White cats are everywhere in China.
Well, maybe not, but they do seem to be a favorite here, especially those with heterochromia (two different eye colors). The high school in Xi’an that I volunteered at this July had a white cat, and so did the hostel where I stayed, and so does my apartment complex and the Old History Department, where all my immersion classes are located. And earlier this month, while exploring campus, I came across an abandoned building with a family of cats—most of which were white or mostly white—living under it. I spent entirely too much time at that house playing with the cats and taking pictures of them, despite several nonplussed onlookers. The Chinese don’t have a “crazy cat lady” stereotype, but I assure you it’s well on its way.
So far, I haven’t found an answer yet as to why there are so many white cats. Chen Laoshi said there’s no real reason for it: at some point, a white cat mated with another white cat and made a bunch of white kittens, and it spread from there. Alice and Liu Laoshi also couldn’t offer an answer. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if someone, somewhere, at some point in time, attached some cultural significance to white cats.
You see, in the East, the color white traditionally symbolizes death. Just about every international etiquette website out there tells you to never give Chinese people white flowers, or wrap gifts in white, or… really, pretty much anything white is off-limits. And in the West, cats—especially black ones—are heavily associated with death and bad luck. (Come to think of it, I haven’t seen any black cats here in China, either… though I’m not sure that really means anything.)
Basically, I don’t know what to make of it. I just think it’s interesting. Besides, I like kitties. Even the ones at the abandoned building that start stalking me right after I finish petting them.