While some might fear that black cats are unsafe around Halloween, the spooky truth is: Black cats stay longer at shelters because of people’s perceptions about them.
Angie Wood, executive director of the Naperville Area Humane Society, said withholding black cats from adoption around Halloween no longer occurs in most shelters. She said it is a myth that black cats are placed in harms way this time of the year.
“At NAHS, we adopt out black cats and sometimes even have an adoption promotion to highlight these wonderful pets,” she said. “Highlighting black cats helps them find good homes.”
This October, NAHS has close to a dozen cats that are black or mostly black.
“We always have a handful of black cats,” Wood said.
Last year, with the help of a grant awarded by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, NAHS installed new white cat condos in place of stainless steel cages. Wood said the installation of their new white cat condos helps the darker animals stand out.
“This is an issue with all shelters,” Wood said. “Wonderful pets are overlooked purely because they are not perceived as being attractive.”
In fact, researchers for the Open Veterinary Science Journal concluded that black shelter cats — regardless of age or sex — take longer to adopt. According to the study, associating black cats with magic and witches might lead people to choose cats of other colors.
In another study in 2012, researchers at University of California at Berkeley surveyed 189 people with experience of cats as pets and found that people linked certain personality traits to the color of a cat’s fur, according to a UC Berkeley release.
Orange and bi-colored cats were perceived to be friendly and outgoing while black, white, and tri-colored cats were perceived to be antisocial, according to the participants. The study concluded that feline typecasting could negatively impact adoption rates at animal shelters, a UC Berkeley release said.
But typecasting is not exclusive to cats. Wood said 9 out of 10 times black shelter dogs are often last to be adopted.
At NAHS, prospective adopters spend time with the animals they are interested in adopting because finding the right personality is what leads to a lasting relationship. But before they spend time with the pet, they complete NAHS’ “pets and people profile,” which helps the staff better understand the type of pet someone is searching for as well as what might be a good fit for them.
Lifestyle and personality characteristics are taken into consideration when matching the right pet with the right individuals. According to Wood, the NAHS adoption process is really a “match-making process.”
Despite outdated myths and superstitions about black shelter cats “each one deserves a loving home,” Wood said.
For more information on adopting from the Naperville Area Humane Society, call 630-420-8989 or visit the NAHS website at www.NapervilleAreaHumaneSociety.org
Erica Paczkowski is a volunteer with the Naperville Area Humane Society.