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Why you should adopt a black cat or dog

Updated on July 21, 2013
Otis the Cat
Otis the Cat

What's the problem?

If you've spent time around an animal shelter or pet store you know there are more black pets available than any other color. A 2002 study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science that examined adoption rates over nine months in a California pound found that black cats were about half as likely to be adopted as tabby cats and two-thirds less likely than white cats.

So why are dark-coated animals often overlooked? There is no scientific research to explain why black animals are less likely to be adopted, but there are several theories:

  • Black pets blend into the backgound. It is easy to overlook black pets when they are surrrounded by their lighter, more colorful counterparts. A colorful animal may stand out more and catch your attention easier. Light-colored animals' facial characteristics are easier to see, which may lead you to mistakenly believe that they have more personality.
  • It is hard to catch black animals on film. Since adoptable pets are often promoted with photographs, black cats and dogs are at a disadvantage. Capturing black pets' images is difficult for even the most seasoned photographer.
  • Black cats have been associated with withchcraft and bad luck. First they were associated with witches in the middle ages in Europe, then again in America during the Salem witch hunts. The belief was that witches transformed themselves into black cats in order to prowl the streets unobserved, giving black cats a bad name. In addition, we have all heard the superstition that having a black cat cross your path is bad luck.
  • Black dogs have also been given a bad rap. According to ancient folklore, the apparitions of black dogs were believed to be the unquiet ghosts of wicked souls.
  • A majority of black dogs are larger breeds. Some people may choose a smaller dog because they think it is easier to care for. They might also bypass the larger black dog because they think big black dogs are scary (as often potrayed in films). Have you ever seen a Doberman Pincher potrayed as friendly in the movies?
  • Black pets are thought to shed more hair than lighter colored pets. This is untrue, but since the black hair may be more visible on light surfaces, this "nuisance factor" is yet another reason people don't adopt black pets.
  • Black animals might appear older -- even when they're young, they have bits of facial hair that may be white or gray.

The truth about black cats and dogs

If you bypass a black animal, you may miss out on a friendly, loveable companion. Owners of black pets often agree that although their pet's coat is dark, their hearts are made of gold.

Traits of black pets range from wild and unpredictable to friendly and socialable.

Like all pets, regardless of their coat color, black-furred pets each have their own unique personalities.

Many owners have found that once you adopt a black pet you never go back to adopting a lighter-coated animal!

Look Closely!

Otto Von Bogart the Schnauzer with Ellie the Boxer
Otto Von Bogart the Schnauzer with Ellie the Boxer
Oscar the Cat
Oscar the Cat

What shelters are doing to help

Many shelters across the country are hosting special events to help black pets get adopted. For example:

The Nevada Humane Society held an "Adopt a Mini Panther" event in 2012, offering black cats for only $5.00. All of the cats were spayed and neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped before being adopted, services that would normally cost over $200.

Independent Animal Rescue in Durham, North Carolina celebrated Black (Cat) Friday on Nov 23rd by offering black cats for adoption at the shopping mall.

Best Friends Animal Society and other Los Angeles animal volunteer groups participated in Back In Black 2, a month-long adoption event to raise awareness about the awesomeness of black cats and dogs and to help find them loving homes. Adoption fees were waived for all black cat and dog adoptions and they also provided a bag of dog food or cat treats.

The Pasadena Humane Society held a Black Cat Affair event in 2010 where both solid black and "tuxedo" cats were eligible for a $20 reduction in the regular adoption fee.

Austin Pets Alive held a "Join the Dark Side" adoption event in 2012 where all dogs and cats over the age of three months that had coats that were at least 50% black had an adoption fee of just $25. In addition, adopters received pictures with Darth Vader and themed goodie bags.

Black animals are amazing

Take Oscar the Robotic cat.

Although his back feet were severed by a tractor, he didn't give up. Thanks to a United Kingdom vet, Oscar now gets around just fine on his two prosthetic limbs.

Click here to watch this amazing black cat in action.

Then there is Grizzly, a beautiful, sleek black Lab, who serves as a companion dog for an autistic child. You can read how Grizzly acts as a live-in counselor here.

Black pets are not only amazing, but can also be heroic.

A three-year-old black Labrador, Zulu, from Texas, is credited with saving his owner's life. When Robert Sumrall got lost hiking in the Black Range mountains of New Mexico it was Zulu who provided body heat for his owner during the freezing temperatures and blizzard-like conditions. Read more about Zulu here.

Finally, a McKenzie, North Dakota, resident credited her black cat, Joey, with saving her life. Bernice McDowall was sleeping when her cat woke her up by running around the bedroom wildly. Read more here about how Joey alerted Bernice that the house was on fire so they could escape unharmed.

Otis the Amazing

What do you think?

Would you adopt a black animal?

See results

Black Cat (And Dog) Fever

Although dark-colored companions are often bestowed with an unlucky reputation, many cultures and communities consider black cats and dogs tokens of good luck.

In Ancient Egypt people paid homage to Bastet, the cat goddess who represented prosperity and truth. Bastet often was depicted as a woman with the head of a cat, frequently with dark or black coloration. To gain favor from the goddess, Egyptian households kept black cats as pets.

Throughout history sailors have considered black cats good luck on long voyages.

In Japan, black cats often are considered symbols of good luck. The same holds true in England and Ireland.

Ozzy the Cat
Ozzy the Cat

Famous Black Animals

Felix the Cat. First invented by cartoonist Otto Messmer, Felix the Cat remains one of the world's most popular black cats.

Snowball V, commonly referred to as Snowball II, is the Simpsons' fifth cat and looks exactly like the original Snowball II, who died when a truck hit her.

Salem Saberhagen. If you grew up reading the Sabrina the Teenage Witch or watching the film or sitcom version of the story, Salem Saberhagen might be the first famous black cat that comes to mind. He regularly gave Sabrina advice, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Pluto, Edgar Allan Poe's black cat. Edgar Allan Poe published a short story in 1843 called The Black Cat starring Pluto.

Behemoth. Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov's black cat character in the classic novel, The Master and Margarita.

Little black dog. The princess' dog that David Nivens "saves" to gain her trust in the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days.

Triumph The Insult Comic Dog. Often smoking a cigar, Triumph debuted in 1997 on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, and appeared regularly there.

A big, evil black dog. Common theme in books and movies ranging from The Hound of the Baskervilles, the Harry Potter series, and both movie versions of The Omen.


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    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      For some reason black cats are always attracted to me and will twirl themselves around my legs when I am standing still. There was a black cat named Mr. Wilson on my route that was absolutely adorable. Unfortunately I am allergic to cats and cannot have one. I think you are right about this subconscious taboo against black animals, and it is unfortunate. I had not thought about it before, but it is good that you are spreading awareness to this unfair treatment of these noble animals.


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