Unlucky: Black cats are finding themselves unwanted again, but not for superstitious reasons. Photo: Gary Warrick
For centuries they have faced suspicion, hostility and even death as a result of the bad luck they are said to carry with them. But now black cats are apparently facing a new existential challenge – the rise of the “selfie” in the age of social media.
Hundreds of the animals are being abandoned as their owners complain that black animals do not photograph as well as their lighter and brighter-coloured counterparts, making them less popular with those who enjoy posting self-portraits with their pets on sites such as Facebook.
The RSPCA in the UK said that 70 per cent of more than 1,000 cats in its care in Britain are black or black and white. Other rescue centres said that prospective owners were asking for a cat of any other colour than black.
The Millwood Cat Rescue Centre in Edwalton, Notts, which has been running for 20 years, is “full to bursting”, according to its owners. Ronnie McMillen, 71, the centre’s founder, said: “We have had a lot of black cats in this year – people don’t like black at the moment.
“Others look at the black cats and then just say 'Oh, have you got anything else?’ Ginger male cats are the most popular but I think the black cats are beautiful and photograph fine.”
Black cats have been the subject of conflicting myths since the Middle Ages, when they were associated with witchcraft. Many Britons reject the negative superstitions, believing on the contrary that they bring good luck.
However the RSPCA said it was struggling to rehome abandoned black cats, partly because of the difficulty of capturing the cats in pictures, making owners less likely to “engage” with those animals in online profiles. A spokesman said: “In UK folklore, black cats symbolise good luck, yet sadly in reality they are not so lucky.
“There are a number of reasons for this, ranging from the fact that black cats are harder to tell apart than cats with more distinctive markings and the fact that black animals tend not to photograph as well.”
A spokesman for Blue Cross, the animal charity, said it had seen a 65 per cent rise in the number of black cats it took in annually between 2007 and 2013, to 895. This year it has taken in 506. She said the sharp rise in recent years suggested the selfie trend may be partly responsible.
Hayley Plows, of the RSPCA’s branch in north-east London, added: “We had some photos of a single eight-week-old tabby kitten on our Facebook page and received around 30 calls in two days from people keen to adopt him.
“We had maybe one call in relation to the black kittens which were posted for rehoming on the same day.”
Gabriella Fletcher, 20, from Stourbridge, West Mids, who owns a 16-year-old black cat named Susie, said she regularly posed for selfies with her pet. She said: “I like to upload them to Facebook, but it is hard to get a good picture as you can’t really see how beautiful Susie is.
“But it’s sad that people feel the need to overlook them just because they are black. They are just as special as any other cat.”
The Telegraph, London