Black cats are often considered unlucky. If one crosses your path, you're doomed to years of misfortune, or so the lore goes.
But for a black cat on Halloween, the bad luck could be theirs, should they land in the wrong hands.
Back in high school, I volunteered for North Shore Animal League America (NSALA), the largest no-kill animal shelter in the world. And every October, my supervisors would tell me that it was best for us to keep the black cats out of sight. Not only that, but if adopters came in and asked specifically if we had any black cats, that we should tell them "no."
Why? Two reasons: First, some people would come in and adopt these cute, black cats thinking they made good Halloween "props" — and then abandon them later on when they realized they didn't want a pet. Second, there were rumors that other people would use black cats for "satanic rituals."
I called up NSALA to see if they still kept the black cats off the adoption floors around Halloween.
These days, "we don't not let people adopt black cats on Halloween," Kathleen Lynn, NSALA's director of communications, told me. (She couldn't speak to whether that was the case 10 years ago when I volunteered there.) "But we do a lot more vetting of adopters around Halloween. Black cats aren't objects, they're pets. And a pet is a lifelong commitment."
Revelist's senior news and identities reporter Rae Paoletta adopted her black cat Artemis on Halloween last year.
"When I told people I got a black cat on Halloween, they were shocked that I was able to adopt her," she said. "I didn't know until after that some people try and adopt black cats to use as Halloween props, which is so, so wrong."
Rae and her cat Artemis.
And what about these alleged "satanic rituals," which are rumored to involve abuse, or even sacrifice?
"People believed that witches would adopt black cats and use them for their rituals or wrongdoings," Robyn Barbiers, president of the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago, told DNA Info in a 2014 article. "It's proven not to be the case at all." While the Anti-Cruelty Society may have had restrictions on black-cat adoptions in the 1980s and early '90s, Barbiers said that "for the last 20 years or so, we adopt black cats during October with our usual processes in place and have seen no problems."
So maybe this practice is on its way out. If so, that's a huge relief for cat lovers — and even more so for the cats who can find their forever homes any day of the year.