "Have compassion and either help the cat or look at how you're working to improve your own life," she suggests, noting that these animals symbolize growth. "And again, it's very safe. So when a black cat enters your life, I say don't ignore it and try to help it if it needs to be helped."
In short: When you see black cats regularly, it can be a sign to cultivate more compassion, grow in some way, or think outside yourself, according to Mello.
Is a black cat good luck?
Yes, despite their bad reputation, black cats are actually a symbol of good luck, compassion, growth, and protection.
What does it mean if a black cat crosses your path?
A black cat crossing your path is not unlucky but can rather indicate you should cultivate more compassion or personal growth.
What do cats symbolize spiritually?
Cats symbolize curiosity, intelligence, independence, and protection, among other things.
Animals of all kinds have their associated symbolism and folklore, and when it comes to black cats, it's time to shake the misconceptions. These creatures are not unlucky, despite what some may say, and if you're seeing them often, they're actually a sign of protection, growth, and compassion.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.