Halloween is a time to celebrate “scary” creatures, but animals that are characterized as unlucky, creepy-crawly, or just downright terrifying rarely deserve this monstrous reputation. And, oftentimes these interesting creatures even play a helpful role in the ecosystem and in our day-to-day lives.
While it is unclear exactly where the spooky mythology surrounding black cats began, the belief that black cats cause bad luck can be traced back to Medieval Europe, and by the Salem Witch Trials in 17th century Massachusetts, the felines had cemented their role as a witch’s favorite sidekick.
However, black cats did not always have such a bad reputation. In ancient Egypt, black cats were revered and thought to bring good luck. The goddess Bastet, who was pictured with the head of black cat and the body of a female, was thought to protect the home from evil spirits and disease. Cats were so beloved in ancient Egypt that harming and killing of cats was illegal, and even if done so accidentally, could be punishable by death.
All around the world, black cats play a role in superstition and mythology—whether they hold positive or negative connotations. In Japan, black cats are considered symbols of prosperity, and in Scotland, black cats were considered lucky, particularly if an unknown black cat visited your home. In Norse mythology, Freya, the goddess of love and fertility, also had a strong connection to cats, with two black felines famously pulling her chariot.
However, in Vietnam, some people believe black cats hold medicinal properties and often target them for the cat meat trade. Local bars and restaurant menus list this item as “little tiger”. But this perception, along with the cat meat trade in general, is losing demand with younger generations who choose to own cats rather than eat them.
Nowadays, many people recognize the beauty of black cats, and they are beloved as wonderful companions for your average pet owner and witches alike! Owning a cat (of any color) can help lower stress and anxiety, and some studies have even shown that owning a cat can improve cardiovascular health.
FOUR PAWS rescued beautiful black cat Shelby from a slaughterhouse in Thai Binh, Vietnam.
Bats are another creature with a spooky reputation. These nocturnal animals have been associated with death and vampire mythology dating back to medieval Slavic societies, a connection which became widely popularized when Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in the late 1800’s. However, bats pose very little risk to humans, and there is no truth to the myth that bats will suck your blood. Even the dramatically named vampire bats very rarely bite humans, and the vast majority of bats eat fruit, seeds, and insects.
Because of their dietary preferences, bats are incredibly important to the ecosystem. They eat millions of insects every night and thus help keep pest populations under control. Bats are also expert pollinators, and they are responsible for the pollination of over 300 plants, including avocados, agave, bananas, mangoes, and cacao (which is the main ingredient in chocolate). Additionally, bats help fight deforestation by dispersing the seeds of the plants they have consumed, which helps regenerate earth’s forests.
Bats also hold the distinction of being the only mammal that can fly. There are over 1,400 species worldwide, including 47 species in America. 12 of those species in the US are considered endangered, mainly due to habitat destruction and diseases, such as white-nose syndrome, which has greatly harmed bat populations in North America.
Habitat protection is key to saving this important animal, which is considered a sentinel species. This means that the health of the bat population in a given area, is a signal to the health of the entire ecosystem. So if you see a bat when you are out at night, that’s a very positive sign indeed!
Fear of spiders is one of the most common phobias, and you would be hard pressed to find a haunted house without some plastic spiders contributing to the creepy aesthetic. But why do so many people fear this small, helpful insect? Researchers have various theories as to why spiders evoke so much fear, but the truth is, most species of spiders are not dangerous and are actually quite helpful.
Spiders eat other insects, such as mosquitos, which can be beneficial both out in the field and inside your home. Organic farms sometimes use spiders as a natural form of pest control and having more spiders in the environment can reduce the amount of pesticides needed on non-organic farms too. Because spiders eat insects that can spread disease, arachnids can also be beneficial to human health as well.
So next time you see a spider inside your home, consider letting them hang out—or at least politely move them back outside rather than squashing these helpful insects.
Appreciate spooky animals in all seasons
Spooky season is a time to embrace and celebrate creatures that give you the creeps, but black cats, bats, and spiders deserve our admiration and protection year-round.