Monday, October 25, 2010

Black Cat Musings

Ok, it’s October. Halloween is almost here. And what do people involved in animal welfare think about during this time of year? Black cats, of course.

Black cats have gotten a bad rap throughout history. In most places, they have been victims of superstitions and negative preconceptions. We’ve had it pounded into our brains that they’re bad luck and associated with witchcraft and the occult. And if that isn’t enough, they are one of the animals most likely to be euthanized in shelters. They are very frequently overlooked at adoption events or shelters. They don’t stand out in cages, they often have indistinguishable features, they can be considered “plain” when compared to other cats.

I live with a black cat. One of the best decisions I ever made was 12 years ago when I adopted her. She had been a victim of animal abuse - someone set her on fire. Her injuries were extensive but she received good veterinary care and survived. When she was strong enough, I took her home, named her Salem and she’s been part of my family ever since. She limps and has scars and is missing parts of her ears, but she is beautiful to me. She’s happy and sassy and I love her more than words can say.

But what does any of this have to do with October and Halloween?

At a recent staff meeting, my co-workers and I had a conversation about whether or not black cats should be adopted out in October. There are many shelters and rescue groups who suspend adoptions of black cats (and some even all cats!) for fear they will be tortured. Others continue adoptions as normal. There are mixed feelings on the subject here at NMHPU.

Suspending adoptions. The conventional wisdom is that this is necessary to protect them from bad people with evil intent, specifically satanic cultists who use them for ritualistic killings. But is the concept that they face more dangers at Halloween time real or just urban legend?

I did an informal internet search, and everything I read stated that there are NO statistics to back up claims that incidences of satanic rituals involving black cats go up at Halloween.

The truth of the matter is that animal abuse occurs ALL YEAR. It’s not a seasonal occurrence; it’s an everyday reality for many animals. And satanic cults are not the ones responsible for the majority of the torture – it’s pranksters, trouble-makers, budding psychopaths and people who have no respect for life. And cats do indeed face danger from such people at Halloween, as well as every other day of their lives.

What other stresses and dangers do black, and all other, cats face at Halloween?

1.People who adopt them to use them as costume accessories and “living decorations,” and then return them after the holiday. (This one surprised me! Who would think to do such a thing??)

2.Noise and commotion

Point #1 is enough to make one feel adoptions should be suspended! That added to the potential threat of animal abusers makes you want to suspend adoptions of black cats forever! However, I really don’t think this is necessary as long as agencies have a solid screening process for adopters. Being thorough in screening should ensure the animals go to good homes. There ARE good homes out there, and you don’t want any cat to miss out on being seen by a great adopter. Plus, denying adoptions only gives the public the wrong idea about black cats – possibly reinforcing stereotypes – and not letting people see how lovable they are.

But when you get right down to it, the best thing you can do to protect your cats from Halloween dangers and stresses is to KEEP THEM INSIDE. At NMHPU, we believe pet cats should be inside all of the time. When they live indoors, they are safe from cars, fights with other cats, attacks by dogs and predators, people with bad intentions, getting lost...….the list goes on and on. If your cats are safely indoors, you don’t have to worry about any of these factors in October, or any other time of the year.

Salem was set on fire in October. Who did this horrific thing to her? Was it part of a satanic ritual? Was it teenage boys being bad? Was it someone on the path to becoming a human murderer? Did her abuse have anything to do with Halloween, or was it just a coincidence that it happened during that time of year?

I will never know.

What I do know is that come Halloween weekend, Salem will be inside with her favorite person – warm and safe and loved. Something I wish for all of the cats out there, whatever color they may be.

Danielle Slaughter
Fundraising and Event Director

P.S. We have many wonderful black cats in our adoptions program! Carlos loves to play fetch (he brings back the ball!)! Alice is young and petite and cuddly. And there are many more… Check them out at our Adoptions page!


  1. My family adopted a beautiful black cat when I was a tween and she was the sweetest cat I have ever owned. She was a loving friend and confidant to all of us children while growing up. Her name was Ebony and since she was all black, there was no distinguishing features, except that she kept her tail in a permanent "hook" position. She lived a long full life before crossing over the rainbow bridge a few years ago, but she was well loved and gave much love in return.

  2. we love our black cat, Sheba, rescued from a hoarder. she's our little lady of the house!

  3. We adopted all three of our little 'panthers' from CAWS, and it's hard to keep from adopting more! They're all wonderful furries, lots of purr-sonality, and spunk. We are very lucky to have our babies and wouldn't have picked another color for all the money in the world!

  4. Personally, I think black cats have a lot more personality than other colors. My PJ was a stray, showed up one day as a little kitten and lived with me for 16 years. He would open all the kitchen drawers, dig everything out, then sleep in them. AND, did you know that black cats are good luck in England? I have one black cat, with a teeny white patch on his chest. His name is Tuxedo. He's 16 now as well, and I dread the day he passes. Cats are the best but black cats will always have a special place in my heart!

  5. I adopted Gracie from the Cedar City Animal shelter in August 2007. I saw her picture in the Pioneer and her time "was up". She is a long haired black and sassy Munchkin kitty with as much personality and spunk and puts her two furbrothers and one fursister in their place by boxing them! I don't know what I would do without my little warrior and she has added more smiles to my face than I can remember counting! Wishing everyone a very safe and Happy Halloween and please keep your pets inside on this holiday and all year round!