At animal shelters in both the United States and Europe, black cats and kittens are often overlooked. In 2013, the Huffington Post ran an online article that announced, “black cats are less than half as likely to be adopted as gray cats”. That claim was backed up with research from Gallup, Petfinder, and The Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. An infographic that represented adoption percentages for eleven different cat colors placed black cats second to last. (In case you’re curious, brown was last.) Cats Protection, an animal charity in the United Kingdom, reports similar results. According to their research, on average, it takes 13 per cent longer for black cats to find a new home compared to others.
Why is this? Just run down a list of superstitions and you’ll all too quickly find black cats connected with more than a few of them. For example, meeting a black cat early in the morning, having a black cat turn its back on you, or having a cat cross your path are all considered bad luck. What’s most interesting to me is that in ancient times, cats were once revered highly. One legend even has it that as far back as when the goddess Bast reigned in the 22nd dynasty, many Egyptians brought black cats into their households in the belief that Bast’s spirit would become intertwined with the soul of the cat and prosperity would follow. In the middle ages, for some reason, black cats began to be associated with witches. The belief even developed that witches transformed themselves into black cats. Since then, black cats became to be viewed as being symbolic of evil omens and the familiars of witches. Even today, black cats are part of our Halloween lore.
Aside from superstition, there are additional reasons for the low adoption rates of black cats. For example, black cats are considered harder to tell apart than cats with more distinctive markings. In addition, black animals in general can take more effort to photograph well.
In response, Cats Protection founded National Black Cat Day on November 17 to raise awareness about the lower rates of adoption for black cats. Each year the organization holds a National Black Cat Day Champion contest, wherein black cat lovers can submit their black cats’ photos and stories as. The best ones are shortlisted and collected in a photo album on Facebook. The owner of the photo with the most Likes will win a goodie hamper of cat products, while runners-up will receive a smaller goodie bag. The contest from Cats Protection is open only to residents of England, but that shouldn’t stop black cat owners from showing off their feline companion. A Facebook page called For the Love of Black Cats boasts over 17,000 members and welcomes photos from everywhere.
To help overcome the latter dilemma, many photographers have posted how-to articles. One of my favorites is by Hearts Speak, a global community of artists and animal advocates who work together to “ensure that no shelter animal goes unseen”: Tips for Photographing Black Animals
Not an owner of a black cat? You can still help! If you’ve been thinking about getting a cat of your own (or an additional cat), this would be a perfect day to welcome a furry feline into your life. As any owner of a black cat will tell you, black cats are just as affectionate and playful as any other cat. Kindness for Cats has even listed ten reasons to adopt them, including black is easy to see in the snow and black goes with everything.
If you can’t adopt a new cat, consider making a donation or otherwise helping out at your local animal shelter. One photographer in Los Angeles took the plight of black cats to heart and made it her mission to capture them on camera: I Photograph Black Cats To Promote Adoption.
For no fault of their own, modern black cats are themselves unlucky. By bringing awareness to their plight, and by helping society change its negative perceptions of black cats, we can change the fate of black cats. Are you up for it?