Superstition plays a big part in our lives. Who hasn’t “touched wood” to prevent bad luck or found a four leaf clover and believed they will have good luck for the rest of the day? Superstition affects us that much that some hotels don’t have a 13th floor, instead going straight from floor 12 to floor 14 and many architects refuse to design stairs that end with 13 steps.
But where do animals come into this? Let’s take a look at some of the strange superstitions and myths that involve our feline and canine pals.
Most people have heard of the saying that if a black cat crosses your path it’s bad luck. This superstition dates all the way back to the middle ages, when black magic had just hit Europe. It was due to the peculiar belief that old lonely women who cared for cats were actually witches who transformed into cats to prowl the streets… so a black cat crossing your path could actually be a witch. Ooh err. Even today this superstition is still going strong with black cats gracing the majority of Halloween decorations.
How strange then, that in some cultures , the black cat is actually a symbol of good luck. In Britain it’s thought that if a bride and groom encounter a black cat on their wedding day, they are ensured a happy marriage, and receiving a black cat as a wedding present is thought to bring good luck to the bride. Having a black cat on board a ship is also believed to bring good fortune to sailors.
So dogs have supernatural abilities. Apparently. One of the most widely known superstitions is that a howling dog is an omen of death. People have traced the association between howling dogs and death to ancient Egypt.According to Egyptian religion, the god that tended to the dead also had the head of a dog. Therefore a howling dog was believed to be calling souls to the God (and no i’m not making this stuff up). In Ireland folklore, it was thought that dogs howled when they heard the universal phantom pack of hounds. These mystical hounds are said to lead their riders on a wild hunt through the sky collecting the souls of the dead. Convinced? No neither am I. Whether he is howling at you or howling at the sky at night… it’s safe to say it’s much more likely to be because he’s a bit lonely and wants some attention rather than predicting your death.
There are lots more superstitions and myths about our furry friends. If a dogs nose is dry does it mean it’s sick? And do cats always land on their feet? To put it simply, no. If your dog has a dry nose… your dog has a dry nose. It has nothing to do with their health. A dog’s nose can fluctuate between wet and dry throughout the day and it’s likely to be due to the change in temperature. And whilst cats can often land on their feet, the height of the fall is an important factor. Cats don’t have collarbones and their backbones are really flexible which might have led to the old wives tale that they always land on their feet. Although they do have exceptional gravity defying abilities, a cat won’t always safely nail its landing.
Ever heard people say dogs age 7 years for every human year? There’s actually a good explanation for this myth – the lifespan of a dog is about one seventh in duration to a human’s average lifespan, so a five year old dog corresponds to a 35 year old person in terms of this ageing process – but it’s not true. Did you know that the first year of a dog’s life is more equivalent to about 14 – 15 human years? But the ratio of dog years to human years varies with weight, breed and health of the dog. The ratio is higher during first years of the dog’s life and decreases as the dog ages, so there’s not 15 years to your every year.
Talking about age, ever heard that cats have 9 lives? Of course you have. But like the previous superstitions, this idea is mainly rooted from folklore and religion. Cat’s can’t see in the dark either. They can see better than humans as their eyes are designed to open 3x as wide as the human pupil to let in as much light as possible, but they still can’t see in complete darkness. Carrot anyone? Oh wait…