This past 27 October marked Black Cat Day.
True cat lovers will tell you that every day is black cat day – but it is unfortunately true that for black cats in a shelter, adoption comes less easily. Sometimes that’s in part because it’s so hard to take a picture of a black cat – lighting and contrasts become more important than in a cat with other colours, Even a single white spot or streak helps to make the cat more defined, but even in the Sanctuary where we know and love our black cats over years, it’s sometimes hard to tell who you’re looking at, so you can understand how a shelter cat can become overlooked.
Superstition may have something to do with it – but superstitions vary enormously from one culture to another, when it comes to black cats. Going all the way back to ancient Egypt, the view of black cats being favorable creatures is attributed specifically to the Egyptian goddess Bast (or Bastet), the cat goddess. Egyptian households believed they could gain favor from Bastet by hosting black cats in their household.
In some fishing communities, black cats are considered good luck, and fishermen’s wives keep their black cats safely at home, believing that their husbands will be kept safe as well. We would really like to see all cats kept safe at home – cats allowed outside are more likely to be harmed by traffic, predators or poison.
Black cats have often been looked upon as a symbol of evil omens in much Western history, specifically being suspected of being the familiars of witches, and so many Europeans consider the black cat a symbol of bad luck, especially if one crosses paths with a person. But there are also conflicting superstitions: in Germany, some believe that black cats crossing a person’s path from right to left, is a bad omen. But from left to right, the cat is granting favorable times. In the UK it is commonly considered that a black cat crossing a person’s path is a good omen.
Many shelters hold off on adopting black cats out around Halloween, for fear of people harming them in superstitious rituals. It actually makes more sense not to be encouraging any adoptions at all until fireworks season is over – a cat in new surroundings is going to be easily spooked by lights and bangs.
At the Sanctuary, we’re happily crossing paths with black cats all the time. Volunteers know that many of our black cats are accomplished cuddlers with awesome purrsonalities. It does take time to get to know them and tell them apart, of course, but that’s time well spent!