Cats and Paths: A Musing

Whether you believe it or not, everybody knows the superstition about black cats crossing your path bringing you bad luck. From a young age I found that I believed it, and I got creeped out every time I crossed paths with a coal-black neighborhood kitty. Which meant, of course, that I got all the bad luck that I expected, simply by virtue of being creeped out.

Years back, a Wiccan friend of mine, hearing about my involuntary subjection to this supersition, gave me a counter-charm. He told me that if I walked backwards across the black cat’s path, then I’d get good luck instead. Somewhere in the primitive part of my brain in which these sorts of things are regulated, that made sense. Which explains why I can be seen walking backwards for a few feet every now and then.

Which gets me to wondering; how long do black cat paths last, anyway? I assume that at some point in time, every square yard of the populated areas of the US has been crossed by a black cat. There must be some expiration date, otherwise we’d all be big balls of calamity, unable to cross the steet without getting hit by a meteor. Or maybe there’s something out there that counteracts the effect…

I took this afternoon off, and went out to do my Christmas shopping. Just as I was leaving my neighborhood, a cat crossed in front of my car. He was a tiger-striped black and grey tom, handsome and dignified, and he looked at me aloofly as I drove past. I’ve always liked that coloration on cats; they look cool, like they’re wearing a leather jacket. And sure enough, the rest of the afternoon, I grooved right along. Paths in crowded aisles cleared themselves just as I arrived, registers opened up just as I got in line, and the items I wanted were always the very last ones left in stock. A very cool afternoon.

Was it the cat’s fault? In the same way that a black cat can sic a whole lot of bad luck on us, can a grey/black striped cat make the day all cool? Could a white cat send good luck, happiness, and hairballs? Is the whole world made up of paths and pools of kitty karma, networked whorls of fate and fortune, which we pass through unaware?

Wow. I’m feeling all weird and mystical now. Maybe it was that Siamese that crossed in front of me on the way to the office…

I have a black cat, and he’s one bad ass muther… and I can tell you the only kinda bad luck you get from black cats is when you cross their paths while they’re still on it, and they get pissed at you for not feeding them, or not letting them outside, or moving the litterbox to the other side of the bathroom, or smelling funny…

And they decide to claw the crap out of you without warning.

Length of time a trail lasts depends entirely upon whether or not the cat is leaving a “con” trail or a “chem” trail! :wink:

As far as I’m aware, the superstition about black cats relates to them being thought of as witches’ familiars, and since it was a commonly held belief that crossing a witch would give you a serious case of bad luck to say the least, running into their familiars couldn’t possibly be a sign of good things to come.

For more cat superstitions, you can consult this page:

Amongst others you’ll find:

A strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity. - Scottish superstition

It is bad luck to see a white cat at night. - American superstition

A black cat crossing one’s path by moonlight means death in an epidemic. - Irish superstition

In 16th century Italy, it was believed that if a black cat lay on the bed of a sick man, he would die. But there’s also a belief that a cat will not remain in the house where someone is about to die. Therefore, if the family cat refuses to stay indoors, this is regarded as a very bad sign.


Cerri, thanks for the link; very interesting information. Especially the Scottish one; in fact, the other night I saw a black cat on the porch of my business, just as we were about to embark on a new project. I was worried at the time, but now I know it was a portent of prosperity.

If I believed in portents. Which I do, but I don’t like to admit to.

You just have to walk backwards all of the time… to be safe.