I hope you can forgive my not acknowledging last Monday, August 10, as National Spoil Your Dog Day. My excuse, hopefully acceptable, is that my dog Lola, the world’s most perfect pup (my column, my rules) believes every day is National Spoil Your Dog Day, taking the wind out of the official pronouncement by the organization National Today. That group actually names a total of 78 animal-related holidays. Among those, we should note that today, August 17, is National Black Cat Appreciation Day.

Black cats’ association with witches and Satan dates back to the Middle Ages, a superstition which led to mass killings of these animals centuries ago and ignorant fears which sadly survive even to today. (Animal shelter workers will tell you that black cats are among the hardest to adopt.) Most people seem to be aware of the sad history of black cat’s association with bad luck and evil, but few know that these negative connotations are far from universal. Black cats carry many meanings in traditional belief systems, in fact, and none of this is (forgive me again!) simply “black and white.”

Traditional beliefs about black cats also include that they attract suitors to women intent on marriage in parts of Japan and bring good luck to the newly married couple in the English Midlands. A black cat at your doorstep is a sign of prosperity coming your way in Scotland’s folklore. 18th century pirates believed that a black cat walking towards you brings bad luck, while one walking away takes bad luck from you. Pirates reportedly also believed that that a black cat getting on board a ship meant it was surely destined to sink, while non-piratey sailors were convinced that a black cat on board was guarantee of a safe voyage. Ancient Egyptians held a special place for all cats, but black ones were held in the highest esteem since they resembled Bastet, the cat-headed god of home, health and fertility.

Cats are great. Black cats are simply great animals with a recessive gene that suppresses the more typical tabby pattern. It’s a bit more common among males than females, and many also have quite amazing golden eyes. The rest is all our own nonsense.

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