Black cats have a unique place in Western culture as being symbols of “bad luck” (and this month we have a Friday the 13th so get ready for a superstitious October). How exactly did these handsome devils get such a bad reputation?
The feline paranoia seems to date back to the fourteenth century. Although the details of why cats became associated with “evil” are unclear, the fear resulted in mass extermination of cats during the Black Death pandemic… Ironic, considering the cats could have helped kill the rats that were actually spreading the disease. Jump ahead to the sixteenth century: Europe and the early American settlements believed in witchcraft. Because accused witches seemed to befriend alley cats, it was believed the witches could actually turn themselves into black cats.
Today we, as a society, aren’t quite so suspicious of our black cats being witches in disguise. And while many individuals involved with animal rescue may tell you black cats (and black dogs) are the least likely animals to be adopted due to society’s superstitions, this theory does not seem to be supported by evidence. Dr. Emily Weiss of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) found while studying records from 2013 that black cats & dogs are the most adopted. 31% of cat adoptions were black, followed by gray cats at 20%; 32% dog adoptions were black, followed by brown dogs at 22%. That said, it does seem that black cats and dogs are the highest admitted to shelters. With numbers similar to the adoption rates, in 2013 33% of felines admitted to shelters were black, followed by 22% gray cat admittance. 30% of dog admittance were black, followed by 23% brown. This may account for the belief by some that black colored pets have a harder time finding forever homes.
So here are the facts: Black cats are not bad luck, and the evidence shows they don’t even have such bad luck at being adopted. But they do seem to find themselves in shelters at higher rates than their gray/white/brown companions. If you’re feeling particularly festive this Halloween, why not consider embracing your inner witch by adopting a feline companion?
Besides, if you get away from Western culture and move East, black cats are considered good luck in Japan and Russia!