A Kitten Called Charles Bronson Showed Me Black Cats’ Magic


My Best Halloween Ever was the year after I graduated from college: My now-husband and I had just moved into our first apartment, all of our friends came over for a party, and we’d just adopted an adorable black kitten. At three months old, Chuck was already a natural co-host: He twined around our guests’ ankles, arched his back and stretched next to our jack o’lanterns for pictures, and charmed everyone’s costume pants off.

Black cat.
Our Chuck (full name: Charles Bronson), the prince of Halloween.

I have a theory that black cats get special instructions on how to be extra-fabulous at the end of October. Every other Halloween with Chuck was also the Best Halloween Ever, really; he was a magnificent creature.

It’s been many years since that party, and our apartment is now full of white hairs rather than black ones; the two felines in our lives are Siamese, not slinky inkblots like Chuck. I love them dearly, but it must be said: Particularly when Halloween rolls around, I really miss having a black cat.

Black cat on pillow.
Chuck’s Mad Men portrait.

People often say that black cats are hard to photograph, and in some cases that’s true; some of my old photos of Chuck are nothing but floating eyes in a fuzzy black cosmos. If you know your way around a camera (check out tips for capturing the beauty of black cats here) or shoot in black and white, on the other hand, they’re more than a little magical. Here’s an example.

Reflected black cat.
Sleekit Saphiri by Serena via Creative Commons.

Here’s another. “He’s a long cat,” says the photographer. “Or rather, Tacgnol.”

Black cat looking out window.
Khufu by Lori Leaumont via Creative Commons.

Black cats can be mysterious and melancholy at the same time.

Black cat on street.
Black Cat (Explored) by Faris Algosaibi via Creative Commons.

If you’re a pro photographer, in turn, black cats are the high priests and priestesses of Pinterest and the supermodels of the animal kingdom. You might not know Taraji (affectionately pronounced “Trashy”) the Bombay by name, but you’ve probably seen her work; she graced the October 2013 cover of Real Simple (an issue that also featured an article encouraging readers to give black kitties “a wink instead of a wince”).

Real Simple October 2013 / cover image by Stephen Lewis

Taraji also lent her glamour to Vogue‘s “The Cat and the Flat” spring shoe feature last March.

Bombay cat and skirt.
Taraji the Bombay photographed for Vogue by Charlie Engman.
Cat and Miu Miu shoes.
Taraji the Bombay photographed for Vogue by Charlie Engman.

Note that the Miu Miu shoes in that second shot have micro-panthers of their own; Miuccia Prada knows a good-looking cat when she sees one.

Black cats and commercial imagery are nothing new, of course; Le Chat Noir, the first modern cabaret, opened in the Montmartre district of Paris in 1881 (and its famous poster with art by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen has popped up on walls around the world ever since).

Tournee Chat Noir poster.
Tournée du Chat Noir poster by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, via Wikimedia Commons

The Black Cat, an American monthly literary magazine, presented its readers with “unusual short stories” and elegant feline cover images from 1895 to 1922.

The Black Cat, October 1895
The Black Cat, October 1895, via Wikimedia Commons

They’ve even helped sell light bulbs in Eastern Europe (circa 1910), because … well, because any excuse to feature a black cat is a good one, I say.

Geza Farago poster.
Poster by Géza Faragó, via Wikimedia Commons

October 31 is near, and the restaurants and shop windows in my neighborhood are full of bat decals, gauzy faux cobwebs, grinning skeletons — the decorations I’d pull out with Chuck at my side every year. My head was full of him yesterday as I breezed past the hardware store I’d been hunting for and had to double back along an unfamiliar block. I passed the sunken entryway to a coffeehouse, and as I paused to consult my map, I looked inside.

Strings of twinkle lights swooped over mismatched old chairs; a guy with a pierced lip and a slouchy knit beanie passed a rag over a long bar. The same indie rock I’d played at our best-ever Halloween party mumbled out of the speakers. The place was called The Black Cat, because of course it was; life is an especially amateur short story sometimes. I’m all right with that. (I love you, Chuck.)

Do you live with a black cat? Lucky you; tell us about him or her in the comments!

Read more by Lauren Oster.

About the author: Lauren Oster is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She and her husband share an apartment on the Lower East Side with Steve and Matty, two Siamese-ish cats. She doesn’t leave home without a book or two, a handful of plastic animals, Icelandic licorice mints, and her camera. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

1 thought on “A Kitten Called Charles Bronson Showed Me Black Cats’ Magic”

  1. Such a loving article. Chuck looks identical to my 16 year old black cat, Morgan, who I’ve had since he was 9 weeks old. He knows my feelings, he snuggles with me every night, we “talk”, he wraps his front paws around my hand when I scratch his chin. ???? him so much.

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