Black cats usually spend more time in shelters before finding homes than any other type of cat. (Contributed)

Pets: Singing the black cat blues

A long history of negative images and crazy stories.

The relationship between cats and humans goes back thousands of years.

At different points in time and various places around the globe, cats have either been revered or demonized. There seems to be little middle ground.

Black cats have taken the brunt of human ignorance and prejudice. While other cats were vilified, black cats were thought to be the worst of the bunch.

After many years of co-existing with humans, and even thriving in their care, the positive image of cats began to fade in Europe during the Middle Ages. Cats were not exactly house pets at that time and often slinked around allies looking for food.

More often than not, it was empathetic, lonely women who fed and cared for these animals.

Unfortunately, the hysteria over witchcraft was spreading as quickly as the Black Plague. Cats became enemy No. 1 because of their association with these women, who were often seen as witches.

Black cats were worse simply because of their colour. Witchcraft was black magic, therefore black cats were the most likely to engage in it. It was an ignorant and completely random association.

During the Salem Witch Hunts, many people believed that witches turned themselves into black cats to prowl the city unobserved.

In the 1560s, a story began to circulate that seemed to prove that black cats were transformed witches. A father and son on their way into town ran into a black cat on the road. They decided to throw rocks at it and kick it. The injured and terrified cat ran into a home.

The following day, the father and son were on the same road and came across the same house. A woman came out of the house and she was badly battered and injured.

It, thus, followed that the woman was the cat they had beaten the day before.

Additionally, some argued that black cats worked in cahoots with witches and would change into a human form in order to spy on the witches’ behalf.

As Europeans migrated to North America, they brought these stories with them. They arrived here with the bible and a strong fear of black cats, which were accused of being evil omens, shapeshifters, and harbingers of the dead.

In some places, feeding, housing, or in any way interacting with a black cat was punishable by a bad beating, even death.

Black cats were rounded up and killed by the thousands. In some parts of Europe, they were burned in large pits.

In the 1880s, black cats became associated with anarchy because that movement used a picture of a black cat as its symbol.

In the early 1900s, industrial workers used the image of a black cat to fight the system.

During the First World War, the symbol for sabotage was a black cat.

In some parts of China, the black car represents impending poverty or illness.

To this day, most animal shelters refuse to adopt out black cats around Halloween because they fear for their safety.

In many parts of the world, black cats are still feared.

This long history of negative images and crazy stories is probably part of the reason why black cats are some of the hardest to find homes for.

Black cats usually spend more time in shelters before finding homes than any other type of cat.

It’s not just history, but also the colour. Black is associated with death, illness, evil, darkness. Black dogs are also much harder to adopt out than any other colour.

So even in 2019, these amazing, loving, friendly animals sit and wait for homes because somewhere – deep down, inside us – all those years of stories, images, and associations still linger in our subconscious.

– Magdalena

Romanow is a

volunteer at Katie’s Place, an animal

shelter in

Maple Ridge.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

During a scenic, but chilling ride on a sunny Saturday, Oct. 24 Ron Paley captured photos of the nearby mountains lightly covered with snow. (Special to The News)
SHARE: 26km bike ride nets mix of fall colours

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Mounties looking for teen boy ‘unlawfully at large’ from Riverview psychiatric hospital

Nolan Godron left the hospital, located at 2721 Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam, without consent on Saturday

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Hydro map showing where power has been knocked out is dotted with over a dozen outages. (BC Hydro map screenshot)
Thousands without power in Lower Mainland on election day

One outage in Langley and Surrey is affecting over 4,000 customers

file
One dead after fiery crash near Agassiz

Agassiz RCMP report a 56-year-old man died Friday night

Most Read