The plight of the spooky kitties

Monsoon, owner Durham College student Caitlin Laffan Photo credit: Caitlin Laffan
Monsoon, owner Durham College student Caitlin Laffan Photo credit: Caitlin Laffan

When a black cat crosses your path, it is bad luck. Or is it?

According to Black Cats and April Fools: Origins of Old Wives Tales and Superstitions in Our Daily Lives by Harry Oliver, this belief started as early as the seventeenth century.

People may not realize there are different variations of this superstition. One version says if you see a black cat walk towards you, it’s good luck but if the cat crosses your path, bad luck will come.

According to Black Cats and April Fools, people in the 17th century who worked in dangerous jobs, such as mining and fishing, would not go to work if a black cat crossed their path. They believed something would happen to them while on the job.

Oliver also writes about cats and nine lives and says that there is an idea witches can enter the body of a cat nine times and even turn into a cat.

Other superstitions explored in Black Cats and April Fools, is the fact black cats are able to predict death. If a black cat refuses to enter a house, it means someone inside will die.

To this day, there are people who still believe black cats bring bad luck.

These superstitions affect the adoption rate of black cats. Potential adopters may often shy away from these black kitties for fear they bring them bad luck.

Cindy Bennett, a volunteer for the Humane Society of Durham Region (HDSR), said, “Our black kittens are always the last chosen. Black cats and black dogs tend to stay in the shelter longer than other colours.”

A quick search on the HDSR website’s adoption portal shows Hazel and Phillip, up for adoption since August, and Missy, up for adoption since September. Cheyenne, a domestic shorthair mix, has been there the longest: since April, 2018.

A photo of Cheyenne, she has been at the shelter for over five months. Photo credit: Provided by the HSDR

“It’s a shame because they are just as lovable and deserving as any other colour,” according to Bennett.

According to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), not only do people feel black cats are unlucky, but there is also this notion black coloured animals are not as friendly as their lighter-coloured companions. They also feel black cats do not photograph well.

Eliad proving black cats can photograph well. Owner Emily Bowman Photo credit: Emily Bowman

Animal shelters such as the Georgian Triangle Human Society, located in Collingwood, Ontario have hosted events to help increase the adoption rate of black cats with low adoption fees.

Some of the taglines used for reasons to adopt black cats included, “mini pather look-a-likes,” “easy to find in the snow,” and “love knows no colour.”

In the past, The Toronto Humane Society held a Black Friday event and waived the adoption cost for all cats, especially black ones. Adopters only needed to pay the 15 dollar licensing fee.

The HSDR hasn’t held any events specifically tailored to black cats, but they often hold several other events to raise money for the shelter.

This month, the HSDR is holding a “James Bond” themed gala, and proceeds will go towards the shelter, according to their Facebook page.

Not everyone has negative feelings towards black cats, but there are a few who do. These feelings may prevent black cats from finding permanent homes.