History and Lore
Cats and humans have been living together for over 5000 years, although it was not always a happy pairing. The Ancient Egyptians were the first to domesticate cats, bringing them indoors to protect their crop stores from vermin and pests. The cats did such a good job at guarding their crops that they became sacred by 1000 BC. The Egyptians worshipped Bast, who was originally the protector goddess of Lower Egypt, who had a cat or lion's head.
Between 2000 and 3000 years ago, traders brought cats to Europe, the Far East and China. Cats remained favourable animals in the Far East as they were again revered for their ability to protect grain from mice and rats, and became symbols of protection against evil spirits. Eventually Cats reached Japan in 999 A.D. and featured extensively in Japanese art. They did not reach America until 1749, but there are now 55 million of them and have replaced dogs as North American's favourite pet. Cats were introduced to the UK by the Romans for much the same reason as the Egyptians first sought their expertise, to protect grain stores from pests.
This favourable relationship continued until the Middle Ages, and the spread of Christianity through Europe. Cats became associated with witchcraft, with many believing they were witch's familiars. The cats were burned with the witchs, and black cats were especially persecuted. If a cat had even a small patch of white, it was often spared, as these patches were referred to as an 'angels mark' and represented innocence and purity. This is the reason why purely black cats are so rare today, because so many were killed during the witch trials in the Middle Ages.
It was not until the 17th century that cats fell back into favour in Europe. They became celebrated in both art and literature and by Victorian times had become popular pets. Nowadays there are more pet cats than dogs in the UK and USA.
Black cats have long been associated with luck, in some cultures as symbols of good luck and in others, as symbols of bad luck. In Britain, a black cat crossing your path is generally considered a sign of good luck, but in countrys where witch trials took place in abundance, mostly the USA and in mainland Europe, black cats are seen as bringing bad luck. This is due to the close association between black cats and witches, with many people believing that a black cat was a witches 'familiar', or even that a witch could turn into a cat.