Throughout history, it has conjured up images of witchcraft and magic. In the Middle Ages, it was burned alive for its supposedly supernatural powers.
In North America, it is considered unlucky to cross paths with it.
Many shelters during the month of October ban its adoption out of concern it may be abused as a result of the image it portrays on Halloween.
The black cat has come a long way since the 15th century. And though its supernatural image in the 21st century has largely been relegated to folklore and mythology, many in society still consider it a social misfit because of, well, its color, or lack thereof.
Indeed, the black cat’s main enemy is its own genetic makup.
In animal shelters across the country, black cats – and dogs - are looked upon as dull or plain, and are often passed over for more colorful pets for adoptions. As a result, they are more likely to be euthanized because no one wants them.
Julie Broadwell. of the Wood County Humane Society, a non-profit, no kill shelter in Bowling Green, says there are always a lot of black cats at the facility.
“They are seen as uninteresting in their markings, a dime a dozen. People aren’t looking at their personalities, just their coloring and they think they are boring, too much of the same,” said Broadwell.
John Dinon, executive director of the Toledo Area Humane Society, agrees.
“They’re harder to adopt because they’re more common,” said Dinon.
There are even misconceptions about their temperaments as a result of their color.
According to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Southwest Michigan, some holding facilities will actually euthanize black cats and dogs on intake because of their chance of finding a new home is so slim.
“Many people find them simply unattractive,” states the SPCA’s Web site. “They don’t appear to be as unique, and, sadly, it is harder to see expression in a dark face.”
The black cat’s temperament, though, is not any different from the various dispositions displayed by other cats, said Broadwell.
“Temperaments of black cats run the gamut from playful and friendly to lazy lap kittens to outdoor cats that want to prowl, just like any other cat. That’s why we would encourage people to pick a cat to adopt based on behavior/personality/temperament, not fur color, said Broadwell.
“There are people who link behavior to color,” said Dinon. “I’ve had a couple of black cats, and they were the sweetest, calmest cats there could be. Of course, there’s always individual variations within that.”
Few would argue that the black cat is in need of a serious image overhaul.
Scientists may be in the process of doing just that.
In an article that appeared in the March, 2003 issue of NewScientist, “Black cats may be the more fortunate felines,” research showed that ebony felines may have a health advantage over other cats. The gene for melanism, which makes their fur black, may be able to prevent certain viruses or bacteria from entering their cells, making them more resistant to disease than cats with lighter-colored coats, according to scientists.
Add to that a study by researchers at the University of Minnesota this year that showed cat owners were 40 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. For reasons that were unclear, the study did not show the same result with dog owners.
Adopt a black cat month
In an effort to get many more cats into loving homes and reduce the number of felines at the Wood County Humane Society, the group’s board of directors approved a year-long campaign of special pricing for cats.
December is Adopt-a-Black Cat Month.
“The board of directors voted to hold a year long campaign of a Special of the Month to help reduce the number of cats in the shelter as we are way over capacity, probably 100 cats over what we should be,” said Broadwell. “When I asked the shelter manager and assistant manager what type of cat they wanted to run first, the said in unison, `black cats.”’
Any black cat at the Wood County Humane Society in December can be adopted for half price of $40. Or the adoption of a black cat at the regular price of $80 entitles the adopter to another cat, any color or markings, for free. All cats available for adoption have been spayed/neutered, tested and vaccinated. The adopter also receives a card for a free veterinary exam.
“We’ll run a special on orange cats, calico cats, etc., but we picked b lack cats first because there are so many of them,” said Broadwell.
A different special of the month at the Wood County Humane Society will be announced for January. Updates can be found each month by checking the website at www.woodcountyhumanesociety.org or by calling the shelter at 419/352-7339. All adoptions are subject to approval.
The Toledo Area Humane Society, 1920 Indian Wood Circle, Maumee, can be reached at 419/891-0705.
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I've had cats of all different markings, and I can honestly say I've developed a bias for the black cat, including tuxedo cats. In my experience, black cats tend to be more playful and people oriented than any other type of cat. I have three right now, among a calico and a black tabby and orange tabby. Betty is the second calico I've had and both of them tended to be moody and a little OCD. I would pick a black cat over almost any other, except maybe the gray tabby, which I've also found to be mellow and affectionate. It's purely anecdotal, but I've had a lot of cats and I definitely see traits correlating with color and markings.
Toonces is all black with a small white mark on his chest. Toonces plays like a dog, plays chase, and is the only one among my brood to have struck up a positive relationship with Jethro, my orange tabby, who doesn't know when to quit playing. Toonces is mellow, I've never seen an ounce of anger or aggression from him.
Sparky is my Perfectly Formed All Black Cat. She is timid but docile, again, I've never seen even a tiny flash of anger from her, I don't even think she knows how to growl.
Shrimpboat is a tuxedo with a weight problem. She looks more like a soccer ball. Her best friend is Tigger, my gray tabby. She loves to snuggle and I've never had her get irritated with being picked up and cuddled, as some cats do.
The black cat definitely needs an image boost. I'm sure there are exceptions but I find them to be the best cats for people with children, they seem to be more playful and tolerant of handling than other cats.
It was so sad to read how black cats get the short end of the stick in shelter situations when they collectively are probably the most docile and easy-to-get-along-with cats.
I was just reading about the bias against black cats. This is a crazy point but I used to have a cat with a wild pattern on its body and now I have a fabulous black cat. I get frequent headaches and when I used to look at my old cat it would be too visually stimulating and make my headache worse. That doesn’t happen with my black one. My black cat ahs a great super friendly personality!