By Sue Baldani
It’s Halloween, a time for carved pumpkins, spooky ghosts, bags of candy and scary black cats. While these aspects of the holiday can be fun, those decorative displays of hissing black cats with their arched backs give black cats a bad rap all year long.
What’s Halloween without a black cat? Nowhere near as spooky. Witches’ familiars they may be, but black cats don’t deserve their evil reputation.
Some people see them as spooky, or linked to witchcraft, or as harbingers of bad luck. And if there is a cat to be found in a horror movie, you can be sure it’ll be black and diabolical. Think Edgar Allan Poe’s disturbing short story “The Black Cat”, which became a popular film in the 1930s, or the fearsome black cat in “The Legend of Hell House.”
And, of course, witches are often portrayed with their menacing black cats by their sides. Even pretty Sabrina the Teenage Witch had a black cat named Salem. Salem, hmm, what does that bring to mind? Let’s face it, these movies and shows just wouldn’t be as scary or fun with a white angora or an orange tabby purring delicately in someone’s face.
Of course, there are some cultural differences when it comes to black cat superstitions. It’s been noted in Japan that when a black cat crosses someone’s path, it’s a sign of good fortune to come. But in many Hispanic cultures, it can be seen as the ultimate curse. Americans tend to go both ways; while some love black cats and their sleek panther-like moves and looks, others tend to avoid them at all costs.
Speaking of panthers, according to a study done by seniorcatwellness.com, Marvel’s movie, Black Panther, greatly increased black cat adoptions when it came out originally in 2018 and the trend has prevailed. It has given black cats a 10th life, you could say - they’re now elevated to action-hero status.
And Halle Berry could not have been sexier as a lethal Catwoman. Her black-cat ensemble was far from soft and furry; hard-edged and threatening was her on-screen image - not unlike the misperception of black cats in real life. So Hollywood, maybe it’s time to start making more movies with cool black cats and likeable feline characters.
Don’t confuse allure with danger. The truth is, black cats are just as smart, just as sweet, and just as lovable as other lighter-hued cats. Many have the most beautiful, glossy coat and sparkling green eyes. Even with all this beauty going for them, they don’t always photograph well, which leads to them being more often and easily scrolled by on adoption websites. A study presented at an International Society for Anthrozoology conference a few years back found that coat color influences people’s perceptions of personalities of pets. Participants were shown pictures of cats of varying colors, and the researchers discovered that white cats were considered the friendliest, orange cats the second friendliest, and black cats, the least friendly. And, in a survey by Petfinder, their member shelter and rescue groups reported that most pets are listed for 12.5 weeks on Petfinder, whereas less adoptable pets (such as black, senior, and special-needs pets) spend almost four times as long on the site. That’s way too long for these feline friends.
For sure, hissing black cats are often seen as fearsome creatures that haunt us on Halloween. But menacing image aside, give a black cat a chance!
So this Halloween, while getting ready for those tricks or treats, go ahead and decorate your home with scary ghosts and goblins and dress up as your favorite scary character, but give black cats a break. Maybe leave those hissing cat decorations stored away in the basement, or better yet, throw them out. And if you feel so inclined, and really want a great treat, stop by your local animal shelter and meet some beautiful, loving and kind, black cats waiting patiently for their forever homes. You might end up leaving with one. Think of a black cat as a healthier alternative to all that candy you and your family are likely to consume on Halloween. Instead of cavities, you all will get plenty of love. Snuggle up with a black cat and no trick, cuddles will be your treat. What could be more scrumptious?