Halloween decorations are everywhere now, especially spooky black cats. People just love black cats in October, and avoid crossing their paths the rest of the year. Given their prominence this time of year, it’s the perfect time to bust a few myths and bust out a few facts about black cats.
The irrational fear of black cats began during medieval times when they were associated with “witches” (elderly widows with knowledge of herbal medicine), who were routinely murdered by the Church. Medieval people feared the Church, so they feared “witches” and black cats too. And so, a superstition was born.
We’re no longer afraid of old women who know how to cure nausea with ginger, but we’re still afraid of black cats. We don’t even know why, only that we’re supposed to be. Admit it — do you react differently when a black cat crosses your path as opposed to any other color? Congratulations, you’re superstitious. We can cure that disease with some facts.
* The only bad luck involved is for the black cat itself. Not only does their color trigger humans to think and act irrationally, but they’re twice as likely not to be adopted and therefore twice as likely to be euthanized.
* Before being associated with “witches,” the black cat was so beloved by the Egyptian goddess Bastet that she is often depicted with the head of a black cat. Some sculptures of Bastet are simply a black cat, adorned in golden jewelry. In ancient Egypt, cats were considered to be incarnations of Bastet, and to harm one was a crime.
* Black cats may actually be healthier than other colors, because the gene that causes the solid black color also carries resistance to some diseases.
* A black cat is a miniature black panther. How cool is that? Now you want one, don’t you!
If these facts haven’t changed your mind about black cats, maybe my own story will.
After my furry boys died, I only made it a month cat-free, and couldn’t take it anymore. I was searching for cats on the Cat Tales Rescue website, and happened upon a sad little black kitten with huge eyes that just plucked at my heart. I called Cat Tales, and the volunteer, Shawn, said Minnie was scheduled to be euthanized at an animal shelter and she spotted her, took her home, agreeing to keep her until someone wanted her. Eight months later, Shawn was still taking Minnie to the weekly adoption days, where she was passed up over and over.
I had to go see her at the next adoption day, which happened to be a “two for one” special on black cats. Several volunteers brought their inventory, and it was a shocker. So many … all black, staring through the stacked cages, meowing plaintively, thrusting their silken paws through the bars trying to grab you as if to say, “please take me home.” It was heartbreaking.
When I saw Minnie, I understood why no one wanted her. She was cowering with her face in her paws, as her pure white cagemate licked her frantically as if soothing her. Shawn said Minnie hated coming to Petco and was afraid of the dogs.
I picked Minnie up and she hid her face against my arm, refusing to make eye contact. I thought, “There’s something wrong with her.” But then I picked up the white clown in her cage, and there was no way I was leaving him behind.
Since they were already bonded, I took them both — so much easier than introducing two adult cats to each other. (Of course I needed two!) I figured Maxx would be my pet, and Minnie would be his.
I got them home, and Maxx bounced all around while Minnie crouched in the corner and stared at the ground. My husband declared her brain-damaged. Eh. As long as she uses the litter box and keeps Maxx company, I can live with that. So, over the months, I played with Maxx and just let Minnie be Minnie — no pressure. She seemed to enjoy being near us, but not being held or touched, and I noticed something peculiar: Minnie’s meow was broken. She only makes little squeaking sounds like a puppy, and it hit me: she’d probably been strangled (and worse) as a kitten, and her vocal chords were crushed. Her life began with human cruelty.
My heart just melted for her upon that realization, and reinforced my dedication to make no demands on her at all, just provide her a safe and comfortable life. And then, one day, I’m on the recliner, and suddenly… Minnie pops up onto my chest, staring right into my eyes.
I didn’t dare exhale.
Then, she started kneading me like kittens do to their mothers, her little claws shredding my skin into hamburger, but I didn’t flinch. This was a miracle moment. And then, slowly, she laid down right over my heart and … began to purr.
From that moment on, Minnie was transformed. She’s not so keen on anyone else, but she clearly adores me. When she’s not curled on my lap, she’s tossing her toys around or sitting in a sunbeam watching birds outside, and it’s abundantly clear: Minnie is happy. She’s peaceful. She feels safe. I’m not sure anything has given me the satisfaction of earning the love and trust of this sad, dejected little creature.
So, this is the story of one little black cat that beat the odds and got a chance for a happy life. Her story inspired me to do something for the agency that saved her life, so me and a couple other kind souls are having a black cat awareness event on Oct. 30, 5-8 p.m. at Turkovich Family Wines. One dollar from each bottle sold will go to Cat Tales Rescue. You might even find a mini-panther of your own, and believe me, you’ll enjoy her so much more than you did your old superstition.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com