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256 Sheppard Ave. West
Toronto, ON M2N 1N3
(416) 222-5409

October 29th is National Cat day, fitting since Halloween is only a few days later and is arguably the only holiday that embraces the true spirit of cats.   Going door to door bartering a trick for a treat is similar to owning a cat, in that if you do what they politely trick you to into doing, they won’t leave you ‘treats’ lying around the house.

 

Halloween and felines, especially black cats, have a long and interesting history together.   It all began in early civilization when Halloween began as a celebration as Samhain (Summer’s End), an ancient Celtic festival that marked the ‘death of summer’ and the beginning of the Celtic New Year. As it was linked to the end of seasons, it was believed to hold magic and power.

Costumes and dressing up have always been a part of the rituals of “Halloween”.  It was believed that on Halloween ancestral spirits might emerge and roam freely due to the perception that during this time the walls between the living and the dead were at their thinnest.  People would dress up in costume, taking on a deathly appearance so that ghosts and spirits would not bother them.

Cats had no association with the holiday until much later.  When Christianity became more commonly practiced, Halloween then became a Christian holiday breaking the celebration into All Hallow’s Eve and All Saint’s Day.  It was believed that every soul in purgatory was released  to roam the earth for 48 hours. Rather than offering wine and food to these spirits, as previously done, Christians went from door to door with a lantern made from a hollow turnip to symbolize a soul in purgatory. Households would offer “Soul Cakes” in exchange for having these visitors pray for the dead

Over time with the rise of Christianity the Celtic Druids were viewed as witches that then lead to the ‘witchcraze’ where countless men, women and animals (mostly nocturnal) were murdered in vast numbers.  Cats mostly were targeted due to the belief that witches could shape shift and most often would take the form of a cat.

In associating Celtric Druids with witchcraft has ensured that witches and cats have become two of the most enduring symbols of Halloween and gave rise to a number of superstitions surrounding black cats . To this day, there are people who continue to associate black cats with evil.  Animal rescue operations often note the difficulty in finding homes for black cats and dogs, even though most experts agree that fur colour has no effect on personality.

So with Halloween fast approaching and the “official” National Cat Day upon us, we here at theDowntownAnimalHospitalthought it would be fun to give some insight on where misconceptions and stigmas surrounding black cats and Halloween came from.

Keep safe and Happy Hunting Haunting

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