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Dear Christopher Cat: Why are black cats associated with scary witches and Halloween?

Christopher Responds: During Medieval times, black cats were reviled because people thought they helped witches perform sorcery. People also believed witches could transform themselves into black cats. So anyone who crossed paths with a black cat expected to be cursed with bad luck.

In 1233, Pope Gregory IX condemned black cats and sanctioned the torture and burning of them. Two centuries later, Pope Innocent VIII reminded inquisitors to burn cats with their witches.

In 1649, England’s King Charles I was arrested and charged with treason the day after his beloved black cat died. Soon after, he was declared guilty and beheaded.

In Europe and America, people who feared witches and witchcraft punished or killed those who kept black cats. They also burned black cats alive on bonfires during the spring and summer.

On the other hand, some cultures have revered black cats. In ancient Egypt, people welcomed them into their homes to court favor with Bast, the cat goddess. Today, many people around the world believe black cats bring good luck and prosperity.

If you have a black cat, keep him inside on Halloween. If you don’t have a black cat, consider adopting one of these under-appreciated felines from your local shelter or rescue organization.