Black cats Kit, left, Aurora, below, and Radar hang out in the public viewing room at the Gastineau Humane Society on Friday.
Kit, an 8-year-old female cat, presents herself to a visitor of the Gastineau Humane Society on Friday.
Story last updated at 10/9/2013 - 1:16 pm
A black cat stretches and curls, walking silently before you. Do you feel a bad omen, or do you feel an overwhelming urge to snuggle with it?
Black cats tend to have a sharp, mysterious look about them, but they've also got the misfortune of a negative folklore lurking in its shadows. Black cats, it was said, were highly tied to witchcraft - either the companion, or the witch herself. They were spooky, soulless demons - if you believed such things.
Some of that stigma still rings true today, but the prevalence has certainly diminished.
Gastineau Humane Society Director Chava Lee said that they have not seen a trend of black cats taking longer to adopt out over cats of any other color. The shelter currently has nearly 15 black or predominantly black cats out of 30 felines.
"For here, whether they're all black or not doesn't seem to be an issue," Lee said. "We happen to have a lot of black cats right now. I couldn't find that they were getting adopted any less quickly than any other cats. People tend to adopt on personality. Maybe that superstition is kind of going away. Black cats were associated with Halloween. It doesn't appear that there's a negative connection."
Lee said there was a time when the shelter had a high number of Siamese cats.
"I think those pre-conceived notions have gone by the wayside to an extent," Lee said.
Lee has two black cats - one completely black and one with little white paws.
"I think they're great," she said. "They're beautiful."
Lee said most people, if they come in with a specific coloring for a cat in mind, want the "orange marmalade" cats.
"People always have this idea that orange marmalade cats are always mellow and sweet," she said. "We encourage them to spend time with different cats and read their personalities. People may come in with a preconceived notion, but love wins out."
The Ketchikan Humane Society has had a little different experience with the black cats it cares for and adopts out.
Heather Muench, secretary/treasurer for KHS and one of the major cat foster homes, said they have an adoption process that ensures people are adopting pets for the right reasons (just like GHS). She said they have to be particularly careful around Halloween because sometimes people do try and adopt black cats for "evil intensions" including abuse. Other times people will want to adopt a black and an orange cat together.
More statistically speaking, Muench said it takes at least a month longer to adopt out a black cat over a cat of any other coloring.
"We've got one right now," she said. "Last year the number was about 15 percent of the total cats we had in our rescue program. This year the number is about 5 percent. The thing with the black cat is they're a lot harder to place. I guess it comes down to the superstition that they're bad luck or that they're connected with witchcraft. There's some people who will take a black cat just because they know it's harder to find that animal."
Muench also has three black cats at home.
"Black cats are just as loving and friendly and sweet and beautiful as a white cat, orange cat, tortoise shell. The color of the cat doesn't make it any less of a nice cat. With the black cat, there's no difference between them and any other cat. There's people who think that they are connected to witchcraft and have some inherent evil in them."
For Muench, color never played into it.
"I just liked them," she said. "They had nice personalities. The oldest my kids picked out. And Skookum, we ended up keeping him because he was really hard to adopt and he was really shy with other people. That had nothing to do with him being a black cat either. The other black cat, she was just really, really, really sweet and the kids liked that cat. Most of my cats are very elderly - 15-16 years old. That being said, I do have a tabby that was in our foster home for months and months and my husband and I fell involve with him. I guess our hearts rule our heads sometimes."
She said the same is true with many who adopt cats through KHS.
"We have had people tell us they wouldn't adopt a black cat," she said. "There are people who adopt by color, but there are people who adopt by personality and are "color" blind."
For adoption options through GHS see www.ghspets.org.
For adoption options through KHS see http://www.ketchikanhumanesociety.org/.
Sarah Day is the editor of Capital City Weekly and the owner of one black cat, formerly two. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.