Adoptions of black cats lag

SFSPCA isn’t as lucky with placement of ebony kitties

While jack-o’-lanterns and black-cat cutouts adorn houses and stores today, living black cats do not maintain their popularity the rest of the year.

The San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is reporting a lag in the adoption rates of black cats over their more colorful peers.

“It looks like the average length of stay for black cats was about 36 days, whereas the average length of stay for others is 27,” program manager Kiska Icard said. She said about 30 percent of the cats that go through the shelter are black or mostly black.

But Icard did not attribute the longer average stay to superstition, even though their reputation in the United States is an evil one. “They’re just essentially more common,” she said, and may get passed over in favor of more colorful specimens simply because of their abundance.

“Anecdotally, we have the same thing with black dogs. If we have a lot of black dogs they tend to be overlooked by people looking for something that looks a little more interesting.”

Black cats have a well-known sinister reputation in the United States and Europe. If a black cat crosses one’s path, it is thought to bring bad luck with it. The cats were thought to be the associates and even the alternate forms of witches during the middle ages, according to scholar Rudolph Brasch, author of “How Did It Begin? Customs, Superstitions, and Their Romantic Origins.”

Other cultures view the cats as lucky. It is well-documented that the ancient Egyptians worshiped all cats, while in Japan, cat-shaped lucky charms are common.

The superstition over black cats came from the popular culture, and not Christianity, said Nate Hinerman, an adjunct professor of theology at the University of San Francisco. While Hinerman said he has not focused his research on myths surrounding the felines, the Christian scholar said he has never come across a mention of such an animal bringing bad fortune in any religious documents.

Whatever the reason, Icard said, black cats do not get chosen for adoption at quite the rate of other cats. Fortunately, she said, adoption rates do not spike in the weeks or months before Halloween, which would indicate that people are not adopting them simply as holiday accessories.

amartin@examiner.com

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