The cat is a seemingly innocuous creature. While some people love the unbridled enthusiasm of a bounding puppy, many people appreciate the quiet warmth and dignified company of the cat. Cat people have spanned the ages from ancient Egyptian cat worship to Ernest Hemingway's Key West cats to modern-day fanciers. The cat's draw and intrigue is so great that legends and stories have developed around the feline friend. Learn about the cat legend, and specifically gain the answer to the question "What does a white cat symbolize?"
Belfast Castle's white cats
In Ireland there sits a storied old castle built in 1860, according to the Belfast City Council. The Belfast Castle Estate is situated on the lowlands of Cave Hill Country Park in Belfast. The estate was once known as Deer Park and owned by the Donegall family. The estate currently is home to nine cats. Part of the fun and challenge of visiting the Belfast Castle is in tracking down all nine cats. Cats are welcome at the castle because legend tells that as long as a white cat lives on the property, good luck will come to the residents. The nine cats of Belfast Castle are featured in mosaics, paintings and statues in honor of the legend of the white cat and to ensure good luck.
In Japan lucky cats abound. The Maneki Neko is traditionally a cat beckoning good fortune. The legend of the Maneki Neko starts with a 17th-century priest. He was poor but shared what he had with his beloved cat. One rainy night, while the old priest slept, the cat sat in the temple doorway cleaning his paws. Just then a wealthy traveler saw the cat with what seemed like a beckoning paw. He started toward the cat in the doorway just as a tree fell down where he once stood. The man was so grateful to the cat that he rewarded the cat's owner with gifts and helped popularize the temple. There are several types of Maneki Neko, but the white cat with paw raised symbolizes purity and good things to come. The image is represented in a sculpture that many people have in their home, cars and places of business.
Additional cultural references
A white cat generally appears in folklore and legend as a positive sign. Some folklore tells of white cats bringing light and good things. Dreaming of a white cat may symbolize a new baby. Seeing a white cat in the morning is good luck and will bring happiness. White cats make an appearance in the Rapunzel story as they helped the long-haired prisoner weave her hair into a ladder for her beau. Dreaming of a white cat is thought to be a good omen. Not all white-cat legend is good though. Some old wives' tales report that seeing a white cat at night or on Halloween is bad luck or that a white cat boarding a ship before the sailors means bad news for the voyage. To kill a white cat sends your soul to the devil, as some believe the white cat is an angel in disguise.
The white cat in literature
The white cat has also been used as a symbol in literature. In the Richard Wright book Native Son, a white cat may represent white society's ubiquitous watchfulness. The white cat plagues the main character, Bigger, the chauffeur of a white family who accidentally kills the teenage daughter of the family he works for. Bigger sees the white cat's gaze and is agitated, as it appears seemingly everywhere. He cannot get away from it.