The Greek word ailouros means cat, and gives its name to the art of divining the future through the study and observation of cats. It is also referred to as felidomancy. Ailuromancers watch the cat’s actions, behavior, and motion, paying special attention to where and how the cat jumps and lands.

From ancient times, cats have been seen as the familiars of witches, involved in the occult. Given all the superstitions surrounding cats, it is no surprise that they have been seen by diviners as a portal to another realm, one that offered valuable clues into the future.

Cats were revered and worshipped in ancient Egypt. Ailuromancers tried to bring about dreams, where their prophecy would be revealed. To that end, they would write the name of the deity to whom they were appealing onto a tablet, using an ink made of myrrh. This magical tablet was then placed into the mouth of a black cat which had recently perished. The resulting dreams would provide valuable clues to the future.

Through the centuries, ailuromancers have used cats to foretell the weather. If, for example, a cat lies curled up, but with the forehead touching the ground, stormy weather is likely to follow. A cat whose tail is turned towards the fire is warning of changeable weather, possibly rain or a hard frost.

Over time, the range of behaviors led to many superstitions about cats. Got a cat following you? Money is coming your way (either that, or your cat is hungry). Even the way that cats groom themselves can give hints to the future.

If Fluffy washes one ear three times, visitors are sure to appear – and they’ll come from the direction that your cat is looking. If the paw comes over the left ear, a lady will visit; if the right ear is washed, a gentleman caller is expected.

If a black cat enters your home, consider yourself blessed! That is an omen of good luck, if you play your cards right. But treat Puss with respect – any attempt to chase or harm the cat will only result in bad fortune for you!

Black cats are rarely bad luck. Oh sure, there’s the superstition about black cats crossing your path – unlucky in the USA, but a lucky break in Great Britain. Another superstition, though, says that meeting three black cats in a row is good luck. Similarly, meeting a white or grey cat is also lucky. However, if that black cat crosses under a ladder, watch out! The next person to use the ladder will experience bad luck.

Regardless of the color, a cat that sneezes the day before a wedding is said to be bad luck for the marriage, but only in the USA. In other countries, it is a sign of good fortune.

Mummified Egyptian cat, now residing in the Louvre. Courtesy Wikipedia.