For many people, Black Friday is all about shopping. People go a little crazy, even going so far as trampling and pummeling others, all in the name of getting a good deal on this, that or the other. Personally, I steer clear of all retail stores on Black Friday because the whole thing strikes me as madness. Yes, you can get Christmas gifts for a great price…but is it worth it? I guess it’s an individual decision.
In any event, today I am thinking not about Black Friday shopping but about a different black …all of the black cats and black dogs that are in animal shelters, waiting for someone to pick them so they can have the life and home they deserve.
Historically, black pets have the hardest time getting adopted, for a variety of reasons. Some people believe the myth that black cats are bad luck. Others won’t adopt a black dog or cat because he’s not “colorful” enough or they don’t think a black pet has much personality because they can’t see his facial expressions as well as those with lighter colored faces.
I don’t get it. Judging a cat or a dog by the color of his fur? That’s more bizarre to me than the Black Friday shopping mayhem. I have two black cats – Mickey and Rocky – and if I had a negative bias toward black pets, I’d have missed out on being loved by two of the coolest cats I know. Their black fur is not very colorful, but their personalities? Now that’s an entirely different story!
The motto often used by shelters and rescue groups is “adopt, don’t shop!” It doesn’t have anything to do with Black Friday, but can you imagine what would happen if every person who went out shopping today, went to an animal shelter instead and picked out a black pet for their family? Millions of wonderful animals would be “home” for Christmas, that’s what!
However you spend this day, I hope you stay safe and warm.
You’ve probably heard these stereotypes about our feline friends: black cats are bad luck; tortoiseshell cats have a feisty attitude (“tortitude”); tuxedo cats are very loving; calico cats are always crazy; ginger cats are super friendly; while white cats are aloof or shy.
People (and even some veterinarians) pre-judge cats by the color of their coat all the time, but is there any truth to the stereotypes? Can a cat’s coat color predict behavior and personality?
Plenty of people who share their home with a tortoiseshell will tell you their cat does indeed have that aforementioned tortitude, but I have to wonder how much of that is perception rather than reality. In other words, perhaps they heard about tortitude somewhere along the way, and projected that stereotype onto their cat. If someone has a preconceived notion that all tortoiseshell cats act a certain way, they may subconsciously look for things that substantiate this. Then too, it seems to me that every housecat could be perceived as having a spunky attitude, at least some of the time. That is the nature of a cat, more or less.
“Black cat syndrome” is a somewhat different story. Shelter workers say that black cats typically have a much harder time getting adopted than their more colorful counterparts. Some believe it’s because of the “bad luck” myth and purported association with witches, while others think it has more to do with the fact that darker colored cats are harder to see and observe in the shelter cages.
Black Dog Syndrome is a very real problem in animal shelters. It seems like the more common or plain looking a pet is, the less likely they will find a home. Trying to give a voice to those who have none isn’t always easy to do, and it can be frustrating when it seems like no one is listening. But it’s important to keep speaking out because one voice can make a difference, if it’s persistent and comes from the heart. A young girl in Kansas is proof that one person can create change; she is speaking up for black dogs and cats in shelters.
A dark colored shelter dog already has one strike against him. If he is large with even a hint of bully breed in his DNA, he automatically has three strikes against him. Many shelters try to help a dark colored pet get noticed by adding a colorful bandanna or collar around their neck, but many potential adopters simply look past them anyway. The ASPCA has found that a dog or cat with more than 65 percent of a black or dark coloring in his coat is less likely to be adopted.
Why people walk right by a dark colored dog or cat is a mystery, but there are some theories. Black cats are often associated with witches and black magic. Some people believe the darker color makes a pet unlucky. Black dogs appear more aggressive to some, and their roles in movies too often portray them as mean and associated with the bad guys. Potential adopters have used phrases like “they’re spooky looking,” “you can’t see their eyes,” or “they don’t look trustworthy.”
It’s possible a black pet is harder to see among lighter colored coat colors that have a tendency to catch someone’s eye. I know from experience with my black dogs and cats how difficult it is to get a good photo of their face, especially if the light isn’t very good. It’s difficult for shelters to capture a cute facial expression when you can’t get a good picture of their eyes.
With millions of cats and dogs in animal shelters, there’s a lot to pick from. Different sizes, colors, mixed breeds, purebreds, personalities and ages. A study done by the ASPCA looked at reasons why people adopt the shelter pet they pick. This is important research because it can give shelters insight as to why certain pets may be overlooked by possible adopters.
Shelters are already aware of black dog syndrome, a bias against black dogs and black cats. For some reason, people looking at pets miss seeing the darker colored ones. It’s possible they are overlooked because some people are superstitious about black cats, in particular. The lighting in shelters isn’t always good and if a darker pet is hiding in the corner of his cage or sitting way in the back, they may not be seen as easily as the lighter colored pets.
According to the study, it may be the ‘cuteness factor’ that attracts people to certain pets. Last year, the ASPCA set out to try to figure out why people picked the specific pet they did. They asked 1,500 people who adopted a pet to fill out a questionnaire at five shelters across the country. Was it the pet’s age or physical appearance, or perhaps their behavior that caught the person’s eye? They discovered that when someone adopted an adult cat or dog, behavior was at the top of the list for consideration. The age of the pet made no difference. When it came to kittens, age was the deciding factor, and people chose a particular puppy based on physical appearance. For the cat loving adopter, what the kitten looked like didn’t matter, and a puppy’s behavior was ranked at the bottom for those who picked a puppy.
The purpose of the survey was to shed light on how a potential adopter’s thought process worked and what they looked for when making their decision. The results have given shelter workers insight as to how and why certain pets may be overlooked. It also points out the importance of talking with people looking to adopt to help them see the potential in all of the shelter pets. The study can help workers learn how to show off a pet’s ‘inner beauty’ for those animals that may be less likely to be adopted because they aren’t as cute as others. A pet may have the perfect personality and behavior for someone, and the survey suggests shelter workers may need to point out the benefits of another pet that might be a better match for the adopter’s lifestyle.
The jubilant holiday known as Halloween is a great time to be a kid – or a fun-loving adult. Halloween is not, however, a particularly good time to be a black cat. Like ghosts, bats, jack-o’ lanterns, skeletons and witches, black cats are a classic Halloween symbol. The difference is that black cats are also living beings. This opens the door to all sorts of problems for the black cat, ranging from teenage mischief to outright cruelty, to people using real black cats as part of their “spooky” Halloween décor.
It can be hard for responsible pet owners to fathom how such things could occur, because we’d never dream of doing them ourselves. It’s not hard for your local animal shelter to imagine, though, because many of them have seen it firsthand. The threat of danger to black cats on Halloween became so prevalent that a decade or so ago, many shelters instituted a policy that still stands today: no black cat adoptions during the entire month of October.
Before the ban, many shelters saw an increase in black cat adoptions just before Halloween. They also noted that many of those same black cats were returned to the shelter after the holiday, often with vague excuses. One can reasonably assume that these thoughtless humans simply wanted a “cool” Halloween decoration for their house or their witch’s costume. These types typically regard pets as property rather than living beings that would be traumatized by being adopted for a few weeks and given up once the holiday was over.
Halloween is here, and everywhere you look today you’ll probably see jack-o’lanterns, ghosts, witches and black cats. These are common symbols associated with this jubilant holiday, but that wasn’t always the case. Although many of our present day Halloween customs trace their origins back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, the connection to black cats is relatively recent.
Samhain was a sacred celebration that marked the end of summer. It did not involve witches or sorcery, but the Celts did believe it was a time when the barrier between the living and the dead was temporarily lifted. To keep troublemaking spirits from bothering them, the Celts wore “ghostly” costumes which made them appear dead. They also gave offerings of food to nourish ancestral ghosts thought to be journeying to the afterlife on this date.
When pagan rituals were converted to Christian holidays, Samhain became All Saints Day, All Souls Day, All Hallow’s Eve and finally, Halloween. Christians went door to door with a hollow turnip “lantern” made to symbolize the souls in purgatory, and households offered them “soul cakes” in exchange for prayers for the dead.
So how did black cats come to be associated with Halloween? Many theories abound. One says that the Celtic Druids eventually came to be viewed as witches by the Church. It was believed that witches could shapeshift, and that they would usually disguise themselves as cats. Black cats were thought to be witches familiars (i.e., beings that aided witches in performing witchcraft). Some thought black cats were reincarnated witches as well.
It stands to reason then, that when the Halloween celebration evolved to include the iconic “wicked witch,” the black cat was also included. Thus, the association of the ancient Celts with witchcraft created two of our most common contemporary Halloween symbols. In fact, black cats and witches remain popular Halloween costumes year after year.
Another theory suggests that black cats may have become associated with Halloween as a result of folklore and superstitions about them being evil and causing bad luck. Even now, many still give credence to these legends. In the United States and many European countries, there are people who actually believe that seeing a black cat signifies the coming of bad luck. With two black cats in my household, I am more like the Irish and the British, who generally consider it a sign of good luck if a black cat crosses their path.
I do find it hard to believe that otherwise intelligent human beings could believe something so absurd as “all black cats are evil.” But then, I’ve never been one to buy into any superstition. I think it’s rather sad for black cats, though, who are forced to bear the burden of this unfortunate association.
It is true that black cats are the least likely to be adopted from animal shelters and other animal rescue organizations. You can visit any shelter, any day of the year, to see for yourself. It’s also true that many shelters refuse to adopt out their black cats in the weeks leading up to Halloween. They fear that the black cats could be used for satanic rituals, or that someone might want to have a black cat in their home as a “living decoration” and then surrender it after the Halloween holiday. As preposterous as that might sound to you or me, anything is possible nowadays, so I don’t blame the shelters for taking precautions.
People with black cats are also cautioned to keep them indoors around Halloween for those same reasons. As long as the black cat continues to be associated with the ghosts, goblins, witches and other spooky figures of Halloween, it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution. But if you need proof that black cats are not unlucky, just take it from me. My two black cats are ten and six years old, and I’ve had nothing but good luck, love and happiness since they joined my household.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.