May kittens should be destroyed – an early European tradition

I’ll be brief. There is a curious early European tradition, based on superstition, which appears to have been brought forward to the modern age in some places, that kittens born in the month of May should be destroyed because if they are allowed to grow they will become “dirty cats”. I’ve just read an online forum post in which a member stated that he was told by his mother that kittens born in May have a tendency to do bad things like sleep on baby’s faces to suffocate them. A modern version of this folklore.

Kitten born in May
Kitten born in May. Photo: Pixabay.
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It is useful to note the origin of this bizarre belief which is summed up in an old English proverb which states: “May chets bad luck begets, and sure to make dirty cats”. The word ‘chets’ is not a typo!

You have to go back into antiquity to figure out where this comes from. I’m told by Dr Desmond Morris that it was considered incorrect to have sex or to marry in the month of May because at that time people were meant to be purifying themselves in preparation for the great midsummer celebrations in June.

It seems that people transferred their anxieties and subsequent superstitions onto their cats which is not uncommon – think witchcraft, female witches and their cat familiars. It looks bizarre now but I wonder if people still believe it in certain parts of the world? I expect they do. Nothing surprises me when it comes to superstition. I’ve just written an article which touches on the reason why superstition exists. It is a human construct to alleviate anxiety and to feel like they have some control over their immediate world.


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