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Busting Black Cat Myths

10/24/2017 by Healthy Paws
October 24th, 2017 by Healthy Paws

Whether it’s Black Cat Appreciation Day (August 17th) or National Black Cat Day (October 30th), these pretty kitties deserve the spotlight any time of year. The supposedly “spooky” sweeties tend to get a bad rap for a variety of false and downright weird reasons; for instance, in the past few years something called Black Cat Syndrome has been circulating around the internet, the belief that animals with darker fur are adopted less frequently. This is just one of the myths people have about these animals; get ready to forget everything you knew about black cats.

1. “Black Cat Syndrome” is not a thing.

black cat appreciation day


It sounds legit and even has an official-sounding name, but the logic behind Black Cat Syndrome does not hold up. For decades shelters have faced legions of black cats and dogs who struggle to find forever homes. A Telegraph article published last year tried to blame the “selfie age,” saying black cats don’t photograph as well. This led to outrage from pet parents, who promptly posted photos using the tag #blackcatselfie to prove critics wrong.

Dr. Emily Weiss writes about Black Cat Syndrome at least once a year, by popular demand. In a 2013 blog post for ASPCA Professional, she describes several studies of Black Dog Syndrome where participants rated a variety of dog breeds and colors on their friendliness. The black Lab was considered less hostile and more friendly than other breeds in one study, while in another black poodles were seen as “significantly more friendly” than their white counterparts. Dr. Weiss chalks this up to how humans stereotype dog breeds – white poodles are yappy and mean, while Black labs are family dogs.

There’s one more crucial fact in the fight against Black Cat Syndrome and it’s a doozy. Using the Comprehensive Animal Risk Database (CARDS), Dr. Weiss discovered black cats (and dogs) make up the majority of incoming shelter animals, roughly 30 percent. “There are simply more black dogs and cats entering the system, making it appear that they are more at risk,” says Dr. Weiss. “Let’s say 4 black dogs and 1 white dog enter the shelter, and the next day 1 white dog and 1 black dog are adopted – that leaves just three black dogs in kennels, shifting a perception of risk. However, the same number of black and white dogs were adopted!” Unsurprisingly, black cats are also the most likely to be adopted – and also to be euthanized – making the myth of Black Cat Syndrome officially busted.

2. Black cats are indeed photogenic.

black cat selfie


Unfortunately, shelters rely heavily on photographs to promote adoptable animals online and sometimes run into time and budget constraints to properly photograph pups and kitties. Whether due financial reasons or lack of photography knowledge, many rescue groups end up displaying low quality photographs, even using cell phones. This contributes to the perception of black cats as “unphotogenic.”

It’s ridiculous to say that a black cat can’t take a good photo – that’s what flash is for! If you’re having difficulty photographing your feline, try moving yourself to where the light is. Catch kitty in direct sunlight, especially in the early morning or during the golden hour, for the best lighting. Phone-photographers can tap to focus on the lightest part of the subject, like the eyes or a white patch of fur, to balance the exposure.

3. You make your own luck – don’t blame black cats.

It may seem silly, but old-fashioned superstitions die hard. Throughout much of the world black cats are seen as an omen of bad luck. Black cats have also been associated with witchcraft, anarchism and the devil. Maybe it’s because their (thick and fluffy) black fur makes them virtually invisible in the dark, except for their luminous green or yellow eyes. Whatever the reason, it’s obviously false that black cats cause back luck. In fact, some cultures – including British and Japanese – having one cross your path is good luck.

Black cats’ coat color can become a safety hazard, which would make it seem like they have bad luck. A black cat is nearly impossible to see at night, making him vulnerable to passing cars (another reason to keep kitty inside). Cats are also notorious for tripping up pet parents, especially at night, so try putting a jingle bell or reflective collar on your cat to increase visibility.

4. Black cats do not all look the same.

black cat rescue


A common complaint is that you can’t tell one black cat from another – there are no distinctive markings on all-black cats. Some shelters say this is a problem, especially with kittens. We think every cat is unique! No two shades of black fur are the same; direct sunlight reveals hidden tabby patterns, silver or gold tips, and “rusting.” Some shelter cats have ear notches or scars, or very distinctive ears or whiskers. Most of all, black cats have very different personalities – find the feline that fits your family!

Poor quality photos may make cats’ identities hard to discern, but you should never rely on a shelter’s description before adopting a pet. Always visit your potential pet in person before making the final decision, even if you have to fly or drive out of state. Before joining your fur family, a new cat must meet all existing pets and get their okay.

(Featured image via Flickr.com/hellie55)

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