For centuries, black cats have been depicted by Western cultures as evil, demonic creatures serving as a source of bad luck, specifically during the Halloween season.
Beverley Nichols, a neonatal specialist at the Humane Society of West Texas, said she is aware of this myth and the negative attitudes some people have toward these animals.
In the past, she said, some of the black cats adopted during the Halloween season have been killed, hurt, abandoned or sacrificed for “satanic rituals.”
Several years ago, the HSWT decided not to adopt out black cats during the Halloween season as a precaution to ensure the animals’ safety.
“We talked to local veterinary offices and they said they hadn’t seen anything like that in a long time,” she said. “We don’t want it to happen again, so to be on the safe side, we don’t adopt out from Oct. 15 through Nov. 1.”
Black cats are no different from cats of other colors, Nichols said, yet many people choose to harm them because of fears associated with superstitions. Many people who adopt black cats also use them as a form of holiday décor, she said, and throw them out into the streets once the Halloween season ends.
“In my experience, black cats are beautiful and very loving,” Nichols said. “I have 12 black kittens — all various sizes and ages — so I’m kind of partial to black cats.”
People who have never had a black cat do not know how loving the cats really are, she said.
Nichols also said she thinks cats are just as loyal as dogs and that perceptions play a huge role in people’s opinions of cats. Many countries, like those in Europe, even consider black cats to be a source of good luck rather than bad luck.
Rob Weiner, humanities librarian at Texas Tech, said several stories and movies depicting black cats as demonic come to mind when he thinks about the myth.
“This negativity stems from literary stories and the way movies portray these animals,” he said. “They are great films — don’t get me wrong — but there is nothing evil about black cats. I’m with the Humane Society, and I think it’s ridiculous that people have this negativity about black cats as they are beautiful, elegant creatures.”
It is criminal how there is often an association with something dangerous soon happening after a black cat crosses someone’s path, Weiner said. The superstition stems from stories and folklore, he said, but has no basis in fact.
“We constantly see the image of a witch and a black cat together, and we automatically view it as evil,” he said. “We don’t feel that way when we see a black dog, now do we? What’s the difference?”
Sara Lisbona, a sophomore exercise and sports sciences major from Flower Mound, said she thinks the media has a huge impact on the way people view black cats.
“I grew up thinking black cats were a sign of bad luck,” Lisbona said, “and I knew to walk the other direction if I saw one.”
Halloween movies and television shows, such as “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” also show black cats as a sign of witchcraft or something evil, she said.
“I agree with the Humane Society, and I don’t think they should adopt out black cats around Halloween,” Lisbona said. “I’m sure there are some weird people out there that want to do those sacrifices, and I think it’s really odd.”
Lisbona said she is a cat lover and does not think cats should ever be tortured, as she has a black cat of her own named Taz.
“There are a lot of black cats on campus, and I don’t think people run away from or want to sacrifice them,” she said. “At least, I hope not.”
The HSWT will have black cats ready for adoption again as soon as Halloween ends, Nichols said.
“A lot of people don’t consider cats to be worthwhile animals that feel emotion,” she said, “but cats make wonderful pets and they will love you forever.”
Nichols said she thinks it is a shame how people often do not take the time to understand cats.
“There is nothing better than having a purring cat sitting on your lap when you’ve had a bad day,” she said. “It really does make everything better.”