Reviewed for accuracy on August 28, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM
You can’t get any more mysterious than black cats. Although they’ve been associated with wicked witches and dark magic, these charcoal-coated felines still have an “unlucky” reputation today.
Legend has it that if a black cat crosses your path, you’ll be cursed with bad luck. But this superstition isn’t universal—in some parts of the world, black cats are considered to be good luck.
While not everything you’ve heard about black cats is accurate, sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
Check out these hair-raising black cat facts:
Black Is a Common Feline Coat Color
Have you crossed paths with quite a few black cats? It’s not your imagination—black is a common coat color among felines.
Melanism—the development of darkly pigmented fur and skin—occurs in 13 of the 37 existing wild and domesticated species.
This is because the genes responsible for creating black fur are dominant, explains Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM. “Kittens only need the black coat color from one parent to be black,” she says.
They’re Actually More Likely to Be Adopted
You may have heard that black cats are less likely to be adopted than their fair-coated peers. However, as it turns out, this isn’t the case.
In fact, according to data compiled by the ASPCA, black cats are actually adopted more often from cat shelters than other cats.
Because black is a common coat color, more black cats enter the animal shelter system, resulting in disproportionately high numbers of adoptions from animal shelters.
Unfortunately, the high intake of black cats means that they’re also euthanized more often than cats with any other fur color. The bottom line is that adopting black shelter cats is always a good (and popular) idea.
Black Cats Can “Rust”
If you spend your summer by the pool, your hair might get lighter. The same lightening effect applies for black cats, too, who may sport light red or orange highlights.
“With excessive sun exposure, we will see black cats ‘rust’ or turn a reddish-black color,” says Dr. Ochoa.
Black Cats Can Have “Accessories” That Are Different Colors
Some black cats are completely black, including their whiskers and paws pads. But this isn’t always—or even frequently—the case, says Dr. Ochoa.
“Black cats can have black whiskers and black paw pads, or white whiskers and pink paw pads,” she says.
Whisker hairs are thicker than fur and originate deeper in the skin. They usually bypass the layer where pigment is stored, says Dr. Ochoa. For this reason, most whiskers are white—even those belonging to black cats.
Paw pad color is more often associated with fur color, and most black cats do have black or dark gray paw pads, says Dr. Ochoa. However, this can vary.
Black cats who have some white fur markings are more likely to have patches of pink or white on their paws.
They’re Popular on the Big Screen
Some of Hollywood’s most famous felines have been black cats. Felix the Cat, an iconic cartoon character from the silent film era, sports a black body and white face.
In 1962, 152 black cats auditioned for a role in the film adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Black Cat.”
More recently, five black cats were cast to star in the revival of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” (Salem, the series’ beloved wise-cracking kitty, was largely played by an animatronic cat in the show’s original run.)
A Black Cat Was the World’s Richest Feline
Blackie wasn’t just any old black cat—he was also worth $12.5M.
When a British antique dealer named Ben Rhea died in 1988, he left the bulk of his wealth to his beloved feline companion. (His human family members were notably not included in the will.)
To this day, Guinness World Records recognizes Blackie as the wealthiest cat.
They Patrol the High Seas
Since ancient times, cats have earned their keep (and fish) by patrolling ships for rats.
Black cats, in particular, were considered not only practical mousers but also lucky talismans.
One of the most famous seafaring felines, Blackie—a crewmember on the HMS Prince of Wales during WWII (unrelated to the world’s wealthiest cat)—rose to fame after a photo op with Winston Churchill.
After the high-profile meet-and-greet, he was renamed “Churchill.”
They Have Official Holidays
You don’t need a reason to celebrate the black cats in your life, but you can make them feel extra-special on holidays dedicated to them.
In the United States, August 17 is Black Cat Appreciation Day. Across the pond, England recognizes October 27 as National Black Cat Day.
Cheers to you, fine felines.
There’s a ‘Parlor Panther’ Black Cat
The Bombay cat might be the ultimate black cat. A hybrid of the Burmese and American Shorthair, this breed has been nicknamed the “parlor panther” thanks to their exotic good looks.
Although The Cat Fanciers' Association recognizes a number of breeds that can have black coats, Bombays are the only one that must be shown in solid black.
But the Bombay is more than just a pretty face.
According to Jeri Zottoli, The Cat Fancier’s Bombay breed secretary and judge, this petite panther is the perfect pet.
“They love their humans—they’re very friendly, social cats who would go home with anyone.,” Zottoli says.
…And a ‘Werewolf’ Black Cat
Some prefer the sleekness of Bombays, but others may prefer the unique look of the Lykoi.
Sometimes called the “Werewolf Cat,” the Lykoi is a newly recognized, semi-hairless breed that owes its distinctive black coat to a genetic mutation first discovered in feral colonies.
The most common Lykoi coat is “black roan,” a black base punctuated with white hairs that creates a wild, wolf-like look.
Like many Lykoi breeders, Desiree Bobby, The Cat Fanciers’ Association’s marketing and communications coordinator, is also a Sphynx breeder, which she assumes prepared her to love the unusual cat.
“Sphynx owners tend to be a little bit wackier than most, so it makes sense we would be drawn to them,” says Bobby. “It’s their genetic uniqueness that intrigues me—the fact that they are so rare and close relatives only to feral cats.”
By: Monica Weymouth
Featured Image: Suvorov_Alex/Shutterstock.com