Adopting Black Cats in October: Experts Say There’s Nothing to Fear
Black cats have had a longstanding association with superstition, Halloween, and witches. Walk into any store selling Halloween decorations and you are bound to encounter at least a dozen items featuring black cats. You’ve probably heard that a black cat crossing your path spells bad luck. With the holiday comes concerns that black cats may be subject to more tricks than treats.
Over the years, fears of satanic cults and animal abusers performing sacrifices, young folks influenced by horror movies, and people looking for a black cat to complete their Halloween costume influenced numerous shelters to suspend their adoption programs on black cats, white cats, and black dogs1. On the other end of the spectrum, shelters (us included) have taken to promoting the adoption of black cats during “Spooky Season.” With these nefarious rumors circling for as long as they’ve had, these promotions have sparked concern for the well-being and safety of the cats being adopted out. We’re here to dispel the misinformation surrounding black cats in October.
National welfare experts such as ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States, among others, make “loud and clear recommendations” against the myth invading shelters, rescue groups, and animal advocates across the country3. Mike Arms, president of the Helen Woodward Animal Center, creator of the annual Home for the Holidays promotion, and adoptions guru, says of the claims: “I have heard this old wives’ tale more than once in my career. You would think by now that pet adoption agencies would be professional enough to be able to screen potential adopters in evaluating a good home life2.”
According to nationally-recognized animal non-profit Best Friends, “there is no evidence that adopting black cats around Halloween poses any greater risk to the pets than adopting them at any other time of the year2.” The organization also noted that Halloween and cult experts found “no confirmed statistics, court cases, or studies to support the idea that serious satanic cult crime even exists2.” Snopes, the urban-legend- and rumor-investigating website, thoroughly dispelled the claims back in 2001 and categorized the dangers as “legend.” In 2007, National Geographic released an article entitled “Ritual Cat Sacrifices a Halloween Myth, Experts Say.” There is no clear evidence indicating black cats are at an increased risk of harm in October or on Halloween. However, myths have more than just nine lives: they are continually perpetuated by well-meaning but misinformed shelters and groups and by concerned animal lovers. Even the Smithsonian perpetuated the rumor.
Here’s what animal experts featured in UF Shelter Medicine Program’s article, “Don’t Get Spooked by Halloween Pet Adoptions,” had to say:
- “Quite a few shelters hide their black cats in the back the week before All Hallow’s Eve to protect them. There is no reason to believe that these cats are at risk. While it is true that animals too often become the victims of holiday pranks and cruelty, there is no reason to believe that witches are involved, or that shelters are a source. Normal adoption counseling procedures should be able to screen out those applicants with bad intent. Continued publicity on this tends to make adoption counseling procedures look arbitrary and silly.” – ASPCAPro
- “For the first seven years of her career, (Katherine Shenar, chief of staff at San Diego Humane Society) pulled black cats from the floor two weeks before Halloween and two weeks after, worried that people who adopted them at that time were doing so for nefarious purposes. But high intake numbers and the stress of cats living in close proximity inevitably led to illness and euthanasia for many of the very cats she was trying to save. ‘What we had done was protect the animals to death,’ Shenar says. ‘We had the very best of intentions but the very worst of outcomes. Animals died in the shelters because of rules and policies that were based on anecdotal experiences and no real scientific data.’” – Animal Sheltering/HSUS
The type of person who would seek to commit cruelty towards a cat is not going to take the time to meet with an adoption counselor, provide their contact information and personal details, and take home a microchipped cat tied to said details1. Most shelters have a rigorous screening process to ensure cats go to the right home and will place suspicious persons on “do not adopt” lists.
In reality, black cats are the last to be adopted in most shelters2. Promoting misinformation only makes adoption more of an uphill battle for these dark-haired beauties and removes “up to a month or more before Halloween2.” Living life without a loving home is a much more real threat and fear than any cult-related evil-doers. “The overwhelming majority of pets dying in shelters today are cats,” says Best Friends2. It may seem like it’s protecting cats to warn others about these “dangers,” but instead, it is creating longer shelter stays and higher rates of stress, illness, and even mortality. More cats have been harmed by the myth than they have by what it portrays3. The solution is year-round adoption programs and yes, black cat-specific promotions. Cats of all colors are more likely to encounter Halloween dangers with stressful Halloween parties, being surrounded by toxic chocolate, and having strangers knock on the door than they do sacrifices2.
FieldHaven Feline Center wishes you and your feline friends a happy and safe Halloween!
- Bays, Danielle. “Black Cats and Halloween.” The Humane Society of the United States, October 26, 2016, https://humanepro.org/blog/black-cats-and-halloween/
- Battista, Francis. “Myth Buster: Adopting Black Cats at Halloween.” Best Friends, October 27, 2011, https://bestfriends.org/stories/julie-castle-blog/myth-buster-adopting-black-cats-halloween
- UF Shelter Medicine Program. “Don’t Get Spooked by Halloween Pet Adoption Promotions.” UF Health, October 24, 2019, https://sheltermedicine.vetmed.ufl.edu/2019/10/24/dont-get-spooked/