Superstition holds that a black cat crossing your path is a harbinger of bad luck. On the other hand, there’s the Groucho Marx position, which simply states that a black cat crossing your path "signifies that the animal is going somewhere."
In any case, the mystery and folklore surrounding black cats is one reason they are half as likely to get adopted as other cats. That’s why Jennifer Stott created the Black Cat Rescue, a nonprofit organization in Boston that is dedicated to helping black cats find homes. Stott says black cats have such a hard time getting adopted because of a combination of factors, including the fact that they are so common and that a lot of people want cats with "more exciting" stripes, markings, or spots.
"Another huge part is that so much of the adoption game takes place online now, and [black cats] don’t photograph very well," Stott adds. "It’s very challenging to get a good face shot of a black cat, because their features tend to kind of all blur together."
Stott created Black Cat Rescue in 2008 after adopting a black cat named Isabel and learning about the dire adoption statistics. A longtime shelter volunteer, Stott saw her opportunity to branch off and form her own organization. But instead of operating out of a central shelter location, Stott organized a network of several foster caretakers in the greater Boston area that at any given time have five to 10 cats in their care, most of whom are black. Without an office, the majority of Black Cat Rescue adoptions take place online via Pet Finder. Stott is also big on using Facebook and her blog to share pictures and stories about her cats and those at other shelters.
Most of Stott’s cats arrive as owner surrenders, strays, and transfers from area shelters, where black cats are more likely to be euthanized or languish indefinitely in cages. In this way, the Black Cat Rescue specializes in finding homes for so-called "unadoptable" cats. Since 2008, the effort has helped more than 200 kitties find their forever homes.
"A lot of cats are deemed unadoptable because they’re being evaluated in a shelter situation, which is very stressful for a cat," Stott says. "So even a friendly cat that warms up in a home and would be perfectly friendly and happy is going to be kind of crouching in the back of a cage in a shelter and freaking out. I think that a lot of times cats get written off as unadoptable because they’re scared and not given a full chance."
Stott has seen some of the best adoptions happen when people give allegedly difficult cats a chance. About six months ago, a 10-year-old cat named Sammie came to the Black Cat Rescue after her owner died in hospice care. Sammie is more white than black, and normally Stott would have referred her to another rescue organization to save space in her foster network for black cats. But the family of Sammie’s owner did not want to take her, and the hospice was willing to hold the cat only for a couple of hours.
"She was what I’d call cranky — a 10-year-old cat with not the cuddliest personality," Stott says. "But we were able to work with her in a foster home and bring her real personality out while getting her over the grief of losing her owner. We found a new home for her, and she’s doing great."
Stott also rescues many cats from death row. One solid black kitty named Cleo arrived at an animal control center with a "wound of unknown origin," meaning she required a six-month rabies quarantine. Unfortunately, the animal control facility was not able to provide the necessary quarantine, so Cleo was scheduled to be euthanized.
"But she was just so sweet and loving that she basically charmed someone enough that they called us," Stott says. "We ended up taking her, and her six-month quarantine is up, and she’s all healed up and ready for adoption."
Stott watched another "challenging" tuxedo cat named Astor, who was also slated for euthanasia, find a home with an older woman who appreciated the cat’s strong personality.
"She’s kind of a bossy cat, and we found an adopter who respected that and thinks it’s great that she’s got a big personality, and they’ve been very happy together," Stott says. "I actually got an email from the adopter saying that her mother passed away shortly after she adopted Astor from us, and that Astor has been a huge comfort to her and really kind of kept her going."
Then there’s Silly and Missy, a bonded pair of 12-year-old, special-needs kitties who were also scheduled to be euthanized at a shelter before coming to the Black Cat Rescue.
"Silly was totally blind, and Missy basically helped him around," Stott says. "They were adorable, because she would help him, but he was a lot braver and more outgoing than her. She would show him where things were but wait for his signal to let us pet her."
Most Black Cat Rescue adoptions happen in and around Boston, but Silly and Missy were adopted by a couple who drove from Vermont to meet them. Stott’s attitude that there’s no such thing as an unadoptable cat has helped the Black Cat Rescue find homes for all of the cats they’ve cared for.
"We’re operating from the point of view that there’s a home for everyone," Stott says. "Black cats are just as awesome as every other cat. The only thing different about black cats is that they need your help a little bit more. So if you’re thinking of adopting, you should really consider giving a black cat a shot."