If you grew up anywhere in Europe or the US, you’ve likely learned to associate black cats with bad luck. While baseless, the origins of the superstition are interesting. In the 16th century, a tale began circulating around England about two travelers--a father and son--who encountered a black cat on the road. They threw stones at the animal and it fled into the house of an old woman who lived alone. The next night the pair passed the old woman’s house again and saw that she was limping, and so concluded (naturally) that it had been her in feline form that they had struck with their stones the night before. Common belief, it seems, was that old women were witches and apparently also shape-shifters. And nobody seems sure why the travelers threw stones at the cat in the first place—but the bias against black cats, and their association with the dark arts, stuck. Today, we still see the black feline as a harbinger of an ill fate.
Of course, there is no science to affirm any of this, but the quaint folk tale has spawned some rather unfortunate results. When it comes to adopting cats, 26 percent of people reported color an important factor, and 13 percent of Americans remain superstitious of black cats. As such, solid-black cats are less likely to be adopted from shelters, and for this reason many are sadly euthanized each year.
Fortunately, there has been push-back against superstition. Solid black is a recognized color in 22 cat breeds registered by the Cat Fanciers’ Association, and many shelters encourage the adoption of black cats. Science has found that melanism (black fur and golden eyes) is actually good genetic luck, in that it seems to confer some immune-boosting effects that help black cats fight disease. It is also theorized that these dark hunters are more efficient at capturing prey at night.
To help untarnish the reputation of these beautiful onyx cats, the US annually celebrates a National Black Cat Appreciation Day, which falls on August 17th this year. While it’s not a day off from work, it is an opportunity to adopt a black cat into your family, as many shelters offer reduced adoption costs on all-black felines on this day. So when you’re considering a pet adoption, check with your local shelter to see if they’re celebrating National Black Cat Appreciation Day, and remember that black cats are just waiting to bring you the good fortune of their love and companionship!
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at FIGO.
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