The arching black cat is probably one of the more recognizable symbols of Halloween. Also recognizable at this time of year? A plethora of media stories focused on black cats. For example, one article points out it can be challenging to adopt a black cat around Halloween, claiming shelters don't allow adoptions around the holiday over fears of them being used for blood rituals and as costume accessories. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also revealed its own horror stories involving black cats and Halloween.
In reality, black cats are no more in danger than any other cat, either during Halloween or any other time of year. Furthermore, shelters and rescue organizations are not necessarily taking black cats out of circulation. However, experts do recommend that cats — regardless of their color — be kept safe and indoors on Halloween night.
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Are Black Cats Safe During Halloween?
One myth that should be shelved is that black cats are not safe on Halloween. "There is an old fear that black cats are adopted by people with bad intentions, which is pure myth," commented Becky Robinson, president and founder of cat advocacy organization Alley Cat Allies. "Nothing in our experiences indicates that this is true," added Rob Halpin, Director of Communications for animal welfare organization MSPCA-Angell. "From our perspective, the notion that black cats may be in danger around Halloween time appears to be a myth."
Veterinarian Shadi J. Ireifej, Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of VetTriage.com, shared a research study that indicated that superstitious people did tend to regard black cats with more suspicion. However, he said, "in a clinical setting, and in my 14 years of experience, I have not observed the same," adding that medical literature doesn't support the idea of black-cat sacrifices, either.
Also, the media stories might indicate that black cats are taken out of the adoption pool in October. But the reality is different. MSPCA-Angell's Halpin said that "we adopt black cats out at the same time, at all times of year."
But what about the stories about cruelty to and sacrifice of black cats? Stevens dismisses that claim. "We just don't see evidence of it, so we don't prohibit the adoption of black cats in general, regardless of the holidays," she commented.
In fact, any reputable rescue organization or shelter should conduct a complete vetting process of any individual wanting to adopt any kind of animal. "We do perform the normal vetting process to screen potential pet owners," Stevens explained. "Our opinion is that people are generally wonderful," Stevens said. "So, we don't feel extra-protective of black cats in any other part of the year."
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Ways to Keep Your Black Cat Safe
Halpin advised that cats, regardless of color or type, should be kept indoors at all times, whenever possible. In addition to protecting the cats, "this also helps protect wild animals — such as small mammals and birds — from the dangers of cat predation," he said. "Keeping your cat indoors is the number-one way to keep it safe at Halloween, and every other time of the year."
Ireifej agreed, pointing out that Halloween brings with it a more considerable amount of foot traffic, meaning that outdoor cats are in more risk of trouble. Whether your cat is content indoors or wanders the great outdoors, an identification collar and microchip are essential. "These aid in relocating your cat if they escape or become lost," Ireifej said.
The following tips should also be considered to keep your cat safe on Halloween:
- Watch out for candles, especially those in pumpkins. Besides being attracted to the flickering flames, cats can also accidentally knock over candles when jumping on tables or other furniture. The result could be bad burns.
- Place candy well out of reach. Cats can be sneaky and might find the scent of chocolate (as well as the bright, shiny foil wrappers in which it is encased) enticing. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to pets. And foil wrappers can behave like razor blades in a cat's digestive system.
- If you absolutely must put your cat in a costume, be sure it is very, very pet-friendly. Avoid rubber bands, as they can become embedded in fur, causing discomfort. Also, be sure the costume doesn't hamper the cat's vision.
October is Black Cat Awareness Month
Many shelters and rescue organizations observe and celebrate October as International Black Cat Awareness Month, with October 27 designated as National Black Cat Day. Black cats have their own month to decrease superstitions about black cats and encourage more adoptions. In fact, this is the time of year when many shelters and rescue operations suggest knocking down the fear of black cats and bringing one home. Other suggestions for increasing awareness include donating toward black cats' care and sharing black cats' positive qualities on social media.
The Bottom Line
Many myths exist at this time of year about black cats and people's treatment of them. Black cats are not likely to be the target of cruel rituals or abuse during October, but they — and other animals — need to be kept safe at this time of year. Tips include keeping your cat indoors, making sure candy is out of their reach and placing candles and other flammables in locations that are not in the path of your feline.