The case of a black cat, strung up by the neck and hung from a tree branch in a township in Gauteng, South Africa, didn’t make local news headlines. Her four babies were lucky enough to be spared and are currently in the care of a kitty foster mom. They were just a few days old when superstitious people killed their mother and left them for dead.
Tragically, black cats are often the target of abuse and cruelty, especially during the month of October – the month of Halloween.
Halloween is a particularly difficult ‘celebration’ for kitten foster moms as they must be extra cautious about adopting black kittens out to new homes - in case they are used as props in Halloween rituals. After Halloween, shelters are sometimes inundated with black cats found with open wounds and life-threatening injuries. In the days leading up to Halloween, many shelters and humane societies refuse to adopt out cats altogether.
Black cats face unique challenges. They account for the largest proportion of cats in rescue facilities. Black cat euthanasia rates are higher than their light-furred counterparts are. They are harder to network - likely because they don’t photograph as well as those with distinctive markings. They have also long served as objects of superstition.
Nobody is quite sure how the superstition of black cats bringing bad luck originated. In Medieval France and Spain, black cats were considered bringers of bad luck and curses to any human they came near, and were associated with witchcraft. Stories of black cats thought to be evil spirits, being sacrificed into fires during the celebration of the Lord of the Dead on October 31 can be found about 2,000 years back in Druid circles. While times have certainly changed, suspicion around black cats is still prevalent in some communities, especially in rural areas.
Black cats in truth are far from bad luck and evil. They are loving family friends, just like any other cat. Their beautiful sleek coats always look shiny and clean (dirt doesn't show up on black nearly as easily as it does on a lighter coat). And research has shown that they’re more resistant to diseases than cats of other colors (it is believed they have stronger immune systems).
While it’s unfair to say that every black cat is in danger on Halloween, it’s advisable to tread on the side of caution. This Halloween, keep your cats safe by keeping them indoors. While abduction by a Satanic worshiper is probably not likely, busy streets and increased traffic can make for a scary and dangerous place for a cat – especially a black cat that is easily camouflaged in the dark. During trick-or-treating, keep your cats locked up as well, lest they slip out the door. Halloween is a scary holiday for pets and people alike, so keep your black beauty safe!