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Black Cat Syndrome

My mother loved black cats.

In England during the Second World War when food was rationed and so scarce that ration coupons were hoarded for the occasional holiday meal, she would save bits of her meager dinner to feed the many strays that roamed the wreckage of Liverpool. Occasionally she brought one or two home to her parents’ house near Strawberry Fields Orphanage. My Grandfather, contemptuous of cats, regarded them as simply another mouth or two to feed. Back to the streets they went, only to be surreptitiously replaced by my ever-hopeful Mum. Always she was drawn to black cats. Moreover, she always named them Mickey. As a child I thought the name was Moggy, a British pet name akin to kitty. But they were all Mickey to her—even when, as an adult, there were multiple sleek black cats curled up on her bed. After her death, the last Mickey came to me. She lived to the respectable age of 14 and entertained me by sleeping panther-like on the branches of the trees in my garden. Sleek and lithe, with lemon eyes, she was an elegant and mysterious presence and when she was no longer with us, I found a new black “Mickey”, quickly christened Tara.

As an adult who has volunteered for many years at sanctuaries and shelters, I am taken aback by the abundance of black cats that make their way to our doorstep. And not just black cats! Dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats—always so many, always so difficult to place in forever homes.

Currently the Center is home to nine black, or mostly black, kitties and two (mostly) black dogs. All beautiful, all ready to become devoted companions, they wait. Most shelters will agree, and statistics bear it out, black cats and dogs (and even hamsters, rabbits and rats) are more likely to languish in shelters while their more colorful companions are the focus of attention from potential adopters. Taken from a variety of sources, here are some of the sad commentaries on the “epidemic” of black cats and dogs in our shelters. Called Black Cat or Black Dog Syndrome, Furkids Shelter in Georgia echoes the sentiments of many commentators I have read: “It is painfully obvious which cats are overlooked at our shelter. Though likely unintentional, black cats are overlooked again and again by adopters across the country.” Often fully one third of available cats are black or mostly black. It is true that black pets don’t photograph as well as animals with light colored coats. Since many adopters find potential pets online, many shelters believe that part of the adoption issue stems from online photographs that do not showcase the true beauty of the cat (or dog). While in Japan and Britain, having a black cat cross your path is considered good luck, unfortunately, here in the U.S. many people associate black cats with witches, Halloween and other negative stereotypes that are far from reality. In fact, black cats often suffer cruelty and harm during the Halloween season, even though October has been named Black Cat Month.

Many shelters, including the one I was associated with in California, refused to adopt out black cats in the weeks prior to Halloween. Sadly, euthanasia rates for black cats and dogs are substantially higher than for their lighter colored counterparts. The statistics are overwhelming and easily available on-line. However, as an experienced black cat companion myself, I can report that as with people, beauty comes in all colors and love knows no shade.

Here, compiled by Furkids, are the Top Ten Reasons to Adopt a Black Cat or Dog:

10. You will save money on their Halloween costumes

9. You can always find them in the snow

8. Holding a black cat (or dog) is very slimming

7. Black pets match any décor

6. A lint brush is not required before a black-tie affair

5. When you love a black cat, luck is on your side

4. Black cats and dogs are like onyx—a beautiful and coveted gem

3. They don’t care what color YOU are!

2. Research suggests that black cats are friendlier

And the number 1 reason:

They are the least likely to be adopted.

Come to the shelter to check out our Black Beauties, and find your forever companion today. C

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