Welcome once again to Adopt a Shelter Cat month here on the blog. Today on the blog we are tackling a common question for our education and adoption staff members: Why does it take longer for black cats to get adopted?
We adopt out animals of all sizes, shapes and colours. Big, small, black, white, short and tall we adopt them all, but it is true that certain characteristics do seem to impact how long an animal stays on our adoption floor. While June may mark the celebration of all things feline, the “black cat” phenomenon is not actually limited to cats – all black animals (cats, dogs, rabbits and even snakes) generally take longer to adopt out than their more colourful counterparts. So… what’s the deal? Today we’re going to try to find out… and bust a myth while we are at it!
Do people avoid adopting black cats because of superstition or bad luck?
Sadly we really don’t know how often superstition prevents people from looking at a black cat as a pet, because it would be very difficult to measure. At Calgary Humane Society we focus on creating the best possible matches for families so rather than focus on what a family doesn’t want, we always try to focus on what types of things would make an animal the best possible fit with the family.
Cats were not always the subject of superstition and scary Halloween pictures! In fact, in ancient Egypt, cats were the rock stars of the animal kingdom. Cats (yep, even black cats) were held in very high esteem. In fact, injuring or killing a cat was considered a crime (killing a cat was a capital crime – as serious as today’s criminal code!). If a cat passed away the family would go into mourning and the cat would receive an elaborate burial. If you have ever gone to see an Egyptian art exhibit you will probably notice that cats feature prominently in a lot of Egyptian art.
In the middle ages, the noble cat suffered some serious bad press! During the middle ages, hysteria about witches and witchcraft began to spread throughout Europe. During this time, cats unfortunately became associated with witches because people would see older and lonely women feeding stray cats. Those same women were also the women most likely to be accused of witchcraft and thus the association between cats and witches was born.
One other popular story was that a man and a son in the middle ages had their path crossed by a black cat at night and they threw rocks at the cat, injuring it. They watched the cat flee into the home of an old woman and when they saw the old woman who lived in the home the next day she was also limping. This man and son made the assumption that because the cat was injured and the woman was also limping that must mean the woman could transform into a cat at night.
Unfortunately for Europeans in the middle ages, the widespread persecution of cats had some pretty negative consequences. As cats became more and more rare in the cities, rat populations exploded and those rats carried bubonic plague. Yikes!
While cats may have been the subject of superstition and considered bad luck in Europe in the middle ages, thankfully their bad reputation didn’t stick! In fact, many cultures continue to think of cats as a sort of lucky charm! In Scotland the arrival of a strange black cat on your doorstep is supposed to mean prosperity. Historically the gift of a black cat to a bride on her wedding day was supposed to bring the bride good luck in the English Midlands. Even pirates had beliefs about black cats! If you were a pirate, a black cat walking straight towards you would be bad luck, but spotting a black cat walking away from you was good luck!
Today at Calgary Humane Society we know that black cats are just like any other cat (except far more fashionable in our opinion – black goes with everything!). So if the superstition of the middle ages has faded, what other reason could be behind the slower adoption rates?
How to stand out from the crowd?
If you have visited the CHS shelter, you have probably seen our cat adoption area! We have three types of housing for cats at the shelter: Feline flats (private apartments for single cat living), kitty kabins (larger rooms for litters of kittens, bonded pairs or the occasional very portly singleton) and “Mewtopia” (a communal living area for social cats). At any given time, we will have 60-70+ cats available in our adoptions area for families to meet and adopt.
With so many cats available, it can be overwhelming to try and choose which cats to visit with. We usually recommend that families walk through the adoption area and see what cats stand out to them as a potential match to help narrow things down.
“Sadly, in such a large crowd black cats are sometimes overlooked while their feline friends with brighter colours or flashier markings catch the potential adopter’s eye. Black cats (and other black animals) can sometimes fade into the background or be hard to spot in their living area, leading potential adopters to miss out on these black beauties.”
Black cats (and other black animals) can sometimes fade into the background or be hard to spot in their living area, leading potential adopters to miss out on these black beauties.So how do we solve this problem at CHS? First, we try to put brightly coloured blankets, linens and toys into the housing of any black cats. These bright colours help to attract the eye to the space so our feline resident’s purr-sonality can shine (couldn’t resist that pun). We will also create cool signs and put notes on the kennels to attract extra attention to the less noticeable felines. Finally, our adoption staff are also aware of what cats have been waiting a while and what cats are being overlooked, so if they meet a family that could be a good match for that cat, they can suggest the family visit with the cat.
How can I help black cats (and other animals) be adopted faster?
Great question! The number one thing that anyone can do to help black animals (including cats) find great forever homes is to spread awareness. Help friends and family members understand why black animals are great companions and also why these fabulous critters are sometimes overlooked.
Next, if you are thinking of making a donation of bedding or toys to Calgary Humane Society, consider choosing very brightly coloured items that we can use to decorate a black cat’s living space! Do you have some rainbow beach towels left over from a previous summer season? Our animals would LOVE them! Even if they have bleach spots or stains, as long as they are not frayed we can repurpose those towels into colourful bedding for animals that need some extra help catching the eye of a potential adopter.
Finally, if you are considering adopting yourself, consider visiting with some of our black cats to see if they would be a good match. We consider the visit prior to adoption to be a crucial time for you to “get to know” the animal’s personality. Our adoption counselors would be happy to help you identify what cats could be a good match if you have some specific characteristics you are looking for. Colour should never be the deciding factor in any adoption, so we want you to choose the pet with the personality that is the best fit for your family.