October 26, 2022 Cats

Why We’re Afraid of Black Cats, Bats and Spiders on Halloween

A cat dressed up as a bat

Why We’re Afraid of Black Cats, Bats and Spiders on Halloween

I start celebrating Halloween the minute the candy corn hit the shelves in September. And I’m not alone. This year, Americans will spend $10.6 billion dollars celebrating the holiday. While candy and costumes define the holiday, animals play a big role in Halloween festivities. Halloween was traditionally celebrated to honor the dead, and it is easy to see how this day became associated with darkness, ghosts, the devil and cemeteries. How animals became associated with the holiday is a little more complex. Today, I will highlight how those animals became associated with All Hallow’s Eve.

Black Cats

Since the Middle Ages, black cats have been thought to be the incarnation of Satan. This damnation comes from a Papal Bull issued by Pope Gregory IX in 1232. A couple of centuries later, another Pope, Innocent VIII, linked cats, the devil and witches by writing, “The cat is the devil’s favorite animal and idol of all witches.” At the time of the Salem witch trial in colonial Massachusetts, witches were thought to transform into black cats who could roam the countryside and cause mischief. You might say witches were the original crazy cat lady. If you are interested in reading more, I found a very thoughtful rebuttal of the medieval Popes’ role in maligning black cats.


Many myths associate bats with darkness and death. The association comes in part from bats nocturnal behavior, which helps them fit perfectly into the Halloween theme. The unique physical form of bats – half mouse, half bird – endows them with an supernatural hybrid form. One of the most famous pieces of English literature, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, features a blood sucking human who causes the death of his victims. The blood sucking vampire bats of South America do not kill their prey when feeding; however, their feeding behavior did nothing to prevent them from becoming associated with darkness, death and Halloween.

A dog dressed as Dracular

An adorable Dracula costume at AMC

Halloween spiderwebs on the brownstones of the Upper East Side

Halloween spiderwebs on the brownstones of the Upper East Side


Spiders appear to be a more recent addition to Halloween fauna. For arachnophobes, the sight of one of these creepy crawly creatures anytime of the year is a traumatic event. Spiders and their artistic webs are a staple of Halloween and horror films. In New York City, nearly every decorated house, apartment building or garden feature yards of synthetic spider web. Other than their yuck factor, I don’t really find a story or myth to explain how spiders became associated with Halloween. Most stories I found honored spiders as skilled weavers and recognized their important in maintaining the ecosystem in balance.

Celebrating Halloween with Animals

Looking for something a little different for your Halloween celebrations this year? Why not try some animal entertainment.

Tags: bats, black cats, halloween, spiders,

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