What do you think of when “black” is used to describe it?
Black Ops, in a black mood, black list, black hole of negativity, black magic, black balled, Black Monday, black heart and on and on and on. “Black” has traditionally been used to denote something negative or dangerous so it should be no surprise that black cats also suffer from this completely unjustified bias. We all know that black occurs in the absence of light and black is actually the absorption of all color which is why we wear black on cold days to absorb as much sunlight and heat as possible and white (which reflects light and heat) on hot days. However, what most people may not know is that there is no real basis for the idea that black cats are somehow cursed or will bring you bad luck. Correcting the misconception that there is something ‘scary’ or undesirable about a black cat becomes particularly important for rescue organizations and shelters which have black cats in need of adoption.
Just the facts, Ma’am
Each year, just before Halloween, Dr. Emily Weiss with the ASPCA, has published data on adoption rates for black cats and black dogs. The project started in 2013 when Dr. Weiss used the ASPCA Comprehensive Animal Risk Database to analyze the number of black cats and dogs who enter the shelter systems as opposed to other colors. Logically, if there are more animals of a particular color, it may seem that they are not being adopted as frequently as animals of other colors. In 2013, the first year Dr. Weiss conducted this particular analysis, she reviewed the combined data from 14 ASPCA partner communities for almost 300,000 cats and dogs. What Dr. Weiss found was that more black cats and dogs came in that any other color animal. She also found that “A higher percentage of black dogs and cats being the next highest color adopted in cats).” were adopted than any other color. For dogs, 10% more black dogs were adopted than the next highest color—brown dogs at 22%. And the difference was about the same for cats (other than gray).
In her 2016 data update, posted on October 20, 2016 just in time for Halloween, Dr. Weiss states that “this year is no different [from previous years]. I recently pulled the numbers, and with the combined data of 65 agencies representing over 186,500 cats, we found that black cats are adopted more than any other color.”
Interestingly, in spite of the ASPCA data, there are still many shelters and rescue organizations which maintain that they have more trouble finding forever homes for black cats than for cats of other colors. A 2014 Priceonomics article discusses some of these difficulties and the efforts made to promote the adoption of black cats. Black Cat Rescue, a no-kill cat rescue organization in Boston, rescues only black cats and finds foster and forever homes for these gorgeous black felines.
On the bright side, there is a growing effort to‘re-brand’ back cats as the next cool thing. Chris Poole, of Cole and Marmalade fame has created a series of very funny – and highly viewed – YouTube videos featuring his tan and black cats, including “Black Cats Rule” and “10 Reasons to Adopt a Lucky Black Cat”. The Huffington Post has reported on numerous occasions about black cats and most recently reported about a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a book to be called Black Cats Tell All.
So where did this whole “black cats are scary” thing come from?
When you think about it, cats in general – not just black ones – can and do scare the living daylights out of a lot of people. They can be unpredictable, not necessarily the most cuddly of creatures and have VERY sharp claws and teeth. Unlike dogs who tend to moon around and salivate whenever their humans come around – OK, I’m making gross generalizations here – cats can be a bit more independent and ‘standoffish’.
In addition, black cats in particular have been associated with witches since the Middle Ages and during the Salem Witch Trials. Witches were accused of being able to transform themselves into black cats, considered to be witches’ “familiars”, an “animal-shaped spirit or minor demon believed to serve a witch or magician as domestic servant, spy or companion.” Black cats were killed in droves during the 14th Century plague, commonly referred to as the “Black Death”. “Cat Sith” is part of Scottish folklore and allegedly manifests as a large black cat who would steal the souls of the recently departed. Black cats are still associated with Halloween, Friday the 13th and other spooky goings-on.
Although the fear of black cats is not as wide-spread as it once was, some shelters still refuse to adopt black cats out in the month prior to Halloween in order to prevent their use as holiday ‘props’ or, worse, as sacrificial animals during witchcraft or satanic rituals taking place around the holiday. Folk tales like Black Cat’s Message and Wait Until Emmet Comes and images of black cats with witches, in graveyards and under glowing moons still do play on residual fears about black cats.
So, what is the bottom line?
According to 2015 – 2016 cat ownership statistics published by the Humane Society there are 80 million cats who are a part of American households, which means that millions of people love and share their homes with black cats. Many celebrities have black fur babies including John Lennon, Frank Zappa, Cher, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Brigit Bardot, Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, Nicole Kidman and John Travolta. There is no scientific basis for any claim that black cats have any traits or inherent characteristics which would make them dangerous, cursed or anything less or different than a cat of any other color.
So, the next time you have the opportunity to make a beautiful black feline part of your family, take it!
©Onpets, LLC 2016. All rights reserved.