Folk Belief – Massachusetts

“Do not own or live with cats or they will smother your babies.”

This is a much older wives tale that my step-grandmother was insistent upon believing.  The act of smothering a baby is basically not allowing the child to breathe.  She repeatedly told my mother during my infancy that my mother should get rid of the cats that were living with us, because they would smother me.  Although my step-grandmother is getting older she was still able to tell me that she had heard this from her mother and grandmother during the time when she was young even before her pregnancy.  Ola grew up in the Burlington, Vermont area and spent most of her time between Vermont and Massachusetts, so presumably she probably heard this somewhere in that section of New England.

I believe that she felt so strongly about this belief because it was something that her mother and grandmother had instilled in her as a young girl.  When she told my mother, my mother thought she was crazy, however Ola still felt that she was 100% correct in saying that the cats would smother the baby.  I am not sure where the origin of this belief came about, but perhaps it was conjured out of pure fear of cats.  In addition, cats have often been associated with witches, magic, and sometimes evil, which could lead one to think that cats have some inherent wickedness to them.  In other märchen and superstition cats are usually mysterious or strange creatures, as exemplified by the well-known superstition that it is bad luck for a black cat to cross your path.