Is Halloween Dangerous for Black Cats?

For the second time today, I saw warnings about dangers for black cats during the month of October. The message is that black cats are hated, or feared, in the United States simply for the color of their fur. There are even claims that people like to use black cats for ritual sacrifice during Halloween. Really?!

The Halloween ritual angle is an extraordinary claim and I haven't been able to find solid evidence to back it up. There's an in-depth article on Snopes which looks at the anecdotal evidence for ritual sacrifice during Halloween, as well as the problem of animal abuse and mutilations in general. There are similar articles on sites like PetsAdvisor and VetStreet.

While the stories of cat sacrifice during Halloween aren't supported by official statistics, superstitions surrounding black cats create an illogical fear that can have serious repercussions.

For one thing, black cats (or cats in general) that are out on the streets may be harassed or harmed by kids (or adults) who think they are "unlucky" or somehow related to witchcraft. Black cats may also be passed by in shelters or given up for adoption for the same reasons.

Yet, the idea that black cats are unlucky is just a superstition. And it isn't universal. In Britain and Japan, black cats are considered lucky. Except in Yorkshire where reportedly it's lucky to own a black cat, but unlucky to have a black cat cross your path. (Just try to figure that logic out!)

Speaking of opposites, there's also some concern that black cats may be at risk just for being associated with the holiday. People who do like black cats may adopt them as Halloween gifts (or photo props) only to lose interest after the holiday. Just like buying baby chicks at Easter.

In an effort to help, some shelters do not allow the adoption of black cats during the weeks leading up to Halloween. These shelters mean well, but there are drawbacks to that policy as it keeps pets from finding good homes during those weeks. And that can be a serious problem in crowded shelters.

This whole issue is just another example of how superstitions and magical thinking are bad for our society. So what can you do?

Beyond superstition, Halloween does bring some general risks for pets. Unattended candy can make snacking pets sick, decorations can be hazardous and a flood of trick-or-treaters can be stressful (or let an indoor pet sneak out). So it is good to know how to keep pets safe during Halloween.

You can also do your part in tamping down this "unlucky" myth. Speak up when people voice their fears of black cats (or other superstitions). These myths are not as harmless as they may seem.

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