DEAR READERS: Around Halloween every year, we encounter the notion that black cats symbolize bad luck. One origin of this misguided belief: In the 13th century, Pope Gregory IX declared that black cats were Satan reincarnate and blamed them, along with all cats, for spreading the plague. However, in Scotland and Japan, black cats are considered good luck, says Jamison Ritter, a curator at the Feline Historical Museum in Ohio.
Over the centuries, superstition may have led some people to treat black cats cruelly, and even today, black cats are often the last to be adopted from shelters. But as Megan Elsburg of Tails Humane Society in Dekalb, Illinois, says, black is just a fur color. "The (black cats) here at the shelter are super friendly and loving,” she told a local paper. (Full story: Northern Star, Northern Illinois University, Oct. 28)
Our latest rescued cat, Fanny, is a round, black and happy feline, in love with our dog Kota. She was considered unadoptable by the Animal Humane Society near where I live in Minnesota, which released her in midwinter to fend for herself. When I called to complain about this cruelty, a staff member told me black cats rarely get adopted and the society has a “no kill” policy, so Fanny was released close to where she had been rescued/caught.
Certainly, black cats were associated with witchcraft and spells in earlier times, medieval Europe in particular. But from a shamanic perspective, black cats are neither good nor evil; like all animals, they are messengers and a source of spiritual energy, intelligence and inspiration. For more details about shamanism, ancient and modern, see this post on my website: drfoxonehealth.com/post/shamans-ancient-and-modern-and-animal-relationships.
DEAR DR. FOX: My cat licks me a lot. Why is this? Is she kissing me? -- B.L., Burlington, Washington
DEAR B.L.: Your cat is engaging in affectionate, caregiving, social grooming. Not all cats do this.
One reason why I advise people to adopt two cats, such as littermates, is that they can engage in this behavior reciprocally, which I believe is important for their relaxation, bonding and overall well-being. A cat living with no feline companion may then redirect this behavior to their human companions.
If you apply lotion to your arms or neck where your cat likes to lick, the animal-based ingredients (such as collagen or lanolin) may be cat-attractive. I would only use all-botanical skin products -- for your own health, the environment's and your cat's!
Some cats can get carried away licking/grooming until they give inhibited “love bites,” or regress to kneading with their forepaws like a kitten nursing. They can be easily redirected by giving them a good brushing or engaging in an interactive game with a feather on a string. Some cats will even chase and retrieve a toy mouse!
As a side note, several people have told me that their cats will come and lie on a part of their own bodies where they are hurting, often purring while doing so. There is a theory that cats’ purring helps stop bones from deteriorating! Sound can heal, and cats can empathize with beings they trust.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)