Black Cats Deserve Better
Superstitions are a bad thing
If a black cat crosses your path,
it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.
— Groucho Marx
I love that.
Instead of the superstitious fear that a black cat means bad luck, Groucho Marx has yet again humorously said so much in so few words: black cats are not only nonthreatening, but those age-old fears are ludicrous. Black cats are, like every other color of cat, just cats. Just crossing. Just being.
If you think that old superstition has no bearing on modern day life, note that black cats are the least adopted felines in animal shelters and the most likely to be euthanized.
John Bradshaw, Foundation Director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol, writes that the black gene mutation is so common that in some places more than 80% of cats carry it.
If the gene that makes cats black is so common, and black cats are the most commonly euthanized in shelters, then we are punishing cats for their color at an alarming rate.
This “Black Cat Appreciation Day” (August 17), we can do better. If you’re not in a position to adopt a black cat, start by helping dispel all the crazy notions around black cats. (Please don’t run out and adopt a cat just to help: please be sure you are fully ready and see my articles on To Adopt a Cat, or Not to Adopt a Cat and Is Your Cat Ready for a Buddy?)
Rather than black cats being something to fear, they may, in fact, be something to revere. My own research into black cats is simply observational over a long period of time, but it is worth considering as evidence (however inconsequential it may seem).
I have visited many a shelter and not only found black cats to be some of the sweetest and cleverest, but I have even been told by a shelter owner that in her experience, some of the best cats are black: she noted that over the years she has observed that they were the most kind, playful and loyal. And, yet, left behind.
When I was five years old, I was told the fantastic news that I was ready to have my very own cat! This was the biggest thrill of my life to that point. (Still to this day, when I adopt another cat, the honor of being their caretaker humbles me and fills me with the same excitement and gratitude.) At that time, I got to think about it for weeks. I decided I wanted a calico cat and was going to name him “Pizza,” thinking that a calico looked like a pizza.
Well, as with every cat I’ve adopted since, I went in with one idea in mind, but got an entirely different result…a beautiful black kitten! I have found this with each of my cat searches: I go in with a concept of the cat I will be proud caretaker of, but a different one entirely ends up being The One. I’ve heard other people say that you don’t choose them, they choose you.
Pizza was my best friend: he followed me as I walked to school every day — just to the edge of the school grounds. He came when I whistled and he stayed by my side at all times. I got all the benefits of having a dog at the same time as all the benefits of having a cat! He was my best friend until age 23. I had him at my side for 18 glorious years. As the shelter owner said: kind, playful and loyal.
Pizza and my shelter observations (and my current black cat) all point to the shelter owner lady being spot-on about them.
If superstitions (or even something subconsciously stemming from them) are not the reason that holds people back from adopting black cats, there are other reasons that can be rebuked as well.
For example, if you worry that black cat hair will get all over furniture, suits, dresses or office attire, it can really be the opposite: lighter colored cat hairs are often more visible on clothes and furniture than black ones.
Here are some other fun black cat facts:
· Owners of tabby cats say they have a cat which looks like a tiger…um, newsflash — a black domestic shorthair looks lot like a panther, too
· The Japanese believe black cats are lucky and protect from evil
· The Ancient Egyptians kept cats as pets and black cats were said to bring about the blessing of gods who would protect owners from disease
· In Scotland, the arrival of a black cat on your doorstep signifies prosperity
· A black cat is thought to be a lucky sign for brides
Note: the black cat crossing superstition is often misquoted. The saying more traditionally goes, “A black cat that crosses your path is unlucky if you are a burglar or thief!”
So, let a black cat into your life for all that good luck (and love and loyalty and fun and great memories). And if you cannot, then at least help spread the word when friends and family adopt: it is time to give black cats their due.