It’s hard for me to trace the origins of my love for black cats. I suspect, however, that it has a lot to do with T.S. Eliot’s opus, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, which I demanded that my mother read to me over and over again until I could sound out the words and read it by myself — specifically, the poem “Mr. Mistoffelees.”
He is quiet and small, he is black
From his ears to the tip of his tail;
He can creep through the tiniest crack
He can walk on the narrowest rail …
After all of my early-childhood indoctrination into the world of love and adoration of those melanistic beauties, it wasn’t much of a surprise that when I was given the gift of adopting a cat from a shelter for my 13th birthday, I found not just one, but two black cats. Castor and Pollux, we named them, after the twins in the constellation of Gemini: two identical brothers, shiny and ebony with tiny white lockets on their chests.
Shortly after Castor and Pollux came into our lives, my mother took in another black cat: Marigold was her name, but we called her Maddy-Gold because she was just a bit mad. After I coaxed her out from under the sofa and taught her that human hands were for love and compassion, she became my best friend. I was the only person in the family who was allowed to touch her.
When it came time for me to adopt the first cats of my adult life, I knew I wanted black cats. Not only would black cats be appropriately gothy (in my silly opinion), but by that time I knew they were the last to be adopted, especially in superstition-heavy New England. Nobody was surprised when I brought home a pair of little black kittens, whom I named Sinéad and Siouxsie after my two favorite singers.
With Sinéad and Siouxsie, I was going to do everything right, I swore. They were going to get appropriate vaccinations. They were going to be spayed. They were going to go to the veterinarian regularly. I was going to be the best kitty parent I could be.
And so I did. And the two of them enjoyed healthy and good lives. They also brought me some good luck during a rough time: When I lost my job due to the first big dot-com bust, they were the inspiration for my blog, Paws and Effect. I never imagined when I penned my first post that I would find myself with a huge following of devoted readers who came to love Sinéad and Siouxsie almost as much as I did. I also never dreamed I’d end up writing for Catster and even the print version Catster Magazine thanks to the stroke of good fortune that brought those two black cats into my life.
I’ve had other black kitty friends, too: I’ll never forget my sweet Dahlia, who adopted me in 2006. Although we had entirely too few years together — she developed a very severe form of lymphoma, and out of compassion I had to send her to her final rest with the help of a veterinarian — her partially finished memoir, Dahlia Tells All, has been the inspiration for an actual printed memoir of her life, which is currently in progress.
Writing Dahlia’s memoir helped me get through a difficult period in my life. I was in a very emotionally abusive situation, and through her storytelling I could process some of the stuff I was going through. When I was able to view my life from a cat’s point of view, it helped me to realize just how crazy my environment was, and it also helped me use my sense of humor to cope until I found the resources to leave that situation.
And then there was Belladonna, the cat I totally didn’t mean to fall in love with. But when our eyes met that January day in the shelter, I had the most profound sense that Dahlia had sent her. Bella has turned out to be an extraordinarily lucky little black cat, because when I met her, she was on insulin for diabetes she’d developed as a kitten – very weird indeed! – but after just a couple of weeks living at Paws and Effect HQ and eating a high-protein, low-carb raw-food diet, she went into remission.
I hope Bella is lucky enough to have been cured of diabetes, but although a recent small-scale study showed that some diabetic cats can heal enough to tolerate relatively large doses of glucose, the study hasn’t been repeated and the sample size is too small to be scientifically provable as yet.
But whether Bella is or isn’t that lucky, I’m definitely lucky to have her. When she crosses my path, it’s usually as she’s playing soccer with a toy or running around like a crazed monkey. She’s constantly purring, and to me she is the very physical manifestation of joy. I’m truly blessed to have her in my life.
What about you? Have black cats been good luck talismans for you? Share your happy black cat stories in the comments!
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline authors, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.