What’s it like to be a black cat?

When I was a young boy in 1940s Toronto, and cats were still second class citizens, our neighbour’s cat Tiger had an unauthorized litter and my parents adopted two of them, a girl they called Tabby (or Tabitha when my mother was angry with her) and a boy called Blackie.  As I say, cats were second class citizens back then. We didn’t give much thought to the names we gave them and only took our cats to the vet when their lives were at an end.

My father, born in Glasgow, was particularly fond of Blackie. Scottish tradition associated black cats with prosperity. Tabby was my mother’s cat. Raised on a dairy farm, my mother considered tabby cats to be the best mousers.

Tabby had a long life with us but Blackie didn’t. He disappeared. One Friday the 13th, the local baseball team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, offered free entry to anyone bringing a black cat with them. That’s the day Blackie went missing.

It’s surprising, isn’t it, how in my lifetime cats were seen as so expendable that a professional sports team could and would engage is such a stunt. But it’s not a surprise that they chose a Friday the 13th and specified black cats. The number 13’s association with bad luck is biblical in its origins. And while not in Scotland, in most of the rest of Europe black cats were associated with witches and witchcraft. All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween provided the perfect association of black cats, witches and evil.

 You’d think this has nothing to do with our attitude towards black cats today but it does. At the RSPCA Sussex West, Mount Noddy Animal Centre (where’ I’m President) we find that black cats take longer to be adopted than other cats do.

It’s the same with other cat rehoming charities. Back where I was born, the Toronto Humane Society has an annual Black Cat Day when you can  adopt a black cat for free rather than the usual fee. Here in the UK the excellent charity Cats Protection holds Black Cat Appreciation Day each year, just before Halloween.

If you’re thinking of adopting a cat please think of the black ones looking for homes. For adopting dogs or cats please visit: https://www.rspcasussexwest.org.uk and check out those that are looking for permanent homes.

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