Let’s Talk About Black Cats and Halloween

Holidays are some of the most image-invoking occasions around. Think about Christmas, and what image comes to mind? A Christmas Tree? Santa Claus? How about the Fourth of July? Fireworks? You thought about fireworks, didn’t you? And what about Halloween? While it may not be the very first image that jumps to mind when one thinks of this spooky holiday, there can be no doubt that black cats have an iconic presence during this festive season. While ornamental black cat cutouts and other decorations featuring our raven furred friends can offer fun home and classroom adornments, some people decide to take things a step further and acquire real live black cats during the Halloween season.
 
While black cats and dogs statistically have a much harder time finding forever homes due to their coloring, historically many shelters have seen surges in adoption of black felines shortly before Halloween. Although it may be common knowledge that many shelters now refuse to adopt out black cats on or around Halloween, the varied reasons for this decision may not be as understood. Animal cruelty and sacrificial practices have made the news on a handful of occasions; however, a more widespread concern is that many people acquire black cats as ornaments for Halloween parties and other events.  Often, the same shelters that have adopted out these animals consequently see a similar surge of returned black cats once the party is over, and consequently have a “no black cat adoption” policy for much of October.
 
So, what can we do to not only help black cats but also understand the deep seated nature of the problem? As always, humane education offers a wealth of avenues by which to explore this type of companion animal issue. By first discussing how our feline friends may become homeless, be it abandonment by previous guardians, “outdoor” cats who become lost, or kittens born to feral mothers, students can gain a better understanding of the immense stress placed on shelters to accommodate a growing number of homeless pets. Problem solving activities can then focus on how to minimize this problem through spay/neuter operations, TNR efforts, keeping cats indoors unless supervised, and always adopting instead of buying.
 
Armed with all of this knowledge, students can then engage in all sorts of activities to help the many cats who are waiting for their forever homes, especially the black ones who may be shelter bound a bit longer than their furry counterparts. Sunshine Toys are one easy and affordable mini service learning project that promise to brighten everyone’s day, especially the cats. Everyday cardboard boxes can also be used to create cat houses that will provide shelter animals with hours of fun. From creating PSAs that destigmatize black cats to creating “Happy Sock” toys (socks stuffed full of crinkly wrappers and catnip), empowered students can get more involved in their local communities to ensure that Halloween is a fun and compassionate holiday for everyone.
 
Photo Credit: Bernard C. Black / Flickr

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