I’ve been fascinated with black cats since we adopted two black kittens into our family in the 90s. The global fascination with black cats goes back even further, with Egyptians worshipping a cat goddess, who — you guessed it — was often depicted as a black cat. When it comes to the spooky season, black cats seem to be everywhere. They’re one of the most recognizable animal symbols of Halloween, being depicted as witches familiars and claimed by many to be bad omens. As superstitions go, if a black cat crosses your path, you may be subject to bad luck, death by epidemic or sinking ships. Yikes.
What these claims have in common is that they’re entirely fictitious. They’re myths. Because some people believe black cats are good luck! There’s even a cat café in Japan, Nekobiyaka, that only has black cats, and has more than a dozen of them. That hasn’t stopped our fascination with black cats — and the beliefs we have about them — from making their way into fictional stories. Using my cat whispering skills (they’re real, honest) for the spooky season, I’ve rounded up 10 iconic black cats in fiction, some of which are witches’ cats and some of which… aren’t!
Source: Sabrina the Teenage Witch – ABC Series, Walt Disney Television, 1996-2003
Sabrina the Teenage Witch is the typical example of your friendly, neighborhood witch. Her resident feline friend is Salem Saberhagen, a 500 year-old witch imprisoned by the witches council in cat-form — as an American shorthair, to be more specific — for 100 years as punishment. He first appeared in the American Archie Comics in October 1962, but I fondly remember this sarcastic, smart-talking cat from the 1996 ABC TV series. Nick Bakay perfectly voiced him, bringing his wise-cracking personality to life.
Source: Kiki’s Delivery Service – Studio Ghibli, 1989
This fictional cat is probably most well-known from the animated movie adaptation of the book. Jiji is the black pet companion of young witch Kiki in Studio Ghibli’s 1989 movie Kiki’s Delivery Service. He helps Kiki on her journey to become a fully-fledged witch, even pretending to be a stuffed cat for a boy’s birthday present! The children’s novel that inspired the movie was written by Eiko Kadono in 1985. I have the most adorable Jiji-shaped night lamp that sits on my bedside table, looking like the cat is ready to pounce at any moment.
It is believed that black cats were favored by sailors aboard long voyages because they brought luck — and presumably caught all those pesky mice — but this cat is a trusted friend of a different type of sailor… Sailor Moon! Luna is a talking black-purple cat with a signature yellow crescent moon mark on their forehead. There’s an anime and manga series of Sailor Moon, so you can see this adorable kitty’s face on your shelves and your screen.
Source: Pet Sematary – Paramount Pictures, 2019
Taking a dark turn in time for Halloween, Church is the black cat that features in Stephen King’s terrifying novel Pet Sematary. Being a big scaredy cat myself, I haven’t read the book or seen the movie adaptation, but I was delighted to discover that an adorable Maine Coon shelter cat called Leo played Church. Sadly, Leo has since passed over the rainbow bridge, but he’ll always be remembered for this stellar acting role.
Source: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Warner Bros. Pictures, 2002
Millicent Bulstrode’s cat
In the Harry Potter series, one of the two types of cat familiars witches and wizards are allowed to get from the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley are black cats (at a cost of nine galleons). One student, Millicent Bulstrode, has a black cat, which leads to a particularly entertaining mishap when Hermione Granger accidentally adds a hair of the cat, rather than Millicent, to her polyjuice potion, half-transforming into a black cat herself. Arguably, the half-Hermione-half-cat is more famous than Millicent’s cat, who isn’t even given a name.
Source: Space Jam (1996) and Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) – Warner Bros. Feature Animation
I tawt I taw a puddy cat. It’s Sylvester, the tuxedo cat! His full name is actually Sylvester James Pussycat, Sr, but I think Sylvester works just as well. Spending his days chasing after that pesky yellow birdie, Tweetie Pie, Sylvester is famous for appearing on Looney Tunes, then appeared in fiction– notably comic books — later. Interestingly, he starred in a comic book opposite Catwoman, who is arguably one of the most famous superheroes inspired by black cats (second to none other than Black Cat herself. Oh, and Black Panther).
Source: The Jungle Book – Walt Disney Productions, 1967
Speaking of famous black panthers, another iconic animated black cat is Bagheera the panther from Disney’s 1967 animated movie The Jungle Book, and before that on the pages of Rudyard Kipling’s collection of stories. Bagheera plays a pivotal role in escorting the “man-cub” Mowgli to the nearest human village, acting as a sort of guardian to the young boy. He’s a headstrong and opinionated big cat, who turns out to have a soft side after all.
Source: Cats – Universal Pictures, 2019
Was there ever a cat so clever, as magical Mr. Mistoffelees? Andrew Lloyd Webber thought so when he created the hit musical Cats, starring young black-and-white tuxedo cat, Mr. Mistoffelees, as he tries to grasp his magical powers. Adapted from a poetry book called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot in 1939, this cat is the opposite of a one-hit-wonder. Easily recognizable by his catchy song: because was there ever a cat so clever, as magical Mr. Mistoffelees…
Source: The Cat in the Hat – Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures, 2003
The Cat in the Hat
But that is not all. Oh no! That is not all, because last but not least, is the titular Cat from the children’s book The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. A cat with human-like characteristics — like walking on two legs and wearing a towering, red-and-white striped hat — is a strange creature. The Cat has been a trouble-maker since the story was published in 1957, inspiring kids everywhere to just have fun. To be fair, it’s not just kids, we all need an anthropomorphic cat with a magical cleaning machine in our lives.
Rebecca Holland is a writer from the UK. She’s an animal lover with a soft spot for purring cats, especially when she’s reading, and loves nothing more than a good book with animal companions. Check out some of Rebecca’s other work at VelvetOpus.com and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.