While the myth about black cats representing bad luck may seem like a harmless – if not rather bizarre – superstition, it unfortunately has a very real impact on black cats’ likelihood of finding a forever home in shelters across the United States. Black Cat Rescue, an organization that specializes in helping darker-hued felines, states that “black cats are only half as likely to get adopted as cats of other colors.” Meanwhile, Inge Fricke, director of sheltering and pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Washington, D.C., said that the relatively low adoption rate of black cats and dogs “is not a hoax. There is definitely anecdotal evidence. There haven’t been any definitive studies to absolutely prove that the phenomenon exists but it is something commonly accepted by shelter workers as the truth.”
It has also been suggested that the reason black cats do not get adopted at the same rate as lighter kitties is because their features tend not to stand out in photographs. Casey Christopher, a video editor and photographer based in Los Angeles, Cal., has made it her mission to remedy this situation. She has been volunteering at the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter sine December, and has captured the beauty of many black cat residents since then.
“Twice a week I visit the shelter and photograph anyone who needs a home for the shelter’s website,” Christopher explained, noting that the high-quality professional camera she brings along with her does a much better job of capturing black cat’s features in all their glory than a smartphone camera. “As of yesterday, there were 36 cats available for adoption at the West LA Animal Shelter and 10 of them were black. A calico or an orange cat tends to get adopted fast, (while) the black cats just sit there.”
Christopher uses an external flash and lightens the cat’s faces during the editing process, in order to make them more visually distinct. As you can see, with the help of this crafty photo technique, the true personality of these incredible kitties shines right through.
“What do you mean, der iz no more kitteh treats left?!”
“I iz shocked!”
“I ate dem all, sorry.”
“I ate sum of dem also…”
“Dis is most unacceptable.”
“We will not put up wit dis!”
Samantha Bell, Cat Behavior and Enrichment Lead for Best Friends Animal Society in Mission Hills, Cal., has also noticed that black cats tend to be shunned by potential adopters more often than other types of cat.
“Some adopters will ask me to show them the cuddliest lap cat we have, and I’ll show them a black cat,” she said. “And they sometimes say, ‘Oh, but we don’t want a black cat.’ It’s crazy to me because, while color doesn’t determine temperament, I have found that our cuddliest lap cats are often black.” She added that Best Friends currently has 486 cats available for adoption, and 40 percent of them – a total of 195 cats – are entirely black or have black as their primary color.
“I iz ready to pounce on you, hoomin! And cover you wit kitteh kisses!”
“And I will drown you in kitteh cuddles!”
“So. You have been warned, hoomin.”
“Black kittehs unite!”
So, what’s going on? Are people irrationally shunning black cats? Dr. Emile Weiss, vice president of research and development at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) believes that the reason so many black cats end up in shelters is because there are simply more of them than any other type of cat. “Black is a dominant genetic trait, so there’s a better chance (a cat with the gene) will have aback coat color than any other,” she stated.
So, whether the cause of the problem is superstition, or a simple question of numbers, black cats in shelters seem to require that extra bit of help to find their loving forever homes. Christopher’s stunning photographs have provided the West LA black cats with that extra boost they need. You can view more samples of her work here.
All image source: Casey Christopher