National Black Cat Day
National Black Cat Day is one of my favorite uncelebrated “holidays”. I love black cats! You may have noticed, especially if you follow Bones and Fishes on Facebook, both of my cats are solid black. This year, National Black Cat Day lands on Thursday, November 17th, which is pretty close to the 13th anniversary of adopting my very first black cat.
Thirteen years ago, I went to the shelter in Portland to adopt a kitten. It was my first time in a shelter ever, and I was surprised by one thing: there were significantly more black cats than any other color. At that moment, I changed my mind about whatever color of cat I had been looking for before and asked to meet some black kittens. After playing with them for a while, I picked one out and went to fill out adoption paperwork. The little kitten I had picked out came and sat next to me for the whole process, all on his own. From that moment, I knew I had picked out the right one. Rocco was a wonderful cat and he began my black cat obsession.
After noticing how many black cats there were at the shelter, I started looking into this issue. There’s actually a name for it in the dog world. It’s called Black Dog Syndrome, referring to the high number of ‘generic’ black dogs, often Labrador mixes, in shelters that are frequently passed over for more colorful dogs in the shelter. The same thing happens with cats. They’re also surrendered to shelters in higher numbers than other colors.
Some shelters report that 31% of their total cat intake were black or mostly black cats. They also reported that black cats remain at the shelter longer. Sometimes this is attributed to superstition. About 13% of Americans are superstitious about black cats. Many shelters become more cautious about placing black cats during the month of October, even stopping entirely, due to their association with Halloween.
Black cats and witches have been folklore for centuries. Some stories say that witches can turn into black cats, but only nine times. This may have been the start of the belief that cats have nine lives. Other myths claim that black cats themselves can take human form to act as spies for witches. Medieval Pope Gregory IX believed that cats were incarnations of the devil. These beliefs led to mass killings of cats, and ultimately the Black Plague, since there weren’t enough cats to keep the rats’ population down.
The belief that black cats are bad luck has been prevalent in Europe and North American for centuries, but other parts of the world believe the exact opposite. While western culture has looked at black cats as bad luck, in Japan and most of Asia the are typically seen as good luck. You’ve probably seen “Fortune Cats” or Maneki Neko from Japanese culture, usually in white, gold or black. These figurines are meant to bring prosperity and good luck to their owners.
Strangely enough, while much of western culture associates black cats with bad luck, they are also good omens under certain beliefs. Black cats in Britain are believed to bring young women many suitors and to bring good luck to a bride. It’s coming on them accidentally that is believed to be bad.
To theater folks in many cultures, if there is a black cat in the audience on opening night, your play will have a long and prosperous run. French peasants believed that a black cat released at the intersection of five roads, it would lead them to treasure. They were also believed to bring sailors luck, although any cat on a ship would bring actual good luck by hunting any stowaway rodents.
In modern times, most of us understand that black cats are just cats, with no magical powers. But there’s still something bewitching about their chic black silhouette. For myself, a large benefit of having black cats is that their shed fur doesn’t stand out on clothing and furniture like any other color. They find their way into art and photography frequently due to this beauty.
The black cats I’ve owned have been far more affectionate than my cats of other colors, although this is anecdotal. I believe that understanding cat body language and behavior has a lot more to do with how much a cat gets along with you than their color does. However, researchers have been looking for a connection between cat colors and personalities.
On this National Black Cat Day, I hope you’ll give your cat an extra pet from me, and consider adopting a black cat as your next roommate (let’s face it, they don’t believe they’re pets either). If you already have a black cat, tell me how you met!
When I let my friends in the Facebook group Black Cats are Awesome know that I was writing an article on this topic, there was a huge outpouring of support and photos. So many, in fact, that I created a whole gallery of our black cat friends! Check them out below. You can also head over to Bones and Fishes Facebook page and share a photo of your own cat!