Black cats are remarkable enough to have their own special day! And we don't mean Halloween, either. Every year, shelters, rescues and cat lovers in general celebrate Black Cat Appreciation Day on August 17th. Let's take a look at some of the actual facts about black cats. Don't worry, later we'll talk about myths and superstitions, too.
Black cats - the real and fascinating facts
Here are some pretty cool facts about our beautiful black felines.
Note: We may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page.
- The black color of their hair is caused by a type of pigment produced in the hair follicle called eumelanin. Black cats produce a coat that's very rich in eumelanin.
- The gene for black coat color in felines is dominant. That means that a cat only needs one copy of the gene for the coat to be black. It also means that a black cat may not necessarily produce black kittens.
- Solid blue/gray cats are actually black! They carry the black coat gene, but also a secondary gene which dilutes the concentration of pigments. This unique combination creates the beautiful slate blue shade of solid gray cats.
- Some black cats also carry the tabby gene. The black color usually covers the tabby pattern, but in some felines tabby markings can be detected under the right lighting.
- A black coat can change its color over the years. A "rusty" brown shade may show up, especially along the tips of coat tufts. In some cases, the cat's coat can show gray and white shades as the cat ages, especially around the face.
- The feline coat color is unrelated to the coat's length. Black cats can have long hair or short.
- Black cats can be of certain cat breeds but they can also be more common domestic shorthair or longhair cats (of no particular breed). You can't tell a cat's breed just by its coat color and pattern. Some breeds don't have a black coat as part of the repertoire. Bengals, Russian Blue cats, Turkish Vans and many other breeds cannot be black. However, many breeds such as Oriental Shorthair cats, Persians, Maine Coons and others can come in practically all patterns and coat colors, black included.
- At least one cat breed has black as the only color allowed in the breed: the Bombay Cat. With no connection to India, this breed was created by breeding Burmese cats and American shorthairs.
- Black cats were targeted during medieval witch hunts in Europe. They were believed to be demonic entities that helped witches perform their dark spells.
So much for actual facts. As for superstitions, many surround black cats and are often quite local and not easy to trace accurately. Many cultures view cats as emblems of mysterious forces, black cats even more so. Here are a few superstitions about black cats from around the world -
- Black cats are said to bring good luck in the UK.
- In Jewish culture, a black cat crossing between two people means they're likely to get into a conflict.
- In the Edo period in Japan black cats were believed to cure tuberculosis.
Are black cats less adoptable?
Many sources claim that people tend to skip over black cats in shelters and adopt cats of other colors more quickly. Actual fact, or just a myth? It's hard to tell. Not all shelters keep the relevant data, and those that do can't offer a conclusive statement.
The best study to date was conducted by Dr. Emily Weiss of the ASPCA. According to Dr. Weiss, the shelters sampled were indeed putting more black cats to sleep compared to any other color. However, they were also adopting out more black cats than any other color. The bottom line is, the shelters were taking in more black cats than any other colors simply because it's a very common coat color in that area. According to the ASPCA, once in the shelter, these cats faced similar odds as cats of other colors.
We also checked with the RSPCA, the UK's leading animal welfare organization and asked them if black cats were harder to adopt out. According to their data, black cats do wait longer than average in the shelter before going to their new homes. On average, a black cat spends 33 days in the shelter before being adopted. That's more than most other colors. Only dark tortoiseshell cats share that record. By comparison, gray tabbies spend an average of 23 days in the shelter and ginger cats only 20.
Why such a difference? Could it be local cultural biases? It's hard to tell. The additional data does suggest that black cats may be at a real disadvantage, possibly depending on local trends.
Consider adopting a black cat!
If you're looking to adopt a new cat, please consider cats of all colors and patterns. Don't overlook the black cats in the shelter. Many members of TheCatSite.com have wonderful black feline companions and they can all attest to just how wonderful having a black kitty in your life is.
Each black cat is special. To celebrate Black Cat Appreciation Day and our love for black cats throughout the year, here's a special gallery of beautiful black cats. If you're a regular in our forums you'll probably recognize at least some of them! And if you're not a regular, then join us today and submit your own photos of your cats - black or not!
Black Cats Gallery
Take a few moments to enjoy these photos submitted by our members and appreciate the beauty of black cats. Please share this with your friends, too, to increase awareness to these special felines.