Friday, August 17, 2012

Black Cat Appreciation Day

Today is the day we celebrate miniature panthers. Why do black cats need their own special Appreciation Day when grey, orange, and tabby cats don't get one?

It's because black cats are often overlooked and even vilified. It's not uncommon for them to be the last kittens left when their litter mates have all been adopted. Some of this is because, being black, they tend to disappear into the background. They're notoriously hard to photograph in a shelter setting, and they don't have the facial markings that animate their tuxedo-marked friends.

None of which means that their personalities are any less varied than that of other cats, or that they make worse pets. But, unfortunately, there's still a strong undercurrent of superstition in the United States that makes some people afraid of black felines.

Even folks who don't actively admit to fearing bad luck from a black cat crossing their path sometimes hold back from adopting them. It's an odd idea, born of the middle ages, that associates color with virtue. White is considered pure, so the opposite must be... Yeah, stupid when phrased like that, but still pervasive in the culture.

In our house we have a tradition of keeping black cats around. Gabriel already had Lucy (a quirky, loving, male kitty) when I moved in with him, and several years later we found Fredo living off pizza crusts in an abandoned apartment. Turned out that the girl who originally had him moved and left him behind despite naming him "Hero". We took him in and changed his name, making him our very first rescue. He lived with us for 17 years.

After Fredo passed away last fall the house seemed like it lacked something. And so we got Vera in December, a kitten who had been dumped in a parking lot and was living off Christmas cookies (see a pattern?). We think she may have literally been dumped since she is missing a tooth-shaped piece from her tongue and has a notch in her nose as if it was broken from landing on her face. Fortunately none of this ruins her good looks and she's happy and healthy now.

Whenever someone asks "what's the harm in having a couple of little superstitions?" I always think of black cats. Superstitions and lazy thinking can do active harm when they make it culturally okay to mistreat or dismiss individuals based on superficial identifying characteristics. And if it seems like this is applicable to more than just cats, you're right.

Superstitions can be insidious. No one is free of them. But I can assure you that black cats are not bad luck. If they are, I'm pretty screwed. Because this is my latest tattoo.


  1. Good article. I would like to see all of your articles from this blog put together in a book with illustrations and photos. Some publisher needs to do that.

  2. Black dogs also have a bad rep. you know... black is the color of the devil, after all. eeeekkkk !
    That's a sweet tatoo !

  3. Thanks Harleycat!

    Brizel, it's true! Poor black pups, so misunderstood! Of course, I've got one of those too... What suckers we are in this house! ;)

    And thank you!

  4. Suckers indeed! But thank goodness you are because lots of little boogers have benefitted from that character "flaw"? ;)

  5. Yes, it always makes me sad that the black cats are so rarely chosen for adoption at the shelter I volunteer at. Even the tuxedos (and even when they're kittens) are harder to find homes for than the other kitties :(

  6. So sad, Kala! I kept reading about you volunteering at the shelter on twitter and that's one reason I finally started volunteering at one here in LA! Thanks for talking it up!


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