As Halloween Approaches, We Contemplate the Shadow Cast Upon Black Cats
The other day, I was running errands on the busy high street near the apartment I share with four cats. The beautiful black puss whose job it is to keep mice out of the store where he's the resident feline-in-charge was taking a break from his duties, pausing to sit calmly on the sidewalk and watch the world go by. A young woman and her daughter emerged from a neighboring store. The little girl was enchanted by the cat no surprise, for he has a gloriously glossy coat and gorgeous amber eyes.
The child headed toward the animal with her hand sweetly outstretched in greeting, but her mother yanked her back, yelling, "No! It's going to bite you!" The child murmured that it wasn't, but the woman prevailed. That made me very sad.
I sincerely hope the little girl doesn't grow up to be fearful of cats, especially black ones. But if she does, sadly, she won't be alone an irrational fear of black cats is one of the few socially acceptable prejudices left in our "politically correct" age. (That, and the fear of Pit Bulls but that's a story for Dogster.)
This kind of deep-seated prejudice only gets worse in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Black cats are often the last to be adopted at animal shelters, because some people actually believe them to be mean and/or harbingers of bad luck, familiars of witches, and other "evildoers." As a result, black shelter cats are often among the first to be euthanized. Boo!
Yet nothing could be further from the truth than that foolish old superstition about black cats being bad. I've lived with many black cats in fact, I make a point of adopting the basic-black ones and I can honestly report, from first-paw experience, that they are among the sweetest, gentlest, loving animals I've ever had the honor of getting to know. They are exceptionally sensitive. My solid-black cat, Huey, is extra-affectionate; if I'm feeling low or unwell, he can always be counted on to come hither for a convalescent cuddle.
So it's high time for some black cat appreciation, Catsters! Perhaps black cats are so loving because, after centuries of getting the stinkeye from people, they are genuinely grateful for a little positive attention. And they never fail to return those good vibes tenfold.
Dr. Laurie Nadel practices Reiki with her beautiful black cat, Bogart. "Reiki means 'universal life energy,'" she explains. "It is all around us and it can be offered to anyone human or animal who wants healing. Reiki is very powerful, yet calming, gentle, safe, and noninvasive. It stimulates our natural healing responses and has been proven to relieve pain, swelling, and tenderness. I find black cats are even more sensitive than other cats ... to the point of being empathic and intuitive. As a Reiki Master, I am ordained to open another being's channel so he or she can feel Reiki and offer it to others."
Bogart, it turns out, is a natural-born Reiki Master. "When I had bronchitis a few years ago, Bogart would perch on my chest and put his right front paw where my breathing was tight," Laurie recalls. "When I got better, I asked if he would like me to open up his Reiki channel and he did not object. Since then, he has been an essential part of my Reiki practice. He's now 12 years old, and he is a Reiki healer as well. We are members of the National Animal Reiki Practitioners Association, and we offer free remote Reiki sessions for pets. Bogart has helped dozens of dogs, cats, birds, and people I even have testimonial letters from people thanking my black cat!"
Nancy Vogt of Long Island Cat and Kitten Solution (LICKS) has been rescuing cats for eight years, and often finds herself with several black cats and kittens still available for adoption, long after the lighter-coated foundlings have gone to their forever homes. "Black cats are extremely difficult to place and extremely difficult to photograph, because what you get is two eyes and a shadow, even against a white background," she says.
"So many people have confessed to me that they fear black cats even though they know in their minds that there's nothing evil about black cats, they still just can't warm up to them. It's sad. I have seven cats, all black or mostly black, and they all have very sweet personalities."
The same may be said for her adoptables. In the LICKS kitten room are four of the sweetest felines imaginable: two are tiny little black kittens, both two and a half months old, both doing their darnedest to reach out to a visitor and give nose kisses! Then there are the two older ones 4 or 5 months old who are busy stepping over the littluns to try to do the same thing! Check out all of LICKS' adorable adoptables on Petfinder.
For those in the NY area: To support its rescue and adoption efforts, LICKS is holding a fundraiser on Thursday, October 20, at Pompeii Restaurant in West Hempstead, NY (401 Hempstead Avenue), from 7 to 11 p.m. It's a fabulous five-course sit-down dinner with music and raffle prizes. Tickets are $65 per person in advance, $75 at the door. If interested, send a check to LICKS at 64 Parma Road, Island Park, NY 11558. Hope to see you there!
About the Author: Julia Szabo writes the Living With Dogs column for Dogster and shares her home with four very sexy felines.