Crossing paths with animal superstitions
by KENDRA HARTMANN | San Diego Pets
11:58 PM, Thursday, October 25
Photo by Karen Hamlet, capturing the soul of your pet in print.
Photo by Karen Hamlet, capturing the soul of your pet in print.
It is a widely accepted superstition that crossing paths with a black cat will bring bad luck. What most don’t know, however, is where this belief came from (in the Middle Ages, black cats were thought to be the cohorts of witches and it was even thought that witches would turn into black cats to avoid detection). Even less well known is that every region of the world, it seems, has its own version of pet superstitions.

A Scottish superstition, for example, says that a strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity, while an Italian one insists that a cat sneezing is a good omen for everyone who hears it.

In America, some believe that it is bad luck to see a white cat at night, while — oddly — another American superstition posits that dreaming of a white cat will bring good luck.

In the Netherlands, cats were not allowed in rooms where private family discussions were going on because the Dutch believed that cats would air the family’s dirty laundry to the neighbors.

In Egypt, a civilization known for revering cats, it was once believed that the life-giving rays of the sun were kept in a cat's eyes at night for safekeeping, and the Irish believed that to kill a cat will bring 17 years of bad luck.

While it seems that cats bear the brunt of superstitions the world over, other species have not been left out of the fear-based rumor mill. A basic search for pet superstitions returns beliefs involving birds, dogs, horses, fish, sheep and even spiders.

Dogs howling in the midst of a silent night, apparently, represent a sign of imminent death while a dog with seven toes can supposedly see ghosts. While hearing an owl hooting is bad luck, never fear — there are a number of ways to counter the spell: throw salt, hot peppers or vinegar into a fire, and when the owl breaths the smoke it will get a sore tongue and hoot no more (another remedy for this bout of bad luck is to take off your clothes, turn them inside out and put them back on). Another belief says that if a bird defecates on your head, it is a sign of good luck — perhaps a superstition cooked up to make the targeted person feel better for having been pooped on.

Whatever the superstition, it is important to note that people, not their pets, have brought about the existence of terror-driven beliefs. So, if a black cat crosses your path this Halloween, instead of running away in fear, try giving it a friendly pet. It will surely bring better karma your way.

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