In India, the superstition that a cat crossing your path is bad luck is very popular and if it happens to be a black cat then your doom is near if you still continue walking it. My mother especially is a stringent believer of this superstition, just because she happened to coincidentally fall into some sort of trouble in her college days as she continued walking on a path crossed by cats because she was getting late for class. Many of my cousins have faced bad luck as well. I, however do not believe in this superstition because I had been to a zonal tournament once and the dorm areas were full of cats. A cat kept crossing our path every time we stepped out of our dorm. We got a very easy match schedule and our team managed to qualify for nationals, the boys team did not get through and obviously they blame the poor little kittens for that!
As a matter of fact, superstitions about cats are not just limited to India but there are many different kind of superstitions about them in other countries as well. The origin of myths could not be traced back but a brief history could make quite a story;
Cats weren’t always having superstitions surrounding their beings. In ancient Egyptian times, dating back to around three thousand BC cats were held in high esteem and even worshipped in some cultures. Killing a cat was a capital crime. Even the black cats were the glorious ones. However with witchcraft gaining popularity in the middle ages in Europe, cats came to be associated with them. Witches were poor old lonely ladies believed to be evil and capable of practicing black magic and were usually nice to cats and fed them. Most of these ladies had cats as pets and hence cats began to be associated with them.
In Lincolnshire, there is this folklore about this whole superstition. This folklore became the hot topic in the 1560s which is about a father and his son’s encounter with a cat. There was this one moonless night when the father and the son were travelling. A black cat hurriedly crossed their path and then began crawling. The pair, feeling intimidated, threw stones at the little cat injuring it in the process, the cat limped its way into a lonely woman’s house to escape the shower of stones. That lonely woman was believed to be a witch. The next day the pair came across the same woman and noticed that she was injured and limping. They began associating the previous night’s events with the physical state of the woman. Thus came about the superstition that witches turn into cats during moonless nights and bring bad luck to those people whose paths they cross.
During the Salem witch hunts, the belief that witches turn into black cats became the central belief. The witches were being hunted down and they needed all the cover they could get. Since cats are very good at creeping in the shadows unnoticed and being black in colour is a bonus, the gossip went thus, that the witches transformed into bodies of black cats to lurk in the shadows unnoticed and make their escape.
In strict Christian cultures, the association of cats with Egyptian religion began the superstition. The cats, especially black ones were considered familiars with witches, what with the rumour of witches transforming into cats doing the rounds! All Christians believing in witches began maintaining distance from cats as they were creatures imbibed with evil, according to them.
Other superstitions about cats are thus; In Netherlands, cats are kept outside of secret family discussions as the cats are believed to carry the secrets and spread rumours in the entire town. In Ireland, killing a black cat can bring you seventeen years of bad luck, even if it was accidental. At sunset, if you spot a white cat in America, then you might land yourself in big time trouble. Pirates in the nineteenth century believed that a cat walking towards you is bad luck and a cat walking away from you is good luck.
All superstitions about cats aren’t bad though. There are some good ones as well. In Scotland, a black cat appearing on your porch means that prosperity is on your way. In Italy if you hear a cat sneeze, it means a streak of good luck is following you. In America dreams of white cats are considered good luck. In English midlands, gifting a black cat as a wedding present is believed to bring good luck to the bride.
In conclusion I would like to say, that no matter how logical superstitions may seem, they all happen to be mere coincidences that brought them up. If cats were good luck, all cat owners would have been super rich and if they were bad luck then we simply wouldn’t have people who liked cats. Sometimes, our imaginations and brains can take the better of us. On the brighter side, cats make really amazing pets and don’t let these superstitions get in your way.