ST. GEORGE – Imagine a stroll through your local animal shelter as you search for the perfect cat. You want to look at the kittens and on your way to the kitty room you cross paths with a sleek, black feline. She stares at you with golden eyes, and images float across your mind like clouds across a harvest moon: witches, broomsticks and trick-or-treaters, along with a ghostly whisper reminding you of bad luck. You chuckle to yourself and move on, looking for a safer orange tabby or blue-eyed Siamese.
Superstitions may provide entertainment, but they are nothing to meow at – not for our black feline friends. Black cats remain in animal shelters longer than cats of lighter colors. Is this due to prejudice based on superstition or simply an aesthetic choice?
On Sept. 22, I had the opportunity to visit the St. George Animal Shelter and speak with Officer April McManus regarding the black cat issue. When I questioned her about the average stay for black cats she said, “About 4-6 weeks.” Other factors also affect adoption time.
“When people come to the shelter they look for certain things,” McManus said. “Personality, housebroken, color and hair length. Kittens go first.”
Light-colored felines and those with unique markings enjoy a much shorter stay in the shelter. Recently, a brown tabby was adopted after one week, and in just five days an orange kitten found a home.
After our chat, McManus gave me a tour of the shelter. She directed my attention to Cookie, a beautiful black tortoiseshell cat with long, luxurious hair. This elegant lady — a 12-week resident of the shelter — sat with perfect posture, occupying a blanket-covered crate. I reached a hand up and spoke to her in the ooey-gooey way we often reserve for small children. She responded by stretching her neck toward me and rubbing her face on my hand until she seemed satisfied that I smelled like her. She then jumped from her throne and wound herself between my legs, a low purr audible as she followed me through the shelter. While I visited the other cats, Cookie let me know, with her meows and expressive light green eyes, that she wanted more attention. She never left my side, and I found it difficult to abandon her.
Most black cat adoptees are repeat owners, myself included. Born on Halloween, I can’t imagine choosing anything but a black cat for my mascot. It started in childhood with a short-haired male named Sizzle and has continued up to my 22-year-old daughter’s cat, Myrnin. My daughter Tawni found Myrnin in a pet store, the largest of six kittens sharing a cage. His fluffy black coat stood out among the tabbies and pure whites. He was listed as a mixed breed and discounted $10. While I do not advocate buying cats from pet stores, Myrnin proved perfect for my daughter. As a therapy cat, he has helped her cope with anxiety and depression, offering sweet companionship during stressful times.
Like other felines, black cats are easy to care for. Food, water, a scratching post and cardboard box will keep your kitty happy. Benefits for you include cuddles, laughter and invigorating games of hide and seek: there’s nothing quite like being hunted by a miniature panther.
Many names exist for our midnight friends, and the Internet provides great ideas: Hazel, Merlin, Magic, Salem, Cinder, Jinx …. Have fun naming your cat. Get creative. Embrace the mysticism of your onyx friend. If you do subscribe to superstition and believe that 13 is an unlucky number — think again. To mark her 13th week at the shelter, Cookie found a home.
For everybody who wants a pet, black cat or otherwise, organizations like P.A.W.S., the Ivins No-Kill Animal Shelter, Hurricane City Animal Shelter and other rescue groups/adoption centers maintain lists of adoptable animals.
The St. George Animal Shelter offers half-price adoptions the third Friday of every month. Check out the shelter’s Facebook page for photographs and descriptions. And don’t forget, black is beautiful.
Written by Pauline Bringhurst
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