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The Black Cat Curse

With Halloween just around the corner, it is time to address the elephant in the room: black cat adoptions. Recently our cat program has grown thanks to the addition of our new free range cat room. We are now able to house up to 8-10 cats and kittens at any time, and right now 4 of the cats in that room are cats with beautiful black coats, easily the majority of our population.

Echo, a beautiful long-haired black cat currently available for adoption.

It is not unusual for black cats to be the most commonly in shelters and rescues in America, as these are the most common coloring in mixed breed domestic cats. Many of these cats have a more difficult time finding adopters as quickly as some of their more brightly colored friends, regardless of personality. Today, let’s take a look at why that may be and what we can do to change it.

Poseidon, one of our permanent sanctuary residents.

Black cats have been seen in history as both a positive sign or as a bad omen, varying between eras and cultures. As far back as the dark ages, the imagery of a black cat has been linked with witchcraft and negativity simply because of the color of their fur. While we hope that most people in modern times would look at a cat of any color as simply a cat, rather than a sign of bad luck or evil, sadly many black cats are still victimized every year. Some stray black cats may be hurt, chased, or otherwise attacked by humans due to superstition, especially around the Halloween season.

Toothless, a sweetheart who was adopted from our rescue.

However, their superstitious past is not the only thing these cats have to overcome to be adopted. More commonly, black cats are overlooked in shelters simply because there are so many of them. In a municipal shelter with 100 cats, 50 of which may be black, an adopter is more likely to select a cat with more unique markings because they are able to stand out more.

Boss, a grey cat, easily stands out in this photo featuring Walter and Poseidon, two of our black cats.

Many adopters even make this decision before coming to a shelter or rescue to meet the available cats in person. When speaking with our adopters, we often hear that they fell in love with their new pet the first time they saw their face in a photo online; maybe on petfinder, adopt a pet, or our own website. Again, in an endless sea of photos of black cats looking for homes, photos of cats with brighter colored fur or special fur patterns are more likely to attract interested adopters.

A simply change in lighting and background can make all the difference! The photo on the left is the first photo we posted of Luigi and after two weeks he had no one interested in adopting him. When we posted the second photo, we received an email inquiring about him within an hour!

Now that we know the hurdles facing black cats that may prevent an adopter from picking them, what can we do to combat them? Well first, we can educate members of the public so they do not view black cats as bad luck. Black cats, just like tabby cats, grey cats, white cats, etc. are simply cats! They are not inherently evil or bad omens. They are loving and deserving of forever homes just like any other cat!

Walter, one of our adoptable cats, is getting ready for Halloween.

The next step is to become creative in how we market our black cats for adoption. It is important to take photos of them that make them stand out. Using props, colorful backdrops, toys, and more can make a photo of an adoptable black cat pop on adoption search engines and make them more interesting to potential adopters.

Walter, one of our adoptable cats, loves to give hugs and kisses.

Still, a photo can only say so much, so why not also make a video? We want to encourage adopters to make decisions based on personality rather than appearance, and it may be difficult for them to truly see a cat’s personality when they come to visit them at the rescue. Posting videos will give adopters a look inside each cat’s individual personality so they can have a sense of whether they will fit appropriately into their home.

The next time you are looking to adopt a cat, consider the black cats, who may be overlooked by other families. If you are currently looking to adopt a cat, check out Echo, Luigi, and Walter who are all wonderful cats ready to head home with you today!

Written by

Eleni Calomiris

Executive Director and Founding Board Member

Wayward Ranch Animal Sanctuary, Inc.

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