Yes, that rich black fur does seem to hold a mystery, and the contrast of bright eyes like gems in that fur is positively enchanting. Each day a spell is cast upon me by one or more black cats, and I am helpless to resist their charms…
Certainly if black cats had some particular magic effect on humans I’d be experiencing the effects five-fold. I admit, I feel a great amount of creative inspiration. Feels like magic to me.
Whether people think black cats are messengers of Satan or symbols of bad luck or good luck or whether people are just plain disturbed and can bring themselves to torture or kill an animal for whatever reason they find, we’ve always been warned to keep black cats safe and indoors around Halloween. Stories of cats, often black, found injured or dead by apparently human means are reported to increase at this time of the year.
Yet in at least one city, Toronto, police reports were examined and no evidence of such activity was found, so they decided to host a special on black cat adoptions. This year the ASPCA agreed with this opinion, saying the greatest danger to black cats is that they are left behind in shelters—which they are, but nothing proves they are at any more danger of abuse than any other time of the year.
I’m not quite ready to give up the idea there are greater dangers to black cats around Halloween than otherwise having seen a few real reports through the years of attacks on black cats, and on cats in general, and even this year have heard of clusters of incidents in my area and in other cities from people who monitor the cat populations in their areas.
But even if some sick people may choose this time of year to perpetrate their twisted need for cruelty, there are other reasons for keeping cats, black and otherwise, safe and indoors around Halloween. If you hand out treats, the whole process can be either frightening or an opportunity for your cat. On the one hand, an open door to the night can look like a once-in-a-lifetime chance at adventure, or it can look like a means to escape this confusing change in schedule and the crazy activity their person is participating in. In either case, escape is entirely possible, and with the increase in foot and vehicle traffic on nights or days when Trick or Treaters are traveling, kitty may not be missed right away or may be nearly impossible to find in the dark on that particular night.
Often the subjects of abuse are homeless cats, who’ve found themselves living on their own after being left behind by humans or becoming lost, or even being born on the streets to these cats. People monitoring and caring for homeless cats already have their hands full providing TNR for these cats and removing the kittens for care and adoption if possible. Perhaps one of the best things we can do to keep our cats safe during Halloween is, all year round, doing our best to reduce homeless cat populations by spaying and neutering our own cats and supporting rescues and shelters in adoptions.
Aside from the dangers of the great outdoors, the great indoors poses threats to their health. One might not think an obligate carnivore would find candy to be a food choice, but one might be surprised to know that some cats will eat anything. Chocolate in particular can be enticing for the smells of the ingredients, yet it’s highly toxic. Candy and snacks in general are typically not part of a cat’s diet and are difficult if not impossible to digest. And even if they’re not eating the candy, the wrapper may be the target if you have a cat who likes plastic, or shiny things, or crackly things or any one of a number of attributes that makes candy irresistible to a kitty looking for entertainment. The Pet Poison Helpline has an article outlining dangers from foods, costumes and other environmental dangers, and Taildom has a complete checklist about costumes, candy and candles.
Mewsette, Giuseppe and Mr. Sunshine are safely inside the screen door, and when I hand out candy I sit outside so the door doesn’t open and close, yet all the kids can see the black cats inside—until the cats decide this wasn’t as exciting as they thought and head for the kitchen because it is, after all, close to their dinner time.
“The Black Cat: Myth, Mystery and Symbolism” by Sally Bahner outlines the black cat myth well, and this link on Catnip Chronicles is illustrated with photos of cats you’ll recognize.
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