Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lucky Cats

On New Year's Day I always think about good fortune. That's mainly because my Pap-pa, Hoyt Cook, always said that for every black-eyed pea you eat on New Year's Day, you'll receive a dollar in the coming year. I figure it's worth more now. After all, the website Dollar Times says that a 1934 dollar, adjusted for inflation, will buy $16.36 cents worth of stuff today. Or maybe $16.36 today will buy a dollar's worth of stuff. That's more like it.

Anyway, that's why I eat a lot of black-eyed peas on New Year's Day and think about good fortune while I'm doing it.

Cats are associated with good luck, too. If you live in the U.S., you may have heard that a black cat crossing your path is bad luck, but in Britain, that's good luck; it meant that the witch or her animal familiar didn't have a grudge with you. One story has it that the first King Charles had a black cat that he loved dearly and considered his good luck charm. When the cat died, he mourned its loss, saying his luck had run out, and the next day he was arrested.

In Russia, blue cats are thought to be lucky, and bringing a cat along when you move into a new home is said to bring good fortune. In Canada, tricolor cats (aka tortoiseshell-and-white) are considered good luck. Calico cats like Misha (right) are a type of tortoiseshell cat.

In China, any old ugly cat is considered lucky. Since cats are considered food in China, a cat that manages to survive into old age would certainly be lucky.

In some parts of Europe, a cat who enters a house of its own free will is said to bring good luck with it. Buddhists traditionally believed that dark-colored cats attracted gold and light-colored cats attracted silver. In Japan, calico cats are good luck, and the Maneki Niko (left), a tricolor cat depicted with its paw raised in welcome, is said to attract good luck and money.

Whether you believe in these myths and superstitions or not, cat lovers know that at the heart of all these stories you find the good luck that comes from having a cat share your life, bringing laughter, joy, and happiness to their human families.