You might think of a black cat as a witch's familiar or as a bad omen when one crosses your path, but there is much more to the black cat than meets the eye.
1. Black Is the Most Common Feline Coat Color
Have you had more than one black cat cross your path? It’s not a glitch in the matrix; black is actually the most common coat color among felines.
The gene for expressing eumelanin—the pigment needed to make black fur—is dominant in black cats. A cat usually gets two copies of a gene, one from mom and one from dad. If one of these genes codes for black fur, then the kitten will be black.
Black coats allow cats to blend better into the night, which helps them hunt prey. This genetic advantage may have allowed black cats to be healthier and more likely to breed.
2. Black Cats Are Less Likely to Be Adopted
Though black is a common cat color, studies have found that black cats are less likely to be adopted than cats with other fur colors. This may be because black cats have long been tied to superstition as symbols of bad luck or witchcraft.
The next time you’re looking to add a feline to your family, bringing home a black cat could save a life.
3. Black Cats Can Rust in the Sun
If you spend your summer by the pool, your hair might get lighter. The same applies to the fur of black cats, which may have light red or orange highlights when they spend a lot of time in the sun.
4. It’s Rare To Find an All-Black Cat
While some cats are completely black from head to toe, this is actually rare. Most black cats have some other coloring in their whiskers, paw pads, or random patches of fur.
Whisker hairs are thick sensory hair follicles that originate deep in the skin. Cats are known to shed their whiskers, and often new ones will grow back in other colors.
Paw pad color is often the same as a cat’s fur color. Darker-furred cats tend to have black or gray toes, while lighter ones have pink toes. Black cats with some white fur markings are more likely to have patches of pink or white on their paws.
5. There Are Many Famous Black Cats
Animation has brought to the fore many famous felines from Bagheera, the black panther in The Jungle Book, to Luna, the black cat in Sailor Moon.
Live-action famous black cats include:
Salem in “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” (1996–2003)
Thackery Binx in “Hocus Pocus” (1993)
Isis in “Star Trek” (1966–1969)
In addition to silver screen characters, other black cats have gained celebrity status, including:
Blackie, the world's richest cat, was left a $12.5 million fortune when his pet parent, British antique dealer Ben Rea, died in 1988.
Oscar the Bionic Cat was the world's first cat to have double rear-leg prosthetics, in 2009.
6. Black Cats Almost Always Have Yellow Eyes
Just as genetics plays a role in the color of a cat’s fur, it’s also responsible for the color of their eyes. The same pigment (eumelanin) that affects a black cat’s fur also affects their irises. The majority of black cats have irises with yellow/gold, orange/copper, or green pigment.
The Bombay cat is a breed that typically has gold or copper eyes. Black cats in other breeds are more likely to have lighter eyes.
Kittens, like human babies, are typically born with blue eyes, but the color of their iris changes as they age. The change typically starts when kittens are between 4–8 weeks old, and their eyes will be their permanent color by the time they’re 3–4 months in age.
7. Many Cat Breeds Can Be Black, But Only One Is Always Black
While many cat breeds can have black coats, the Bombay is the only true black cat breed. The Bombay was created in the 1950s as a hybrid of the Burmese and American Shorthair. Bombay cats are nicknamed as “parlor panthers” due to their good looks, sleek black coats, and gorgeous copper-orange eyes.
Other pure black cat breeds include:
And, of course, domestic short-, medium-, and long-haired cats can also be black.
8. Black Cats Are Not Bad Luck
The superstition that black cats were associated with the occult started around the Middle Ages, and many black cats fell victim to this misconception. Many believe that this led to a decrease in the cat population and the eventual spread of the bubonic plague, or Black Death, in the early 14th century, which was a disease carried by mice.
The perceived connection between black cats and witches’ evil deeds continued to North America and came to a head with the Salem witch trials of the 1690s.
No one knows exactly when black cats got their bad rap, but a black cat crossing your path certainly won’t bring you bad luck. In fact, British and Irish sailors in the early 19th century believed that black cats were symbols of good luck and could protect ships from dangerous weather. They were also adept at killing rats on board.
9. Black Cats Have Their Own National Holidays
In the U.S., two days on the calendar are set aside for making the tiny panther in your life feel extra special:
October 27, four days before Halloween, is National Black Cat Day.
August 17 is National Black Cat Appreciation Day.
10. Black Cats Are Resistant to Disease
There’s evidence that black cats may have certain genetic mutations that make them less susceptible to some diseases. This finding may prove valuable when studying human medical advancements.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Jasmin Bauer
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