Thursday, March 10, 2011

Get lucky: Adopt a black cat

By Susan Thurston, Times Staff Writer 

Chances are that anyone who avoids crossing the path of a black cat doesn't own one for a pet.
For animal shelters, that can prove problematic.
"Black cats are probably the most difficult of any cat — kitten or adult — to adopt,'' said Rick Chaboudy, executive director of the Suncoast Animal League. "There are a lot of people who still believe they bring bad luck.''
The Palm Harbor rescue group routinely gets prospective cat owners who say they don't care about a cat's age, temperament or fur length, he said. They just don't want it to be black.
The problem became dire a few years ago when two-thirds of the shelter's adoptable cats were black.
To find some of them families, the shelter organized a Black Cat Adopt-A-Thon Weekend, which started on a Friday the 13th. They also made black T-shirts listing 13 reasons to adopt a black cat, from "They are easy to find in a snow storm" to "Love knows no color."
The Adopt-A-Thon and others that followed raised awareness of the cats and substantially reduced the shelter's black cat population. People unaffected by superstitions gave the Midnights, Shadows and other black cats a second look.
"Black cats are actually very loving,'' Chaboudy said. "They have a tendency to be lap cats. They have a calm demeanor, which is the opposite of what people expect.''
Black cats have long been associated with witchcraft, magic and Halloween. Depending on where you live in the world, cats can bring good luck or bad.
Not all local shelters have trouble finding them homes. Older cats actually have a harder time than black cats, said Jennie Briguglio, a director at the SPCA Tampa Bay. Everyone loves the kittens.
Last year, the shelter organized a Black Cat Friday to coincide with Black Friday shopping. It boosted cat adoptions, overall, but not necessarily those of black cats. The latest promotion targets older cats.
The Humane Society of Tampa Bay treats black cats the same as every other cat and reminds anyone who's superstitious that black cats are considered lucky in parts of Asia and the United Kingdom. Anyone who adopts a cat is lucky, in general, because they have a companion for life, said executive director Sherry Silk.
Some shelters go a step further by banning black-cat adoptions around Halloween for fear that someone will abuse them or use them in a prank. Friends of Strays in St. Pete suspends the adoptions annually from Oct. 1 through early November.
The Halloween moratorium was widespread several years ago before shelters started microchipping animals as a common practice.
"People aren't going to pay money to adopt cats and do something to them,'' and Chaboudy of the Suncoast Animal League.

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