So, now that it’s October, and Halloween is almost upon us, I think it’s time to address the black cat myth (and in general, black animals). We’ve all heard crazy things about black cats: don’t let one cross your path, they’re evil, they’re sneakier than other cats, they’re too hard to photograph. The list goes on. And it hurts all of the black (and black and white) cats living in shelters.
Black cats, and black dogs, stay in shelters much longer than other fur colors, and are euthanized more often. As an owner of a five-year-old black lab, I can personally tell you that fur color does not matter. I’ve met yellow labs that are more temperamental than Brookie, and white bulldogs that are more cuddly than her. It doesn’t matter what color fur these dogs have, or what breed they are (but that’s a whole different post).
So let me address some incorrect myths in an attempt to reverse the rumors about these darker-coated furballs and help them get adopted:
1. Black cats are evil or bad luck.
Truth: We’ve all seen black cats in Halloween and horror films. They’re popular in Halloween decorations – I have a plastic cat on a pumpkin hanging in my living room. This association of black cats and evil dates all the way back to the Middle Ages, around the mid-fourteenth century. All cats were killed off during the Black Death, which in actuality only worsened the problem. We should’ve learned back then that these cats were evil; they were actually helping us.
In the sixteenth century, many presumed witches had taken in alley cats (often black cats) and the relation to the Devil and witchcraft continued. These cats were hunted and killed just like their “witch” caretakers.
In European folklore, black cats crossing your path was an especially bad sign. Other cultures focus on the movement of the cat: a black cat crossing your path from left to right is good news in German lore, and in pirate culture a black cat walking towards you is bad news, and away from you is good news.
Even gamblers have gotten in on the black cat superstitions, saying that a black cat crossing your path on the way to gamble means that you should turn back.
Popular culture plays off the fears and beliefs of society, and continues to purport this rumor of black cats as evil. But some films aim to break this stereotype. Take Hocus Pocus (in the link above). Binx ends up helping the main characters , and though he was first a human, he is brought back as a black cat due to the spell put on him. Yes, the black cat is still connected to witchcraft here, but Binx gives a better name to black cats of the world by helping out his newfound friends.
There has never been any proof that black cats are any different than their lighter colored feline friends; folklore is what is hurting these pretty kitties.
2. Black cats (and black animals) are difficult to photograph.
Truth: While it may be a little more work to get a quality photo of a black cat or dog, that does not mean they can’t be photographed as well as other fur colors. Just change up your lighting, take them outside, get them in a well lit room: they’ll take just as nice of pictures if the lighting is right. Brookie takes beautiful pictures, even when the lighting isn’t right. This is probably my rose-colored glasses, since I think she’s the most beautiful dog in the world since she’s mine, but it doesn’t matter to me how well she photographs.
And, if you’re adopting an animal based on how many good pictures you can get of it, you might want to check your reasons for wanting this animal in the first place. Would you want someone to drop you because you didn’t photograph well? That’s what I thought.
Along this line, black animals are sometimes harder for potential adopters to see when they are in the shelter cages. Easily remedied by the shelter: get them a bright colored collar or bandana, some colorful bedding, anything to draw the attention of adopters to this dog. And adopters, actually take your time to know these dogs for more than how well you can see them in the often poorly lit kennels.
3. Black cats are sneakier than other cats.
Truth: This has no truth to it. Again, I’ve met a lot of cats in my lifetime, and I could not narrow sneakiness down to a fur color. There are black cats I love, black cats I stay away from; calico cats I love, and ones I stay away from. The color doesn’t matter.
A lot of people also think the green eyes give these cats a sneaky demeanor. They can’t do anything about their eye color, and eye color is like fur color: it indicates nothing about personality or temperament. What could be a better photograph than the beautiful green eyes mixed with black fur, lit up by the sunlight? And some people still say they can’t be photographed…
Some shelters unfortunately choose to suspend adoptions of black cats (and often black white mixes) during the month of October because of the first rumor. Sick humans take place in sacrifices of these furry loveballs around Halloween, and their choice for this ritual is often black cats because of their relation to the Devil. It’s already twice as hard to adopt these animals out on a regular basis; this month-long lock down continues to hurt their chances, though it is often a necessary precaution.
Even then, black cats are stolen from yards and owners when they can’t be obtained through shelters. This is not a normal occurrence, but it’s something to be aware of if you have a black beauty.
It’s time we start believing the truth about black animals. They aren’t evil, they aren’t impossible to get a good picture of, and they aren’t bad luck. These lies based off hundreds of years old superstitions are hurting our furry companions. In a country where euthanizing animals is a regular and unfortunate event, we need to do what we can to get all of these animals adopted, not just the ones that look best on Instagram.
**If you have any animal myths you want me to write about, leave a comment!