So There's No Prejudice Against Black Cats. Oh, Really?

More on PawNation: Adoption, Black Cats, Cats, Sad

By JaneA Kelley

Our good friends at the ASPCA have recently released the results of two studies on reasons for adoption and length of stay at shelters. The findings, they say, show that despite the common belief, potential adopters' prejudice against black animals is merely a myth.

Oh, really? I call BS.

First of all, the length-of-stay study was done on dogs, and we all know that the black Labrador Retriever is the most beloved dog in the United States. Black Labs and Lab lookalikes are bound to be adopted in droves because of that fact. Also, as we all know, dogs are not cats.

Secondly, the study on reasons for adoption cites appearance as one of the most important factors in kitten adoptions. Appearance does include fur color, guys!

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I've volunteered in shelters for the past five years, and do you know what I've seen? A disproportionately high number of black cats on the adoption floor. A look at their information sheets generally reveals that those cats have been at the shelter for longer than their colorful peers.

I'm willing to admit that since my shelter experience is in Maine, it may not be reflective of the rest of the country. New Englanders can be a little bit weird about superstition, after all.

But even in New England, I don't think the black cat thing is about superstition: I think it's more likely to be related to the difficulty of capturing the true beauty of a mini-panther in a photograph. Animal shelters are not renowned for their great photographic lighting, after all, and most of the time the photos you see on shelters' websites are taken by non-professional volunteers or shelter staff -- so, typically, photos of black cats end up looking like blobs with golden eyes peeking out, probably with "laser eyes" because people use the flash to make up for the poor lighting.

Because black cats are hard to see in real life, potential adopters may not even notice them, especially if they happen to be shy or they're taking a nap in a cubby somewhere.

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And then there's all the histrionics about "don't adopt black cats out near Halloween BECAUSE SATAN!!!!" If black cats are off limits for adoption for at least one month of the year, how can that possibly help these ebony beauties find their forever homes. (I still maintain that anyone who's going to sacrifice a black cat to the Elder Gods of Darkety Doom or whatever is not going to go to a shelter, get an adoption screening and background check, and then pay an adoption fee for a cat they're planning to sacrifice. Why bother, when there are plenty of "free to a good home" cats listed on your favorite online classified site?)

Yes, black cats do have a harder time finding their forever homes. I don't think the prejudice is conscious on the part of potential adopters or shelter staff, but it's there.

So what do we do about that?

First of all, take extra time socializing the shy ones so that their shyness doesn't make them invisible to potential adopters. Bring them out from their corners and cubbies by playing with them while potential adopters are visiting.

Get some tips from professional photographers about taking pictures of black cats. Their advice has worked very well for me. My personal advice: Capture the essence of the cat. Is she goofy like Bella? Get a shot of her doing something silly. Is she a cuddler like Dahlia? Potential adopters would just melt over seeing two kitties snuggled together -- and they might even adopt the pair. Is she laid back and mellow like Samuel L. Catson? Take a photo that exemplifies this characteristic. Is she regal like Siouxsie? Take a picture of her surveying her domain.

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Have some fun and get creative with black cat adoption promotions. I've seen flyers for "Black Cat Friday," for example.

Think positively about the black cats at your shelter or rescue. I think there's some truth to the New Age saw that our thoughts and beliefs can have an influence on what happens to us and those in our care

Try not to think negatively about the people who want to adopt black cats. Sure, there are creeps out there, but we need to avoid being suspicious of everyone who says they want to adopt a black cat. Most of those people are like me: They just have a special place in their hearts for mini-panthers.

And finally, when studies like this come out, let's put our energy into using this publicity in a helpful way. Maybe your shelter's next adoption event can be something like, "The ASPCA doesn't think there's a prejudice against black cats. Come on in and prove it by adopting one the ebony-coated beauties in our care.

What do you think? Is there a bias against black cats in the U.S.? Have you seen it in action? What would you do to remedy that situation? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.

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i own a female black kitten and she is very sweet she is the first black kitten that iever hacrueld she was rescured i love her a lot and would not trade her for anything she is playfulso i cannot under stand why anyone not likeblack kittens i do not feel that the are satins i think people are just cruel

February 01 2014 at 8:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We have owned 2 all black cats in our life, they both were the sweetes cats going, both were lap cats and followed me around like a little puppy, always wanting to be pet or picked up, and they had beautiful, soft and so shinny fur. So if I ever found another all blackcat in my life time I will pick it up, to me they are beautiful.

February 01 2014 at 12:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

After reading the comments from owners of black cats, my comment is that many black cats carry a Siamese gene, which contributes to their intelligence and people-friendly dispositions. There was a feral black cat in our neighborhood, and some unspayed females with different markings. Until we achieved all of the spay/neutering of this feral colony, most of the resulting kittens were marked with some characteristice of siamese cats, i.e., stripes where Siamese czts had solid colors, etc.

February 01 2014 at 11:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

ONce found a colony of feral cats and began to trap, spay/neuter, and return. There was one male in the group and he was black. The littens he sired were bizarre moxtures of siamese markings, regardless of the mother's markings

February 01 2014 at 11:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

love your tips on cats. I seem to inherit cats from my family members. They are young and move a lot over the years due to school and work Also I find students abandon their pets when they go home and they end up on my patio. nice if they would reclaim them when they come back from school breaks. My city says (if you feed them their yours) that puts a lot of cats in the shelters. three is the limit here. Please take your pets home at the end of the semesters.

January 10 2014 at 10:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gale Hatfield

I found a little kitten about five weeks old dropped off under my flowers. He was black and my grandchild did not understand why someone would leave him. I explained that sometimes people are afraid of them. I told him that he could not help what color he was and to blame the people who could not understand that he was just another color of a cat.. He has turned into being a cat that follows me around everywhere I go. It is a shame that I had to explain to children that people are judgemental of animals too.

January 10 2014 at 6:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marlo Stephan

I have a black cat that is almost 3 years old! He is the sweetest and most affectionate cat I've ever had! Out of the 3 cats in my house he is the first to greet me when I come home from a long day at work! Also, when my fiancé is home, he hangs out with him too.

October 02 2013 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Marlo Stephan

I have a black cat and he is the sweetest cat I have ever had! He is the most loving and affectionate ever! So much so that when I am not home he hangs out with my fiancé!

October 02 2013 at 12:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LLL greets you!

Perhaps because I was born on the 13th ( not a Friday lol) or that I am a lefty, either way I feel blessed to have two indoor black cats and 5 outside black cats. Not sure where the dislike came from. I must have the ones no one wanted .

September 28 2013 at 7:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rita Lawrence

We have a black cat with beautiful orange eyes long hair dhr was 2 yesterday w love her alot

September 27 2013 at 8:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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