Walking into the cat wing of the Bloomington Animal Shelter, the door to the largest cat room is to the right. The window is decorated with an image of the late internet sensation Lil’ Bub and the room is dedicated as “Lil’ Bub’s Big Cat Colony.”
Smaller rooms and a stack of kennels extend down the hall. In each room, several cats take their afternoon naps on cozy beds or explore a kitty jungle gym of shelves, cat trees and swinging bridges.
In one of the small rooms, a coal-black cat with green eyes looked up from the window seat and meowed as potential adopters came to visit. The black cat’s name was Lifetime, a fitting reminder of the commitment of pet adoption.
At the front desk, a couple requested a black cat citing that they have such a difficult time getting adopted. At the same time, Lifetime was on her way out the door with a new owner. The receptionist stopped them and thanked them for adopting a black cat because they stay in the shelter for such a long time.
The long-told tale among cat lovers is that black cats struggle to find homes, but according to Bloomington Animal Shelter data since 2017, black cats do as well getting adopted as the rest.
During that time, 55.6% of black cats were adopted versus 57.3% of cats of other colors, a difference of fewer than two cats in 100.
Emily Herr, outreach coordinator for Bloomington Animal Shelter, said she believes the myth used to be true. But Herr said animal lovers have become sympathetic to the black cat’s plight and turned the situation in the opposite direction.
“People are now more likely to adopt black cats because they do feel that they are less likely to get adopted,” Herr said.
In the data, the median time black cats spent in shelter was 22.3 days, virtually the same as cats of other colors at 22.4 days.
The superstition black cats are bad luck is one of the reasons why they may once have faced adoption discrimination and still might in other places. It stems from associations with witchcraft and death, according to the Spruce Pets.
Black cats might be chosen less often because they disappear in the shadows of shelter cages, according to the Washingtonian. By placing most cats in well-lit rooms, the shelter has largely eliminated visibility as a factor.
The data from shelter did reveal one way black cats differed from the rest of their furry friends. The highest rate of black cats returned to the shelter is in November, when “spooky season” is over. One in five of the cats returned during November were black, a 26% higher rate than during the other 11 months of the year.
The more animal activists and pet enthusiasts spread the word about black cats languishing in shelters, Herr said the more people make a point to adopt them. Until the last five to 10 years, shelters commonly banned adoptions of black cats in October.
According to the Daily Courier, this was due to Satanic Panic-era fears of witchcraft and Satan-worship, which made shelters worry people would adopt them around Halloween to torture or ritualistically kill them. With black cats already adopted at lower rates, this meant there was an entire month when they could not find forever homes at all.
Herr said the Bloomington Animal Shelter used to have such a policy, but has since stopped the practice.
“We found that those were pretty counterproductive because our screening system that we have in place should work any time of the year,” Herr said.
The shelter typically runs special adoption events for black cats at spooky times of year like Halloween and Friday the 13th. However, most adoption events are suspended due to the pandemic, but the shelter hopes to resume them sometime next year.