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Myth or Reality: The Halloween Bad Rap on Black Cats

Did you ever wonder why we celebrate Halloween? It’s not one of those Hallmark greeting card holidays like Boss’s Day, Sweetest Day and Secretary’s Day. Nope. Halloween is a bonafide holiday with its roots in the ancient Celtic pagan “summer’s end” festival of Samhain, which occurred on November 1. The ancient Celts believed that on that day, the ghosts of the dead would return to earth and potentially destroy their harvests. To ward off the spirits, people would dress in costumes and light bonfires.


With the advent of Christianity, this Celtic practice was incorporated into the Christian Feast of All Saints, also occurring on November 1. As a result, October 31 became the Eve of All Saints or All Hallows’ Eve (hallows was another word for saints) and the name eventually was shortened to Halloween.


Black cat connection

But just what is the connection with black cats and a day that essentially evolved to fend off ghosts? While cats were beloved and even considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, by the Middle Ages, their luck changed. Cats, particularly black cats, became associated with witches and witchcraft. In fact, by the 1500s, people believed that witches could shape-shift themselves into the form of black cats in order to wreak havoc.


This superstition about witches morphing into black cats crossed the Atlantic with the pilgrims and was a firmly held belief during the Salem witch hunt. From that time forward, black cats became firmly entrenched into legends about witches and so the association with Halloween, a time dedicated to all things “spooky” began.


Adopting cats on Halloween yea or nay?

With all the myths surrounding Halloween and black cats, it’s not surprising that some shelters and rescues have had a policy of not adopting out black cats during October. Animal organizations worry about the safety of black cats since satanic rituals and cults do exist in the country. Others rescues and shelters see things a different way and use the holiday to promote their black kitties, holding special events and offering discounts. Of course, they take precautions when interviewing potential adopters, although this policy should be enforced all times of the year.


Special adoption promotion ideas

Since Halloween might just be the perfect time to encourage the adoption of black cats from your rescue or shelter, here are some ideas to get into the holiday “spirits” from the ASPCA:

  • Give shelter cats Halloween-themed names, such as Salem

  • Freaky Cat Friday: waive fees on cat adoptions

  • Captions on Facebook: Ask social media fans to submit pictures of their cats on your Facebook page and ask for captions

  • Photoshop costumes on shelter cats available for adoption

  • Sell Halloween merchandise

Whatever you decide about adopting out black cats during the Halloween season, it’s a good time of year to emphasize kitty safety. Cats should be indoors on Halloween safe from mischief makers roaming the streets. Also costumed visitors ascending on your home can be unsettling to cats – and dogs – so make sure pets are safely in a room where they can’t get out when the front door opens.

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