The Black Cat Myth

By Darlene Duggan

This is part three in a series exploring common shelter rumors and myths. Part one: “Is Black Dog Syndrome a Myth?” Part two: “All Shelter Pets are Imperfect (And That’s Okay!)“.

blackcatNot to be outdone by the black dog myth, black cats have their own shelter myth too: There is a rumor floating around the animal sheltering world that shelters and rescue groups halt adoptions of black cats around the Halloween season because there are throngs of devil worshipers and animal abusers wanting to “adopt” these cats and use them as sacrifices or cause them harm.

While this unfortunate circumstance may have happened somewhere at some time, it’s just not true across the board, and by now is certainly an outdated rumor.

In fact, in 2007 National Geographic published an article about satanic cults sacrificing cats, and experts agreed “there are no confirmed statistics, court cases, or studies to support the idea that serious satanic cult crime even exists.” From this article, it appears that any harm that came to cats around Halloween is likely the work of misguided individuals, not satanic cults. And furthermore, because there are no facts to support this myth, continuing to discuss it publicly could possibly result in a self-fulfilling prophesy situation—put the stories out there and troubled individuals could get ideas.

Even if the rumor were true, I am comfortable in saying that most, if not all, shelters and animal welfare groups have modern adoption screening procedures in place that would weed out any cult adoptions. The goal of screening is to find good homes and make strong personality matches. Certainly, someone covertly looking for a cat to sacrifice would raise some red flags during the screening process.

As we have discussed in this column before, cats do not fair well in the shelter environment, and we therefore need to promote cat adoption to the fullest. In the shelter, cats of any color are at an increased risk for euthanasia, have decreased chances of being reunited with their caregivers when lost, and increased likelihood of getting sick. That said, it is in our best interest to think outside the box in getting cats out of the door, and halting black cat adoptions at Halloween works against this campaign. To squash this notion that black cat adoption in October is a bad idea, some shelters have created promotions that focus on black cats, rather than hide them away until the holiday is over.

There are definitely concerns for cats around Halloween time, but I don’t count satanic sacrifice amongst them. Accidental ingestion of Halloween candy, running out the door when trick-or-treaters ring the bell, and the usual routine being disrupted with holiday festivities are more of a concern. Each community is different however, and it is up to shelter managers to do what is best for the animals in their care based on the demographics of their area.

In the end, adopting cats to loving caring homes is the goal, and achieving that goals should not be sacrificed because of an fictitious shelter myth.

Darlene Duggan worked for many years behind the scenes at The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago overseeing volunteer programs, problem solving shelter issues, and laboring tirelessly for the welfare of animals. Her bi-weekly column, The Shelter Voice, explores the complex concepts surrounding animal rescue and welfare usually reserved for discussions amongst those at the very front lines of the industry. 


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