As much as I like Halloween, I do believe that this custom does a great disservice to black cats. Seeing as it is coming up at the end of the month I decided to declare October to be the Black Cat Awareness Month.
I have another reason however to choose October as this is the month when I got the first of my two black cats. The story is a sad one actually even though it turned out to be a lucky one for them.
It was a cold October morning in 2008 when me and my boyfriend decided to drive to a cat shelter in Colmar, France, just about 40 minutes from where we live. I had wanted a cat for quite a while and seen the homepage of the shelter. When we arrived I was shocked. I had never seen a place like this before. The place looked rundown and there were only dilapidated houses and shacks. Most of them were lacking any kind of heating. Dozens of mangy looking stray cats were roaming the place and big noisy dogs in cages barked frantically. It was noisy, dirty and off-putting. Total chaos. We looked around a little bit and finally asked someone for help. They were quite nice and later I understood that these people are doing a terrific job. None of them gets paid and they really struggle. That week they had received far over 100 new cats, many of them not older than a few days. Usually in French shelters the animals get put down within a month, if no one takes them but in this one they don’t do it and they often take those from the so-called “killing-shelters”.
“What type of cat are you looking for?” the woman asked us.
“Preferably a quiet one.” I said.
“Really?” I did not understand her emphasizing this word as I did not know that quiet meant shy, meant maybe difficult. A combination no one would want. “Long hair, short hair, any ideas about the color?” she asked next.
“Black. Short hair.”
I have hardly ever seen anyone speed like this. She ran in front of us to a little house and up some horrible stairs that looked as if they were going to cave in any minute. When we stood in front of the door she asked again “Black, right?”
I nodded and then she opened that door and I swear, until the end of my days, I am never going to forget this. The little house was swarming with black cats.
“You know,” she said, a little embarrassed. “In France, we are still quite superstitious. No one wants a black cat. That’s why we have at least two houses full of black cats.”
There was one very tiny, little cat, a female that had already been at the shelter for almost a year although she was barely 1.5 year old. I looked at her and I knew: That’s her. I realised later that if we hadn’t taken her, no one would have. Too little, too timid and – let’s face it – hard to handle as she was semi-feral.
We had to come back the next day as she needed a rabies shot to be allowed to cross the border. At home we spoke about names and decided to call her Isis as she looked quite Egyptian. The next day when we returned she had received her shot and her international passport had been fixed.
“I’m sorry,” said the girl who was there. “I had to put a name in the passport, else she cannot cross the border but you can always change it later.”
Guess what name she chose? Right, Isis.
A month later we decided to get another one because she did not like to stay alone during the day. And that’s how we got another black cat. Little Max. He was only 4 months old but extremely sick when we got him. He almost didn’t make it.
They are both lovely cats, although Isis is difficult and accepts hardly anyone but me. She was frankly bad when we got her. She seemed traumatized and had probably been hit and one leg looked as if it had been broken.
I often ask people what they think of black cats and mostly get the same reactions. I asked the vet if she knew if it was any better in Switzerland or Germany and she said that it was the same as in France. Black cats will sit in shelters endlessly. Until they get sick or lose their mind. Apart from England, where black cats are said to bring luck, they are not appreciated. I think this is very sad. When I watched the IKEA TV commercial with the cats in it I was stunned once more. Not one black cat in it.
Black cats are not more difficult than other cats. They are not moodier or less friendly. They have wonderful shiny fur and their eyes look so smashing in those dark faces.
Should you consider to take a cat from a shelter, think of the black cats who have a much smaller chance of being taken.
Do you have any thoughts or stories to share about black cats?