Have you ever wondered why certain animals are associated with this spooky holiday? Here are a few of the most iconic Halloween animals and their origins.
Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897) may have popularized the image of a vampire shapeshifting into a bat, but the association between bats and vampires has been around for much longer. The appropriately named vampire bat drinks the blood of other animals (though, unlike Dracula, does not commonly feed off people).
Luckily for us SoCal humans, our local bats eat only insects, such as moths and mosquitoes. Bats, as nocturnal pollinators, also play an important role in our ecosystem. But, this doesn’t mean you should get too friendly with them.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health cautions that bats are the only known animals to routinely carry rabies in our area.
In some cultures, ravens have been seen as tricksters, mediators between life and death, and symbols of bad luck. In German mythology, witches rode ravens, rather than brooms. It was believed ravens could locate the souls of the dead.
Of course, ravens are black, and, as omnivores, they have a tendency to eat dead animals … traits that associate them with our macabre season.
But, it would probably be more accurate to associate ravens with graduation season due to their highly intelligent nature. Ravens, along with other corvids, such as crows, have impressive memories, can solve complex puzzles, and can even create and use tools made of sticks and other materials.
Some species of spiders tend to hang out in “haunted” dark spaces, such as graveyards, dungeons (if you happen to have a castle), caves and vacant houses.
Spiders were thought to be companions of witches in medieval times. If you’ve ever run into a spider web you know it feels creepy, especially since some spider bites can lead to severe illness, or even death in rare cases.
For ages, black cats have been linked with bad luck, the occult, black magic and witches. Superstitious beliefs surrounding black cats persist even today.
But, as I’ve shared before, black cats have been viewed positively by a number of cultures throughout time, too. For example, British sailors believed that having a black cat on board their ships would bring them good luck on their journey.
Although it is somewhat of a myth that black cats are less likely to be adopted than other fur colors, you might see a higher percentage of black cats in shelters because of a higher percentage of black cats in general.
Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no evidence that black cats are adopted from shelters to be harmed around Halloween. In fact, we think you should bring yourself some good luck and adopt a black cat any time of year.
Given all the animal associations, it’s no wonder that Halloween is a hugely popular holiday at Pasadena Humane. Our campus decorating contest brings out the artists, engineers and visionaries among us. The costume contest at our Halloween party is the most creative I’ve ever witnessed!
We hope you, too, will enjoy the holiday. As with all holidays, please keep your pets’ safety in mind.
Remember, the safest place for pets on Halloween is indoors with candy out of reach.
For more Halloween safety tips for pets (and wildlife!), visit pasadenahumane.org/halloween
Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.
This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on October 27, 2023.