Today marks the annual celebration of Halloween in a variety of Western European countries and the US, and it is increasingly becoming a popular holiday in Australia. On October 31, numerous kids (and keen adults) don scary outfits and comb their neighbourhood seeking treats (or causing tricks). However, at this time of year the unpopularity of the black cat is at its peak. A variety of dated superstitions abound about the black cat such as them being associated with evil spirits or they bringing ‘bad luck’. It is no lie that these poor felines are categorised as being the least liked to be adopted in comparison to other cats and can even be prone to torture or abuse by cults or people who buy into these wrongful tales. We take a short look into the negative superstitions surrounding black cats and efforts made to improve their popularity in today’s world.
Historians claim that the aversion to black cats could lead as far back as to pre-Christian Celtic times in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Britain. The Samhain, is a Gaelic Festival which originated by the Celts and is still held yearly on October 31/1 Nov. The festival was traditionally known to have marked the end of the harvest season and start of the Celtic new year. As part of these celebrations, enormous bonfires were setup in an attempt to scare off evil spirits and honor the souls of the recently departed. Unfortunately, the ancient Druids strongly believed that evil spirits could also manifest in the form of living creatures, primarily black cats.The Druids further declared that these evil spirits were mainly responsible for the weather becoming colder, hindering prospective crops and causing other misfortunes. This often led to black cats in the vicinity being burned alive on these bonfires to hopefully restore the landscape to ‘purity’. What a delightful thought.
This bad rap for black cats did not dissipate as we are all very much aware of the witchcraft hysteria in the 17th century. The Christian Church demonized black cats as evil omens and strongly linked them to the ‘devil’. If you encountered a black cat then it would cause you considerable bad luck such as misfortune and death. It was even suggested that witches could transform themselves into black cats. This led to many cats being unfairly slaughtered or burnt alive along with their female witch counterparts. This affiliation of witches and black continues to present day as is seen in comics like ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ with her black cat, Salem or witches and black cats being advertised in store fronts during Halloween.
Since black cats are viewed in such a negative light, this has led to an abundance of problems for these types of cats. One of the main problems is that these cats are deliberately overlooked or completely avoided in animal shelter’s by potential pet owners. Some animal rescue’s report that black cats are usually euthanised early on or upon arrival at the clinic because they know they will simply not be adopted. During the Halloween period, we have heard stories of people purchasing or adopting black cats from animal shelter’s merely to use them as part of their ‘Halloween display’. Once the festival has finished, they simply discard them to the curb or return them to the shelter. In the most terrible of circumstances, black cats have been used in satanic rituals or horridly tortured as people continue to be drawn into the fabrication of these cats possessing evil spirits. In reaction to these reports, some animal shelters have opted to prevent anyone from adopting black cats during October or fortified their screening process to protect these harmless cats from potential harm.
It appears social media is hard at work to annihilate the myths surrounding black cats. On 17 August this year, Black Cat Appreciation day was held to raise awareness about the prejudice of black cats and to dispel longstanding negative superstitions which make them so reviled. Hopefully this effort will promote to current cat owners, potential pet owners and “foster parents” that black cats should be considered as much of a favourable option as a pet than any other fur coloured cat. We insert this infographic developed by the blog site, Blogpaws, that highlights a number of positive attributes pertaining to black cats.
The organisation Petfinder that specialises in listing animals needing adoption in the US, Canada and Mexico, runs an annual event ‘Adopt a less adoptable pet week’. This campaign which originated in 2009 is designed to urge people to not hesitate on adopting pets that they wouldn’t necessarily consider in the first place (including black cats) and thereby boosting much needed recognition for their adoption. Animal rescues or shelters have also run promotions such as adopting a black cat or black dog at discounted prices in hopes of increasing their adoption rate.
In other news, there is a ‘For the Love of Black Cats’ page on Facebook with over 100,000 likes where fans post photos and share stories about black cats. There are links to news articles discussing black cats and black cat t-shirts to purchase. If you feel like showing your support today, be sure to like the page on Facebook.
What should we draw from all this? That black cats should be considered just as lovable, sweet and fantastic as a pet as any other fur coloured cat. During Halloween, we urge everyone to keep a protective eye on their own or any black cats in their neighbourhood from any potential danger. If you hear someone sprouting nonsense about black cats, please try to educate them. Every little bit counts for these handsome cats.
Here at Concord Vet Hospital, we are a strong advocate for adoption and rehomeing of pets and we are proud to be associated with the Cat Protection Society. If you are interested in adopting a cat, feel free to check out the Cat Protection Society for cats desiring a home.