October is the month of Halloween costumes, pumpkin-flavored everything and… black cats. It’s easy to understand the connection between pumpkins and October, since October is peek pumpkin season. But what do black cats and October have in common? How did black cats become synonymous with Halloween?
Sometime during the Middle Ages, people started associating black cats with witchcraft. Some people believed that black cats were the preferred companions for witches. Others believed witches could change forms, and that they often turned themselves into black cats. So people back then avoided black cats, since it was thought they could actually be witches in disguise!
Well, that’s just creepy!
Of course, this is all superstition and, in my opinion, silliness. In fact, some countries consider black cats to actually be good luck. British sailors often brought cats aboard their ships to hunt the mice. They also believed having black cats on the ship brought good luck and helped ensure safe travel.
So… are they good luck? Or are they bad luck?
Cats, in fact, have nothing to do with luck at all! Their coloring is all about science and genetics. Let’s consider human genetics. If Mom is blonde and gives her blonde gene to her baby, and dad is dark haired and gives a dark-haired gene to his baby, the child’s hair will most probably be dark. This is because the dark-haired gene is dominant and will suppress mom’s blonde genes. It’s the same way with cat genetics. In cats, the dominant fur color pattern is tabby. For a cat to be born all black with no tabby stripes, it has to have a recessive gene that overpowers that suborn tabby pattern.
There’s more to the science but the point is… fur color isn’t about luck. It’s just in the genes! Sadly, the years of negative stereotypes attributed to black cats still causes problems for those sweet black cats even today. Did you know that black cats are two-thirds less likely to be adopted? All because of that bad luck superstition dating back to the Witch Trials.
Hardly seems fair, does it…
In truth, there are actually many benefits to sharing life with a black kitty. Researchers have discovered that the same genes that make the cat black, also help offer the black cat some extra disease protection.
A cat who is more resistant to diseases sounds a lot like good luck to us!
Hopefully, in these modern times, most people have let those silly superstitions go by now but, there are still dangers for our black beauties. We’ve heard stories of people adopting black cats to use at Halloween time as decorations. After Halloween, much too often they are discarded, cast outside to fend for themselves or surrendered to a shelter. Or even worse! There are tales of black cats going missing and other bad things happening to them around this holiday, we won’t get into specifics, but I am sure you can imagine. While some argue this is not common, it does happen, and that is reason enough to be concerned. It is a big enough concern that many shelters and rescues won’t adopt out black cats at this time of year, for fear of them being used for sinister purposes.
With all of this information in mind, we need to keep an eye out for these raven-haired beauties, not just this month, but every month. If you see a black cat roaming around your neighborhood, try to help that baby out. Take him to a no-kill rescue where he will be safe, or better yet, give him a loving home with you. Superstition aside, there are a lot of dangers out there for cats who are free to roam outside. You can help save the cat’s life by getting him to someone who can find him a loving home.
If you are considering adopting a cat, try not to picture the details of your future fur baby. Many people go in, looking for a female ginger kitty, and even have the name picked out. Suddenly a gray striped male chooses them, and they fall in love! Never rule a cat out based on coloring, gender, size, etc. Go in with an open mind and look for the kitty who chooses you.
And give those black cats a chance! Most black cats are calm, sweet, loving kitties who can become your most loving and faithful companion.
Have a question about cat behavior that you’d like answered?
We’d love to hear from you!
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org