I have only been the primary caregiver to two cats: Pulitzer and Deadline. They were both black cats with small amounts of white. That’s probably just a fluke, because I’m not a racist when it comes to cats. I judge them on the content of their personalities not the color of their fur. But apparently, I am in the minority. According to Alissa Scheller at The Huffington Post, white cats are almost three times as likely to get adopted as black cats.
This seems especially strange to me, because totally black cats are probably the most beautiful of all. In fact, according to the article, one Nevada shelter started a campaign to “Adopt your own mini-panther.” And all of their black cats were quickly adopted. There’s no surprise to that. Black cats do seem especially sleek and dexterous, even if it is just an optical illusion. But I would think people would pick up on that without having to be told.
It is true that some people are superstitious about black cats. In fact, some shelters will not allow black cats to be adopted around Halloween for fear that they will be mistreated. But only 13% of Americans are superstitious about black cats—not nearly enough to explain the discontinuity. What’s more, in England, it is considered to be good luck to give a bride a black cat. In Scotland, seeing a black cat indicates that you are going to get some money. And doubtless, some percentage of Americas would want to have a black cat because of its association with witchcraft. So I doubt any of mythology about black cats really has much to do with the adoption rates.
The same thing happens to dogs. Although if you look at the research, it is far less pronounced an effect than it is for cats. So it is interesting that this behavior is known as “Black Dog Syndrome.” As my sister would note, this is just another example of our cultural bias against cats. But I’ll leave that issue to another time. When it comes to dogs, it seems the problem is to some extent just outright racism: people think black dogs are more aggressive. It’s just terrible.
I think that people may assume that black cats and dogs are less emotional. It is true that it is harder to determine the details of their faces. It is also possible that black animals at shelters don’t stand out in their little cages. If they are less likely to be noticed, they are less likely to be adopted.
All black animals (Including rats!) are adorable and deserve our love. So if you are planning on adopting a pet, you really should look for a black one. This isn’t just something you should do out of altruism. The fact that black animals stay at shelters longer means that you are likely to get a better pet that is black. The syndrome also affects other darker colored animals, so check them out too. You’ll be glad you did.