Yes, black cats stay in shelters longer than more brightly colored felines.
“There is anecdotal and empirical evidence for black cat bias, the phenomenon where cats with black coats are viewed more negatively, adopted less often, and euthanized more often than lighter colored cats,” authors Haylie D. Jones and Christian L. Hart wrote in their study, “Black Cat Bias: Prevalence and Predictors.”
That study, published in 2019, confirmed older studies that drew the same conclusion.
Coat color is, in fact, the second-most important factor when it comes to adopting cats, as a group of Canadian researchers found in 2016.
“It has been found that black cats take the longest to adopt,” that study said, “with black cats taking approximately two to six days longer to adopt than cats with other coat colour.”
A similar study in Colorado following more than 15,000 cats through the adoption process found that black cats spend an average of 26.25 days in a shelter — the average for other-colored cats was 24.01 days.
“Black cats, regardless of age or sex, require the longest time to adopt,” the study, out of Colorado State University, said. “This additional time in shelters negatively impacts the health and therefore, the welfare, of black shelter cats.”
That’s as true in Connecticut as it is elsewhere. “For many reasons, black cats have a harder time finding their forever home,” Stamford-based rescue organization Friends of Felines posted on their Facebook page.
There is a long history of folklore and myth associated with black cats. Bast was a black, female cat goddess in ancient Egypt, as Harry Oliver explained in his book on folklore, “Black Cats and April Fools.”
Miners and fisherman in Britain of the 1700s would refuse to go to work if a black cat walked in front of them, and black cats have long been associated with witches.
“The fear of a black cat crossing one’s path persists today in the USA and certain other parts of the world,” Oliver wrote.
But according to Marianne Vieweg, superstition is only one possible factor for the difficulty in adopting black cats.
Vieweg, director of Connecticut Cat Connection in Windsor, said her organization places as many as 700 cats a year. The problem, she said, is the volume of black cats.
“In general, it’s a very common color,” she said. “Black and black-and-white are probably about 50 percent of cats. There’s a lot of them.”
Ultimately, Vieweg said, what matters most is a cat’s demeanor.
“Personality is usually what wins people over,” she said.