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Superstitions, Legends & Symbolism Of White Cats Around The World

superstitions-of-white-catsWhen you think about the adorable nature and endearing curiosity of your pet cat, it’s not far-fetched to contemplate the delightful relationship between humans and pet cats in general.

This relationship is a legacy that extends back to over 9,500 years ago. Understandably, for a legacy this long, the innate behavioral patterns and biological characteristics of cats have fueled deep-rooted speculation.

Over time, these speculations informed mythical beliefs and legends. Just as importantly, these myths were subject to changes and variations between cultures.

For the most part, these superstitions and folklore were not discriminating against specific cat colors/coats. However, in some instances, and especially in recent times, such distinctions were made.

And unsurprisingly, white cats, either for their awe or peculiarity, were the subject of some of these symbolic creations that grew in the human attempt to understand and explore our convoluted relationship with gracious white cats.

Personality of White Cats

lily-white-cat-sherlock-holmesHard as we may try as a modern civilization to loosen the modern conceptions dominated by superstitions and unverifiable beliefs, it is clear that the vestiges in form of stereotypes still haunt us.

White cats, like other cats with distinct colors, have not been spared. A study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, showed that humans often judged domestic cats by the color of their coats.  A study in the official journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology shows how feline typecasting (what we might call profiling) can have a negative impact of adoption rates.

The study found that orange cats and bi-colored cats were characterized as friendly, which improved adoption rates, while white cats, black cats and tricolor cats were regarded as being more antisocial which is where the typecasting, or profiling, hinders the adoption of cats based purely on their coat color.

White cats were considered to be more shy, lazy and calm, while tortoiseshell cats were more likely to be depicted as both more intolerant yet more trainable. Black cats were typified as having less extreme character traits, which might contribute to their mysterious reputation.

The authors of the study added that there is little evidence that supports the personality differences and stereotypes that people assign to cats based on their color.

White Cats, Blue Eyes, and Deafness

Personality is not the only factor widening the gap between white cats and loving homes. There is also the old wives’ tale that white cats with blue eyes are deaf.

To be accurate, there is some truth to this statement. But then, like with most stereotypes, the issue is with the generalization.

Of course, the majority of white cats with at least one blue eye are deaf. But, there are about 20-40% of white cats with at least one blue eye that are as normal in hearing as your average tabby. You can learn more about the weak link between white cats and deafness in our comprehensive expose on everything white cats.

Representations of White Cats around the World: Myths, Old Wives’ Tales, Folklore, Superstitions, Legends

"The cat was created when the lion sneezed" - Arabian Proverb

“The cat was created when the lion sneezed”
– Arabian Proverb

The Americas

The Americas prior to Western Influence

The Spaniards brought domestic cats to the Americas. Before then, the civilizations in the Americas revered the bigger, wilder cousin of domestic cats native to the region—the Jaguar.

Virtually every major culture in the Americas placed the Jaguar in high esteem, similar to how the Lion was a symbol of power in Africa and the Middle East. The deification of the Jaguar occurred in regions extending from modern-day Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and Northern Argentina.

The prominent civilizations and cultures that had feline deities include the popular picks like Aztecs, Mayans, and Incans, and other lesser-known cultures such as the Olmec, Mayoruna, Andean cultures, and the Amazonian Tucano Indians.

The Americas after the Europeans Established Presence

It is perhaps ironic that the cultures that revered the Jaguar and other wild cats, such as the Puma and the smaller Jaguarundi; displayed apathy towards the smaller domestic cats.

The common belief was of domestic cats (especially black cats, but often regardless of color) being generally associated with evil and witchcraft. The Oglalas and several other Native American tribes made the red line thicker by totally having nothing to do with cats. They believed that “cats had powerful magic and the ability to curse people.”

The feelings were in reverse in the US and some other North American territories who had imported belief systems from the UK and other parts of Europe. Except that domestic cat superstitions in the US were the opposite of those in the UK.

While black cats were generally associated with good luck in the UK, black cats in the US were associated with bad luck. Therefore, white cats in the US, like in Ancient Egypt, Asia, and Russia, were associated with good luck.

Common American Superstitions and Folklore

  • Dreaming of a white cat is good luck
  • Seeing a white cat on the road or a white car crossing your path is considered to be good luck
  • However, like in the UK, it is bad luck to see a white cat at night
Smiling White Cat

Smiling White Cat

Europe and Australia

While the symbolism of cats (and white cats specifically) is largely homogeneous in Asia, Europe is a mixed bag.

UK and much of Western Europe

Domestic cats have had mixed relationships with Europeans, particularly in England. Although it started with dread for black cats in the Middle Ages, the distinction thinned as the hysteria caught on.

White, black, or tricolor? It didn’t matter when paranoia reached feverish peak. The stealth, independent characteristics of cats; sudden rise in population; and increased association with poor, lonely, old ladies; made for a dangerous recipe when the persecution of witches gained steam.

Cats were deemed guilty of witchcraft by association. Even worse, they were thought to be witches in disguise during nighttime. Cats were often burned at the stake with their owners who were accused and summarily sentenced to death.

Things escalated to a point where many societies sought to make cats extinct. Thousands of cats were burned monthly in France. Thankfully, the plans fell through as King Louis XIII put a kibosh on the practice and things began to return to normal across Europe.

Some believe that the highly diminished cat population was a contributing factor to the spread of the plague.

Things did get back to normal, with black cats eventually becoming symbols of good luck and fortune. Black cats were especially valued by English sailors who thought keeping them happy at home guaranteed a fair weather when they went to sea. In fact, the belief was so strong that the price of black cats increased exponentially, such that only few sailors could afford them.

But as black cats turned from foe to friend, the reputation of white cats became only a tad less grim. White cats were seen to be emissaries of bad luck later on in England, much of Europe, and Australia. This was because white cats were believed to have the same color (white) as ghosts.

wcw-white-cat-with-big-earsCommon UK Superstitions

  • A white cat crossing one’s path is a sign of bad luck
  • Owning a white cat will lead to loss of wealth and/or plunge one into poverty
  • English schoolchildren believed that coming across a white cat on the way to school was a sure sign of getting into trouble in school
  • Seeing a white cat at night was a sign of bad luck

Russia

Russians had a sharp disconnect with the English symbolisms of white cats. Owning a white cat was believed to bring prosperity in Russia, unlike in England.

Norse and Celtic

The Norse and Celts also held white cats in great esteem. They didn’t discriminate based on coat color though, much like the Ancient Egyptians.

That said, the Norse goddess Freyja (also called Freya, Friyja, or Frija), the wife of Odr or Ottar, rode a chariot pulled by two white cats.

The Celtic goddess Brighid (also called Ceridwen) dispatched her two white cats to carry her commands on earth. Like her analog Egyptian deity Bastet, Brighid was the goddess of creativity, healing, and fertility (cats are famous for being promiscuous and fecund).

Brighid also means “fiery arrow,” which mirrors the interpretation of Bastet being a protector of the home and warrior goddess of Lower Egypt.

In general, white cats were believed to represent light, trust, and goodness in both cultures.

twcw-thin-white-cat-on-floorAfrica

It is fitting that the cradle of mankind also doubles as the cradle of cat domestication. Although, it is generally suggested that cat domestication in Egypt occurred around 2000 B.C.E, archeologists found a burial mound of a man and his cat at Mostagedda around 6,000 years ago.

Ancient Egypt

If you are a cat person, Ancient Egypt would have been a perfect place to call home. The Egyptians revered cats, regardless of coat or eye color.

As an agrarian civilization, the Egyptians had large stores of grains that attracted mice, rats, and snakes. Cats were the ideal partners in a symbiotic relationship.

However, things morphed quickly and the status of cats in the Egyptian culture took a divine turn. The Egyptians deified the domestic cat in the felid goddess Bastet (also called Ba’at, Bast, Pasht, Pakhet, or Ubasti). Domestics cats were also believed to capture the glow of the setting sun in their eyes, and keeping it safe until morning.

Domestic cats were so revered that it was criminal to kill one intentionally or accidentally. In one account, a mob gathered to dispense justice to a Roman who had ‘accidentally’ killed a cat. Neither the plea of King Ptolemy nor the fear of Rome deterred the mob.

Furthermore, cats were often regarded as family members in a typical Egyptian family. Dead cats, whether belonging to citizens in the higher or lower classes, were often embalmed (akin to humans) and sometimes buried along with rats (to provide sustenance in the After Life). Egyptians also mourned their dead cats, sometimes going as far as shaving eyebrows.

Soldiers were often dispatched to rescue cats kidnapped by smugglers, since it was also against the law for Egyptian cats to be exported. And another telling account was of Persians releasing cats in the battlefield or having cats strapped to their shields. The Egyptian soldiers often surrendered rather than hurt the cats.

"Cats are blissfully unaware that they have only a finite time in which to finish their ‘to do’ list." - Jon Edgell

“Cats are blissfully unaware that they have only a finite time in which to finish their ‘to do’ list.”
– Jon Edgell

Nonetheless, an elaborate account of the cultural significance of white cats was when one of the Osorkon kings (widely believed to be King Osorkon II) of the twenty-second dynasty ceremoniously placed a white cat in a temple in Bubastis (the center of cat worship in Ancient Egypt) and ‘ritually endowed it with supreme power.’

Modern Egypt and rest of North Africa

Today, cats do not receive as much reverence in modern Egypt as in Ancient Egypt. But it doesn’t mean they’ve fallen out of favor altogether.

Being majorly a Muslim population, modern-day Egypt and the rest of North Africa, have as much fondness for cats, as Mohammed had.

The Prophet had a pet cat. One time he needed to head to prayers but found his cat sleeping on a sleeve of his robe. He cut off the sleeve of his robe rather than disturb his sleeping cat.

Sub-Saharan Africa

While the Ewe people in West Africa are fond of eating cats with the belief that anyone who eats cat meat (particularly the head) would get good luck. Unfortunately, there is no preference given to cat color.

An ignoble treatment, but not as fatal, from the rest of the majorly Christian population is the belief that cats are evil. Cats in general are often associated with witchcraft. Black cats seem to be worst hit (even seeing one in a dream is deemed to be a bad omen), but white cats don’t get a pass either.

Asia

In general, cats were used to ward off evil spirits in the Monasteries and mountain retreats in Tibet.

In Japan majorly, and extending to China, other parts of Asia and the Near East, white cats are “seen to bring about the happiness of its owner, along with purity, and positive energy.”

This led to the proliferation of figurines called Maneki-neko (loosely translated to “good fortune” or literally “beckoning cat”). Although maneki nekos differ in color, material used in making it, style, and degree of ornateness; white maneki-nekos are the most common.

You’d typically find maneki-nekos in Japanese and Chinese shops, restaurants, and other businesses.

wcw-cat-leaning-on-back

The Automatic Cat Feeder

surechip-cat-feeder-reviewstWhen Casper and Lily came to live with us from the SPCA we needed to find a way to control feeding at home because our cat Alaska is a small kitty who eats a bit at a time when she is hungry and Casper & Lily were used to different feeding conditions and tended to eat as much food as possible at once and they would be trying to eat poor Alaska’s food.

We tried the microchip feeders, one for each cat, and they are the best thing! We love our feeders and the cats seem to like them too! They look like astro-cats or some modern space cats with their automated feeders sliding open when they approach the bowl.

It’s perfect for the weight management routine we have the two younger cats on.

The feeder ensures that the designated pets access their own food. Compatible with all worldwide implanted identification microchips, can store up to 32 in memory.

 

Suitable for animals on prescription diets or weight management programs. Lid forms a seal with the top of the food bowl keeping food fresher for longer and preventing flies from getting to the food.

Best Prices We Found Are Here on Amazon

Famous Cat Quotes

Here are another ten famous quotes about cats. If you’ve read Anne of Green Gables you won’t be surprised to see L.M. Montgomery held a certain fondness for cats but when you see a quote by H.P. Lovecraft you might be a little more surprised to know that his philosophies on life and the beyond even allowed for some delicious thoughts about the uniqueness of cats in the greater scheme of life. Whenever I see a piece of writing, a poem or a small passage from a well-known writer or public figure, and it really touches me, I am almost obliged to share it with my fellow cat lovers. So here are ten more quotes that touch me like a soft whisker in the morning.

Another Ten Favorite Quotes About Cats

 

21.”The mathematical probability of a common cat doing exactly as it pleases is the one scientific absolute in the world.”
– Lynn M. Osband

"The mathematical probability of a common cat doing exactly as it pleases is the one scientific absolute in the world." - Lynn M. Osband

“The mathematical probability of a common cat doing exactly as it pleases is the one scientific absolute in the world.”
– Lynn M. Osband

22. “Cat herding is simple. Just drag a string behind you.”
– Aaron Dennis

"Cat herding is simple. Just drag a string behind you." - Aaron Dennis

“Cat herding is simple. Just drag a string behind you.”
– Aaron Dennis

23. “By associating with the cat, one only risks becoming richer.”
– Colette

"By associating with the cat, one only risks becoming richer." - Colette

“By associating with the cat, one only risks becoming richer.”
– Colette

24. “You can’t hide from your white cat because your white cat hides with you.”
– William S. Burroughs

 "You can't hide from your white cat because your white cat hides with you." - William S. Burroughs

“You can’t hide from your white cat because your white cat hides with you.”
– William S. Burroughs

25. “Cats are blissfully unaware that they have only a finite time in which to finish their ‘to do’ list.”
– Jon Edgell

"Cats are blissfully unaware that they have only a finite time in which to finish their ‘to do’ list." - Jon Edgell

“Cats are blissfully unaware that they have only a finite time in which to finish their ‘to do’ list.”
– Jon Edgell

26. “Indeed, there is nothing on this earth more peaceful than a sleeping, purring cat.”
– Jonathon Scott Payne

"Indeed, there is nothing on this earth more peaceful than a sleeping, purring cat." - Jonathon Scott Payne

“Indeed, there is nothing on this earth more peaceful than a sleeping, purring cat.”
– Jonathon Scott Payne

27. “The cat is for the man who appreciates beauty as the one living force in a blind and purposeless universe.”
– H.P. Lovecraft

The cat is for the man who appreciates beauty as the one living force in a blind and purposeless universe." - H.P. Lovecraft

The cat is for the man who appreciates beauty as the one living force in a blind and purposeless universe.”
– H.P. Lovecraft

28. “The approval of a cat cannot but flatter the recipient.”
– Elizabeth Peters

"The approval of a cat cannot but flatter the recipient." - Elizabeth Peters

“The approval of a cat cannot but flatter the recipient.”
– Elizabeth Peters

29. “A house isn’t a home without the ineffable contentment of a cat with its tail folded about its feet. A cat gives mystery, charm, suggestion.”
– L.M. Montgomery

"A house isn't a home without the ineffable contentment of a cat with its tail folded about its feet. A cat gives mystery, charm, suggestion." - L.M. Montgomery

“A house isn’t a home without the ineffable contentment of a cat with its tail folded about its feet. A cat gives mystery, charm, suggestion.”
– L.M. Montgomery

30. “I take care of my flowers and my cats. And enjoy food. And that’s living.”
– Ursula Andress

"I take care of my flowers and my cats. And enjoy food. And that's living." - Ursula Andress

“I take care of my flowers and my cats. And enjoy food. And that’s living.”
– Ursula Andress

 

Cat Window Perch

casper-on-window-perchtI wasn’t sure if the cats would like the window perch when I brought it home from the pet store but after I saw their reaction to the first one I installed in the kitchen I had to get another window perches! The cats just love them!

We have one heated perch for our kitchen window where they like to take turns sleeping or watching the birds and in the bedroom they love to hop up in the morning and watch the birds and action in the pine trees out front.

It is well known that cats love to sunbathe and the cat perch and cat hammock is capable of solving this problem. Hanging on the windowsill with a brace or directly to the window with suction cups, your cat can lay on this resting seat and enjoy sunshine, so cozy.

This is a cat window perch and a space saving cat bed. It’s made by PVC pipe, covered by oxford cloth, and supported by four suction cups. Suction cups are distinguishable, it’s allowed to be fixed by any level of window without tool and installed in seconds. But, suction cups’ contact surface must be clean and without any dust, since dust will weaken cat bed’s bearing capacity. If suction cups keep falling, put water on it, suction cups will absorb firmly.

We have 3 window perches at the house.

1: The K & H Kitty Sill The bedroom overlooks the morning dove roost and the pine trees so Casper can watch the birds from his fluffy perch. I like the ornate supports that hold it in place against the wall, it uses velcro to attach to the window sill.

2: Thermo Kitty Sill With Fleece Cover
This is one of the perches that our three cats fight over. It sits in the kitchen window and they can watch the pond and the blue-jays feeding on peanuts. The heating pad gives off a steady low heat that is just enough to keep them cozy day or night. The cats will sleep there for hours!

3: Suction Cup Mounting Window Bed
This was one perch we bought with a bit of hesitation because it didn’t look like it would hold but wow this a great cat p[erch for the window! It has four over-sized suction cups that grip and hold onto the window so it can hang without worry! We have our in the living room window and put one of our cat blankets on the perch to give some extra padding. It’s super simple but the cats really love it!

Basic Cat Training

cat-training-first-kitty-has-to-wake-upWhite cats are similar to normal cats. They could be disobedient or the contrast. However, in order to leave peacefully without cleaning up poop everywhere or getting controlled by your cat, training is necessary. Cat training is now your goal in order to make your feline well-behaved.

You will not know why your cat does what he or she does. Sometimes, you got to give up and simply live with it. However, while your cat is still young, it would be nice to train them what to do. Would you rather live with your cat urinating on your doormat?

Before Everything Else

Prior to the cat training, you have to understand a few things. Primarily, cats do not learn because they understand English. They will not be able to attend lectures to comprehend the structure of your sentences. Basically, they learn by experience.

If they believe the experience seems to repeat and positive, they will do this again. It may be unpleasant for you to see your expensive furniture getting damaged by your white cat rakes. However, cats love doing this, which is why they do it over and over again.

The key to make your cat follow is to show him or her that once you are followed, the reward is pleasurable. You do not necessarily have to give those treats all the time. At times, it is just about freedom to play around.

The Transformation to Becoming a Well-Behaved White Cat

There are different useful tips you could follow to make your white cat training successful. Given below are a few for refresher:

Stop the punishment. Punishments will never make the training of cats effective. It is better to replace your reprimands with relaxing massages and daily playtime. This will show that you do not neglect your cat. Cats, when feel disregard, stop using their litter box. In other words, cats would not want a divided attention.

Set up a successful cat training environment. It could be very difficult to steer cats away from the furniture. Sometimes, training will not do. You simply have to transform the furniture into something he or she would not like to scrape.

Cat could also do the sit training. Dogs are not the only animals smart enough to sit. Cats, when trained by saying “Sit” and praising them, could also follow all along. You may give treats or pat your cat whenever he or she follows.

Use tasty treats. If you have resources of tastiest food for your white cat, such as baby food, tuna bites, and chicken cubes, you may use them. These tasty treats somehow empower you to get your white cat’s attention. To introduce the treat to your cat, you have to hold it right at his or her nose.

The training has to be done regularly to make your cat understand what you imply. As mentioned above, experience is what makes them follow. The basic tips given for white cat training are very useful if you want to end the days of suffering, such as early morning meowing distractions.