Busting the Black Cat Myth

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 cat pumpkin

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.

How could this not break your heart?

           How could this not break your heart?

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…

cute black cat

                              So much cuteness

———–

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.

keep calm adopt black cats

 

**If you have any animal myths you want me to write about, leave a comment!

A Little About This Blogger

So, I’m a few posts late, but I should explain a little more about who I am outside of animal rescue and where I get my information. My name is Kaitlin, and I’m a senior at the University of Michigan. I was raised in a suburb south of Chicago named Tinley Park and attended Marist High School in Chicago. I’m studying English with minors in writing and Judaic Studies, hoping to attend journalism graduate school next year. In a perfect world, I’d love to bring my writing skills and passion for animal welfare and rescue together, but I’m currently aiming to write for a magazine.

Since the point of my blog is to educate about animal rescue, I think it’s also important to explain where I get my rescue and welfare information (besides first-hand experience). I get a lot of my news from social media: Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, and occasionally Instagram. A few years ago, I didn’t keep up with much news, except for occasionally on TV. Not much of that addressed animal welfare, so I remained fairly ignorant about the topic.

The Humane Society of the United States always keeps me up-to-date on animal welfare news.The Humane Society of the United States always keeps me up-to-date on animal welfare news.

Once I began college, I found it harder to keep in the loop with news. So, I began following news organizations on Twitter, as well as constantly Googling animal rescue news. I recently subscribed to theSkimm, a site that sends a daily email covering prominent news stories that day. I’ve tried to bring my parents up to speed with getting their news from social media, but the most I’ve accomplished is getting them to like NBC Chicago on Facebook. They prefer to stick to television — social media still intimidates them.

Most of my rescue news comes from Instagram; I follow a few friends, but mostly I follow others who are passionate about rescuing. I’m glad I’ve changed my media consumption habits since high school; I feel much more informed, and it helps me get even more involved with my passion.

I’d love to learn a little bit more about how my followers keep up with their news (even if it isn’t news about animals!) Leave a comment below so I can get to know more about who’s reading here.

Deadly Distemper

We recently had an outbreak of distemper at PAWS that prompted me to write this post. It’s so important to keep your dogs vaccinated, both to keep them safe from other dogs carrying disease and to keep them healthy in case they should get loose and end up in a shelter.

Watching this distemper outbreak claim the lives of two of our dogs (so far) through humane euthanasia was horrible, and waiting to see if the other dogs who tested positive for the disease will meet the same end is just as bad. So, I want to do a mini-education post about distemper.

What is distemper? According to the ASPCA website, “Canine distemper is a virus that affects a dog’s respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems, as well as the conjunctival membranes of the eye.” So, in normal people speak, it affects breathing, digestion, the nervous system, and eye membranes in dogs.

Always keep a look out for these symptoms; even if it isn’t distemper, they could indicate other illnesses.

How do dogs pass distemper to others? The virus is contracted through direct contact fresh blood, urine or saliva of an infected dog. Because it is also a respiratory disease, coughing and sneezing can pass the virus, as well as sharing food and water bowls.

So, properly clean all bowls and follow your shelter’s cleaning procedures to a tee!

What are the symptoms? An infected dog often begins with sneezing, coughing or emitting thick mucus from the eyes or nose. Other symptoms can include depression, lack of appetite, lethargy, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. A sudden and drastic change in behavior is also a good indication that the virus has invaded the nervous system.

It is so important to pay attention to the signs your dog is giving you, even when they aren’t biological.

Please pay attention to what my body and behavior say!

Please pay attention to what my body and behavior say!

Which dogs are highly prone to distemper? Puppies and adolescent dogs, as well as dogs higher in age with weakened immune systems, are most vulnerable — though any  dog without proper vaccination is extremely susceptible.

Make sure puppies receive their first vaccination between six and eight weeks of age, and keep them away from possible infectious situations (re: dogs who haven’t been vaccinated, shelter environments, etc.) until they finish the round of vaccinations at four to five months. And again, CLEAN! Keep up with cleaning and disinfecting of your home to make sure the virus hasn’t made its way in.

Can cats catch distemper from dogs, and vice versa? No, they cannot. While distemper is very contagious between members of the same species, cats cannot catch canine distemper and dogs cannot contract feline distemper. Confusing because of the names, the illnesses are actually caused by two different viruses.

TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE VET IMMEDIATELY IF YOU NOTICE ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS. The earlier the diagnoses, the better the chances of survival. This virus spreads quickly and needs aggressive treatment as soon as possible.

Tests to detect distemper exist, but are not always completely accurate. Dogs that test negative may still have the virus dormant in their system. Pay most attention to the symptoms and act appropriately and quickly to give your dog the best chance!

There is no complete treatment for distemper right now, sadly. Veterinarians usually provide fluids and other medications to ward off other infections while the dog builds its immune system back up. Dogs that do survive distemper will often see symptoms later in life of neurological damage, if not right away. Typically these present themselves in the form of seizures or behavioral changes.

Distemper is one of the many horrible diseases our canine friends can contract, and one they most certainly need help fighting off. One of our most friendly dogs had a complete personality change one morning when volunteers came in, and after a series of tests and attempts to save him, our board had to make the tough decision to euthanize him. Another sweet dog met the same fate, and at least five are being closely monitored now.

Please, please, always keep an eye out for your dog’s health. You will know when something is off. Even if it isn’t distemper, it’s important to get your dog checked out as soon as possible to give the best chance at recovery.

I know you all love you furry friends as much as I do. I’m sorry if I bored you a bit, but this is something I think needs to be reiterated sometimes, especially in light of a terrible situation such as this.

I can't take myself to the doctor; please help!

I can’t take myself to the doctor; please help!

Falling in Love with Three Legs

I fell in love a few weeks ago. My love has black hair with a sprinkling of white, deep brown eyes, and some of the best kisses. We cuddled daily, and she liked to nuzzle to sleep against my neck.

She also had three legs. I fell in love with a dog named Bella.

Bella was a resident of HSHV for around a month, which is fairly long by HSHV norms. Since this shelter serves a whole county, adoption rates tend to remain high, thankfully. But Bella was a pit bull mix, which slows down the adoption process a little. People still believe in all the lies spread about pit bulls: locking jaws, vicious nature, all the terrible rumors.

Not to mention, Bella hobbled along on three legs. She did well with those three legs, but any kind of deformity makes people wary. So, pit bull with three legs. Two strikes.

Bella didn’t have all three strikes though, so I still held out hope that she would find her fur-ever humans. We hung out almost every day for two weeks. It took her only a day to warm up to me, and then every time she saw me after that, her tail flew back and forth at light speed and I was quickly covered in a layer of slobber.

We’d walk a loop around the beautiful tree-covered trail and then settle in the little gazebo for some quality cuddles. Bella would plop all her pibble weight right into my lap and just sniff the air and watch other dogs walk by. She never tried to go after them, though; she was content to just sit with me. Such a loving “velcro dog.” Even when I had to take her back inside so I could walk some of the other dogs, she was not very willing to get up or walk back. I had to carry her in a few times actually, and then sit with her until she fell asleep before I could sneak away.

As much as I loved getting to see and play and cuddle with Bella every day, I also felt sad every time I came in and she was still there waiting. I would have loved to take her home, but with my apartment regulations, I can’t have a dog until I move out of this complex. So I kept praying for her humans to come get her.

Finally, it happened.

I got to see her one more time before she moved in with her humans, for which I’m grateful. But I also haven’t felt so elated in months. I’m happy for every dog that gets adopted, but when one you fall in love with finally gets her happy ending, it’s a whole different feeling.

Bella was the first shelter dog I’d loved so much in awhile. I missed having that kind of connection with a dog, and I hope that I’ll find my next love soon.

Petunia: Chin Bristles and Kisses

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

-Juliet, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

Let’s turn the rose into a pit bull mix, and call her Petunia. She is one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met (though I’m sure she didn’t always smell as sweet). And her story can explain extremely well why I, and many others, do this work.

Petunia in all her glory

Petunia in all her glory

Petunia had been at the shelter for a few months, and it was starting to show the last time I saw her. She was great outside of her kennel, but usually when we came in for the afternoon shift, it was clear she was becoming a little “cage-crazy.”Turning on the light in the room where the dogs lived always stirred a cacophony of barking. It was a chorus of thoughts…”What’s that smell? Who’s here today? I think I like this one.””I gotta pee nowwww, lady. Hurry up hurry up hurry up!””I’m BORED, human. Take me out to the play yard.”…among other thoughts. But, most days, it just came out as barks. So, the frenzied barking was normal. Petunia’s method of barking was not. She had taken to barking at the bottom of the metal wall of her kennel. Maybe she was just barking at the noisy dog next door, you say. Fair enough, except we know how that looks. She wasn’t trying to jump up and catch a glimpse of her neighbor through the fencing atop the metal; she wasn’t trying to steal their blanket or play tug of war through the tiny slit against the wall. No, Petunia was legitimately barking at her wall, and she took no notice of us until we’d open her kennel door. Then all would return to normal. Cage-crazy.

Normal Petunia is the sweetest girl. She is the perfect poster girl for breaking pit bull stereotypes. Sure, she’s got some scars on her little brindle muzzle and face, but there were only a few dogs she wasn’t a fan of (Boss, I’m lookin’ at you). Who can blame her though? There are definitely people out there that each of us can’t stand — we just have to be more discreet than our canine counterparts.However, I digress. Back to the sugary sweetness that makes up Petunia. She was a velcro dog and cuddle bug in every sense. I’d take her for a walk, and we’d maybe make it one time around the shelter before she would plop dog and look up at me longingly, begging for some lovin’. And who was I to deny her? So we would sit on the grass, with her big, muscular pit bull body plopped on my legs (of course she thought she was a lap dog; what big dog doesn’t?) For a dog around two years old, this mellowness was definitely not usual, but extremely endearing.

Bristles and Kisses

Bristles and Kisses

She loved to give kisses as well. Her slobbery tongue mixed with the tiny bristles of whiskers on her chin made for a curiously pleasant sensation on my cheek. Maybe it was because I knew all the love that came through those kisses. Or maybe I liked the slobber…but she knew the people at the shelter were helping her, and she definitely wasn’t shy in showing her appreciation. Now, I haven’t seen Petunia in a few weeks. I live in a different city from my home shelter, PAWS Tinley Park, and so I’d only be there every couple of weekends. I was really worried about her when I’d left. She’s too good of a dog not to have a home, and if we couldn’t find her a home, was there hope for the rest of them? A few days ago, I woke up and went through my day as usual. Work, nap, dog walking, reading, Facebook, bed. But on Facebook, I noticed the update on our volunteer page, with a picture of Petunia and a couple, all three of them smiling. PETUNIA HAD BEEN ADOPTED.I went to bed ecstatic that evening, falling asleep without tossing and turning for once. PAWS had found another dog her fur-ever home, and I had been a part of the process. I could almost feel those bristles and slobber as I drifted off that night.

Ready to go home forever, with that grin of hers!

Ready to go home forever, with that grin of hers!

——-

This was by no means the first adoption that has happened to an animal of which I had become particularly fond. But it came at a time when I was feeling a little down that few of the dogs I bonded with at my other shelter, the Humane Society of Huron Valley, hadn’t been adopted. With this aptly-timed adoption, Petunia’s success reminded me that it can sometimes be a long while before we find the perfect home for an animal, and it can definitely be a draining process for both the four legs and the two legs. But, the time comes for nearly all of them to nestle into their new owners’ warm beds and breathe a final sigh of relief that there are no more kennel walls at which to bark. It just takes some love, a lot of hard work, and holding on to hope to get them all there.

Imagine Her Eyes: A Look at a Dog

Imagine the sweetest dog you’ve ever met. She loves cuddling and giving slobbery kisses. She’ll play with the neighborhood kids, and curl up with you at the end of the day. She looks at you with her big brown eyes and always gets a treat for just that.

Now picture those big brown eyes, confused and lonely, looking at you through a cage in an animal shelter. Same dog, same love, same kisses, but this dog has no home. No one to call her humans. No one to give cuddles and kisses. That’s the reality of a shelter dog.

How could anyone say no?

How could anyone say no?

I’m here to tell about my experiences working in two shelters for the past year, in hopes of opening up more eyes to the great animals that end up in shelters — many of which still need homes and love, some of whom will never get that. I want to tell you the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. It’s not always a happy time working at a shelter, but it can be the most rewarding experience of your life.

My name is Kaitlin, and I’m a senior at the University of Michigan. I began volunteering a little over a year ago at my local animal shelter, and it has been the best decision I’ve made in my 21 years alive. I’m not going to school to be a vet, or vet tech, or anything related to animals. I’m actually an English major. But I’m as passionate about these beautiful animals as I am about my writing.

Follow my blog if you love animals, if you’re afraid of them, or even if you think you already know everything there is to know about furry creatures. It’s about time I brought my two passions together, and I’d like you to come along for the journey.