Black cats are strikingly beautiful animals whose presence has had a powerful impact on human thinking over the ages.
They have been associated with both bad omens and good fortune. You may be aware of the black cat stigma that developed in the Middle Ages in Europe. Black cats were often associated with witchcraft and were assumed to carry out the evil deeds of witches. This resulted in widespread neglect of these innocent cats, which contributed to an overpopulation of rodents, aiding the spread of the Bubonic Plague. The fear and superstition surrounding black cats travelled to America with European migration and was sometimes used to justify their neglect.
Yet in other cultures, black cats were revered, such as by the Egyptians, who linked them closely to the gods, and the Japanese, who viewed black cats as bringing good luck, prosperity and even romantic love! In the UK, sailors historically regarded a cat onboard as a way of ensuring a safe return home, and a cat crossing your path or arriving on your doorstep was also seen as a sign of good luck. This history tells us a lot about people and nothing about cats!
So here are some interesting facts about black cats themselves:
- It is believed that black fur, or melanism, in felines is of evolutionary value, making it easier for cats in the wild to camouflage themselves while hunting at night and to regulate their body temperature in the cold.
- Black cats may seem exotic, but there are 22 domestic cat breeds with solid black coats; although only one of these breeds, the Bombay cat, has exclusively solid black fur. The Bombay was bred in the 1950s by crossing the Burmese and black American Shorthair in an attempt to resemble a small black panther. As with most pure breed cats, there is a higher risk of inherited disorders due to a smaller gene pool, and in the case of the Bombay cat, polycystic kidney disease has been reported.
- The coat colour of black cats is genetic, caused by high levels of production of the pigment melanin, but their colour can change over time. Too much time in the sun can cause a reversible ‘rusting’ of the fur coat to a reddish dark brown. This can also occur due to dietary deficiencies, such as in tyrosine, an essential amino acid. Again, this is reversible but veterinary advice is required to rule out any other illness before prescribing dietary supplements. Like all animals, black cats can develop white hairs as they age.
- Another interesting fact about black cats is that they have the most amazing amber-coloured eyes, also related to high levels of melanin produced by their cells.
Black cats are elegant and fascinating in so many ways but they are no different in essence from other cats, who all have the same need to be understood, respected and cared for. If you’re the lucky owner of a black cat, make sure to spread the love! And don’t forget that your veterinarian is the best person to advise you about any health concerns you may have about your cat.
Regardless of what colour your cat is, pet insurance is a great way to help protect your feline’s health and wellbeing should they need veterinary care now or in the future. If you’re thinking of taking out RSPCA Pet Insurance, a portion of first-year premiums goes to help support the important work of the RSPCA.
28 Jul 2021