By: Gisselle Venable
October is known as the month of all things spooky. It’s a time to celebrate witches, ghosts, vampires and much more, but among these creatures lies one that’s more misunderstood than most: black cats.
October is Black Cat Awareness Month, a 31-day-long celebration of those felines so rooted in Halloween. While they may receive affection and appreciation in the form of charming sweaters and seasonal decorations, the long-lived prejudice against black cats still exists today – but why?
Black cats are viewed as bad luck in most western cultures. This mostly stems from their appearance and feline nature. A black cat’s glowing yellow eyes paired with a black coat emitted an aura of darkness and evil to some, especially with the overpopulation of cats in the Middle Ages. Their nocturnal nature and independent attitude only further pushed the idea that black cats were the incarnation of the devil. People were fearful, and they needed something to project that fear onto.
Black cats’ ties with witches and the occult are the most common perception of black cats today. Fiction media such as “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” or “Kiki’s Delivery Service” depict a witch with a black cat as a companion. Although these are positive depictions of black cats and witchcraft, this is something that only surfaced recently.
When the Puritan pilgrims arrived in the present-day United States, the witch hunts they held often targeted black cats alongside women. This is where many of the myths connecting black cats and witchcraft originated. Black cats were believed to be supernatural companions of witches, accompanying them in their satanic deeds. They were also believed to be the witches themselves who were able to shapeshift into a black cat up to nine times. Due to this, black cats became victims of executions just as the women accused of witchcraft were.
Many of the myths surrounding black cats have died out today, but some still remain. The most common is that black cats bring bad luck, and even having one cross your path could be a sign of bad omens. In the modern day, most recognize these as the myths they are, but the effects of these superstitions live on.
Black cats are the least likely to be adopted, spend more time at shelters and are euthanized more often than lighter cats. This is in part of the superstitions surrounding them, but a more common reason is their appearance. Black cats are more difficult to photograph, which makes them less attractive to possible adopters. Their dark features also make their expressions more difficult to read, causing some to view them as less friendly and more aggressive.
During the month of October, shelters embrace the spooky season in hopes of helping black cats find their forever home. Black cats are advertised more at this time, and many shelters offer sales and specials to get the word out.
On the other hand, some shelters don’t allow adoption of black cats around Halloween in fear that people will adopt them as decorations, only to discard them afterward. The same is done around Easter with rabbits and chicks, which are often gifted to play into the holiday when in reality, they are only being used for decoration and will not have their needs met. Animal abusers may also try to purchase black cats during this time, using Halloween as an excuse to perpetrate violence against them; if you are privately rehoming or selling a black cat or kittens, consider telling any newly interested parties that you are holding onto the animal until November.
It’s important to remember that black cats are not at fault for their appearance and history, and they deserve love and kindness as much as any other creature. This October, take time to give a little extra love to the black cats in your life, and consider adopting and giving these less-loved felines a home.