A recent study by the University of California at Berkeley reveals that many people avoid adopting white cats because of the mistaken idea that white cats are lazy and aloof. In many other countries and cultures, however, white cats are associated with happiness and luck, and are highly desired.
Myths and Legends
Cats are fascinating creatures, and cat owners know that kitties possess a wonderful, indescribable air of mystery and curiosity. This feline mystique has inspired numerous myths and legends around the world, particularly in Asia, Europe and North Africa, where a cat's coat color is often associated with good or bad luck or even character. As it turns out, many of these myths and legends involve white cats.
In Japan, China and other parts of Asia and the Near East, white cats are associated frequently with happiness, good fortune and purity. Have you ever seen the small statues of white cats in the windows of Chinese and Japanese shops? These smiling kitties, often holding up a left or right paw, are generally referred to as "maneki neko," a Japanese term meaning "beckoning cat." White maneki neko are believed to be very lucky, representing "good things to come."
U.S. versus U.K.
Although black cats have a somewhat negative mythology in in the U.S., the overriding belief in Great Britain is that black cats bring good luck. White cats in Great Britain are seen by some as unlucky, but are viewed positively by others. In the U.S., white cats, though some suppose they are lazy and cold, are generally considered lucky.
Norse and Celtic Goddesses
In Norse and Celtic mythology, white cats have goddess affiliations and are believed to represent trust, goodness and light. The chariot of the Norse goddess Freya is said to be pulled by two white cats, while the Celtic goddess Cerridwen (or Ceridwen) supposedly dispatched two white cats to the earth to carry out her commands.
On a biological note, there is a widely held belief that white cats face a larger risk of deafness than felines of other colors. White cats with blue eyes do display a relatively high rate of deafness. However, deafness in white cats, even those with blue eyes, is not universal by any means. And even cats with hearing problems make fabulous pets!
Jeff Katz has been a professional librarian, educator, historian, writer and editor for almost 20 years. He holds a Master of Library Science degree from the University of British Columbia and a BA degree in Classical Studies from Hunter College of the City University of New York.