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If You Want to Adopt a Black Cat, You May Have to Wait Until Halloween Is Over

Why some adoption centers wait till after the spooky season to give some kitties a home

(_torne via Flickr)
smithsonian.com

The idea that black cats bring bad luck is a total myth, but that doesn’t mean these solid-colored kitties have an easy time getting adopted. All the superstitions surrounding black cats have a real effect on finding them a home, giving these kitties some of the lowest adoption rates and the highest euthanasia rates out of all furry felines. However, if you’re looking to give a lonely black cat a forever home, you might have to wait until after Halloween is over. That's for their own protection, though.

It’s unclear exactly where the superstitions around black cats and bad luck came from, but people tend to eye ancient folkloric traditions like the Druids or associations with witchcraft that arose during the Middle Ages. But being the bearers of bad luck isn’t the only rumor that follows dark-furred kitties into the present. For decades, many animal shelters have refused to adopt out black cats on or right before Halloween out of fear they will be tortured or sacrificed, Kate Knibbs writes for Gizmodo.

"This is a time when blood rituals take place," Hedy Litke, director of animal placement at the ASPCA, told K.C. Baker for the New York Daily News in 1999. "Black cats are often sacrificed.”

First things first: there’s no evidence suggesting that people go out of their ways to do bad things to cats on Halloween. However, persistent rumors about cults and crazy people seeking to sacrifice black cats on the spooky holiday have been enough to make many animal shelters put a hold on adopting out these kittens, Mike Pearl writes for Vice. Often, just calling a shelter and specifically asking for a black cat during the week before Halloween is enough to raise the eyebrows of the people caring for these cats.

"We're afraid they're going to harm them, because apparently there are bad people,” Diana Nelson, a board member for Los Angeles animal rescue organization The Lange Foundation, tells Pearl.

There is a more down-to-Earth, if no less cruel, reason that some shelters are uneasy giving black cats away during the leadup to Halloween: they don’t want them to become costume accessories. While stories of this kind of behavior are rare and can be hard to verify, black cats aren’t the only animals with adoption restrictions around certain times of year. Recently, New York City issued a blanket ban on adoption rabbits around Easter in order to keep them from being given away as part of a holiday gift basket, Lisa Colangelo reports for the New York Daily News.

“People think they are great Easter gifts and they buy them for their kids,” animal rescuer Sean Casey, who runs a shelter in Brooklyn, tells Colangelo. “Then they get big and the kids stop cleaning them and out they go.”

However, when it comes to black cats, some shelters are starting to buck the trend and embrace the time of year as a way to find the kitties a loving and caring forever home, Knibbs reports. Some now offer adoption deals and waived fees as a way to showcase cats whose coloring might make them less desirable than their tabby and calico siblings, but are no less sweet. No matter the season, if you’re looking for a furry friend, don’t write them off just because of their fur color.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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