Black cat blues
I’m not a superstitious sort — so, normally, a black cat on my back fence would not bother me.
But when he sits there for 30 minutes, motionless, staring, in kind of an intimidating vulture pose — as this fella did over the weekend – it does make me think twice.
Then I realize I’m not being logical — that I’m buying into the myth that a black cat means bad luck. Besides, this cat didn’t really cross my path. He just sat atop my fence. That’s a whole different thing. Right?
Such silly superstitions are part of what makes life harder for black animals, at least those who don’t have a home. Black cats and dogs generally take the longest to get adopted and are more likely to be euthanized. With black dogs, people wrongly think they will be meaner. With black cats, superstitions come into play.
On top of all that, most humans generally prefer light colored, or multi-colored animals. Black means mysterious, and, in our pets, we prefer predictability.
It’s also harder for humans to read a black animal’s facial expressions and body language, says Kristen Nelson, a Scottsdale, Ariz., veterinarian and member of the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians.
“(People) focus on the animal’s eyes, which stand out against the neutral background, and miss all the other signals the animal is giving.”
Nelson was quoted in a well-researched article on the plight of black cats and dogs in the Bend (Oregon) Bulletin Monday.
The article also quotes Michael Arms, founder of Iams Home for the Holidays, an animal welfare campaign based in San Diego. Of the 3 million animals he says he has helped get adopted, the last to go are always the dark-colored ones.
“Put bandanas around the dog’s necks,” he advised. “Yellow, red, green, blue. That changes it.”
He also suggests changing the dogs’ names. “I go into some shelters, and people name the dogs Killer,” he said. “Who would want to adopt a dog named Killer?”
I don’t know my fence-sitting cat’s name, though I think he lives around the corner. He hissed when Ace and I approached him, so we backed off. But whether he’s a harbinger of bad things ahead or not, he’s welcome to stay — as long as he keeps those Baltimore rats at bay – for as long as he likes.