Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why you should take a closer look at black cats this Halloween

Maggie the black cat in front of Halloween decorations

At the moment, I have two predominantly black cats: Maggie and Jasper. Both are extraordinarily camera shy, so they don't often appear on this blog. But today, I thought it might be important to coax them out into the limelight.

Why? Because black cats like them have a slightly harder time getting adopted. And since shelters are full-to-bursting with cats right now, I think it's important for everyone to understand why peering past fur color and looking at personality might be important.

First off, I should point out that a few recent studies suggest that there is no accepted bias, when it comes to shelter pet decisions. One study, for example, found that people shopping for dogs tended to pick critters based on age and temperament, not color. But still, anecdotal evidence suggests that black cats tend to languish in shelters a little longer than their more colorful counterparts. Folks at the Cat Adoption Team suggested, in a recent article, that a herd of kittens leaves the shelter in a pretty predictable pattern: The colorful ones go first, and the black ones are left behind.

Now, this really makes no sense, as a cat's personality isn't determined solely by color. Black cats aren't destined to have certain personality traits that other colors might not have. But, in our modern media age, black cats might struggle because they just don't photograph well.

Check out this photo of Beorn. Note how his green eyes and silky fur just seem to compel your attention.

Beorn the cat showing off his green eyes

Now look at this photo of Colette (an adoptable cat at Willamette Humane Society). I took this shot with the same camera and used the same color-correction techniques, but her fur just isn't as bright and her eyes don't have the same glow.

Colette the black cat looking wistful

Now, if I was shopping for cats online, I might be more drawn to a bright and colorful cat like Beorn. He's just a little easier on the eye. Since so many shelters use online photo galleries to portray their pets, this could be a very real adoption barrier that's hard to overcome.

So, if you're in the market for a cat, I encourage you to head into the shelter and take a peek at the dusky kitties. You might be able to help break the bias and get a great companion in the process.

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