While in many parts of the world black cats are seen as bringing good luck, in the United States it’s no secret that black cat superstitions still abound and that black cats still have a PR problem. It’s said to be a bad omen if one crosses your path, and they’re the classic witch sidekick.
According to a 2013 ASPCA study, there are more black cats in general due to the fact that black is a dominant gene trait. Since there are more of them who need homes, and they have to overcome outdated stereotypes, black cats can use all the help they can get. Here are a few people, organizations — and a even a cat — doing exactly that.
When Jennifer Miller found a kitten under a dumpster, she intended on fostering her until she placed her. Now, 220k Instagram fans later (@sophie_the_model), it’s clear that didn’t work out as planned! She says Sophie is, “The best thing that happened to our family.”
It was only after adopting Sophie that Jennifer became aware of the misconceptions associated with black cats. Through Sophie’s social media pages and public events, she hopes to open people’s eyes to how wonderful black cats are.
To say Sophie was made for the spotlight is an understatement. As Jennifer puts it, “She was a model in a former life, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” Jennifer brings Sophie’s distinct personality to life through her photographs and channels her voice through captions.
When people leave negative comments about black cats, she sees it as a teachable moment. But she’s happy to report she also receives comments and messages from people telling her Sophie inspired them to adopt a black cat!
Julia Umansky, manager of client services at the ASPCA Adoption Center says, “A great photo can not only showcase an animal’s personality and playfulness but can motivate potential adopters,” noting a rise in adoption inquiries after fun, new images are posted.
“It’s key for a photograph to speak to people — even more so for black cats because of all the silly myths,” says Lori Fusaro, staff photographer at Best Friends Animal Society (@photolori on Instagram). “I make sure their ears are up, their eyes are bright and friendly … and they are making contact with the lens so when potential adopters see the photo, it’s like they’re looking right at them.”
Cat mom Erica Danger (@ericalikescats on Instagram), Lori’s photography assistant, has had a soft spot for black cats since her first black rescue cat, Banjo. In addition to her work at Best Friends, she photographs cats in foster care and at cat cafes to help them get adopted. “If a cat is playful, I get a good shot of him in action to capture that side of his personality.”
Co-founded by Dawn Isenhart-Copp, Lulu’s Locker Rescue, is a volunteer-run nonprofit in the Chicago area working to help overlooked and often misunderstood animals — like black cats — get adopted.
The group has a wide network of foster homes as well as a small adoption area that’s set up like a home with a kitchen and bathroom. This allows potential adopters to interact with the cats and get a sense of their personalities and how they behave in a real-world setting. This can be particularly helpful for black cats.
Dawn recounts the story of one couple who came in to see a specific cat but ended up adopting a black cat named Tilly, “Because she was more the personality they were looking for. She went right up to them and snuggled.”
A book by writer Amy Goldwasser and her husband, illustrator Peter Arkle, take black cat stereotypes head-on. The couple, “Decided it was time for the first lovingly hand-drawn, hand-lettered tribute to the wild range of personality, charisma and character of 50 highly individual all-black cats.” Included in the book is the couple’s former cat, Sonny, and his successor, Mimi.
Through his illustrations, Peter adeptly highlights distinguishing details of each cat, from their fur’s distinct hue to face shape, eye color, expression and the errant white whisker. Amy further reinforces the individuality of these ebony-furred felines.
“We both believe the humor lies in the specifics: For example, it’s a funnier, more special, more memorable, more loving portrait to know that this particular ABC [All Black Cat] is into butter or the cable box or the ice maker than it is if they’re into mice or catnip.”
Besides being an entertaining read with frame-worthy artwork, the book leaves no doubt that black cats are incredible characters with a wide range of looks and personalities.
Tamar Arslanian resides in New York City with her two rescue cats, Kip and Haddie. She is the founder of IHaveCat.com and author of HarperCollins’ Shop Cats of New York, a Cat Writers’ Association Muse Medallion winner. Find her on Instagram and Facebook at @ihavecat and @shopcatsofnewyork.
Thumbnail: Photography ©Best Friends Animal Society/Lori Fusaro.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!