I missed an anniversary earlier this month. September 1 marked a year since Scarlet Kitty came to live with me. Scarlet was lucky. As a black cat, she would have suffered from Black Dog Syndrome. Black Dog Syndrome is the shelter term for the fact that black dogs and cats have a harder time getting adopted.
You see a lot of pictures of Scarlet here because she likes to be a part of everything. Plus I think she makes everything look a little better. She adores new things and all the work on the house has been so fun for her. She inspects and explores EVERYTHING.
She is especially fond of walking around with me to see what I might be doing and if she would like to do it too. It is very flattering to have a cat think you are endlessly interesting.
Scarlet was clearly an outdoor cat before she was in the shelter. I’m sure she had friendly interactions with people but she has had to learn some house-kitty basics. She didn’t understand the concept of sitting on the lap until very recently. I kept putting her in my lap and she would look around and then dash off like I might be planning to cut her nails or something less fun than ear-scratchin’.
Just this morning, I tried for the thousandth time to give her a kiss. Kisses have been very confusing to her. She would duck away and look at me like I was crazy. Eventually, she realized kisses weren’t so bad and she would offer the top of her head or neck for a kiss. This morning, for the first time, I went to give her a kiss and she reached her little paw out to the side of my face and brushed her nose against me. She kissed me back! It was very sweet. I’m still working to teach her the forehead bump.
Scarlet is a lovely, lively, engaging girl. She is so sweet and curious and has been such a pleasure to live with! I feel like I totally scored bringing her home. But Scarlet had been in the shelter for over seven months before I adopted her. Seven months! It is likely she sat in the shelter for so long because she is a black cat.
It’s crazy that people would be superstitious about black cats. In a 2008 article of the Seattle Times:
A 2002 study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science that examined adoption rates over nine months in a California pound found that black cats were about half as likely to be adopted as tabby cats and two-thirds less likely than white cats.
Black dogs don’t fare any better. There can be many reasons black cats and dogs get passed over. Some of it may be superstition or prejudice, but it can also be as simple as they don’t catch our eyes as quickly and they don’t photograph as well. In 2012, A Pittsburgh news station reported,
…it is documented that the average dog or cat spends about 18 days in a shelter before being adopted.
For black animals, it’s about 30 days or longer, especially cats.
I didn’t know this when I adopted my first greyhound, Sapphire, who was also black.
I also heard that the bigger, black, male dogs (especially seniors) had a tougher time finding homes so I vowed to look at the big, black, males when I was ready for another greyhound. I was lucky and a big, black, senior, male greyhound with special needs dropped in my lap. He ended up being the best dog I’ve ever had. He was the sweetest, most perfect boy. For anyone who has ever thought that it could be hard to bond with a senior; it isn’t true! The strongest bonds I’ve ever had with an animal were with seniors. They KNOW when they have landed in a good home and they love to distraction!
So spread the word; when you are looking to adopt, or a friend is looking to adopt, be sure to look for that black dog or kitty to see if they are a good fit for your family. Giving them a chance may be the smartest thing you have ever done.
I’m so happy to have Scarlet with us and she makes me laugh every day.
Spay and neuter your pets, keep them vaccinated, love them like family, and it will come back to you hundredfold.
One day, you may find you ask yourself, “who rescued who?”