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Black cats 'not photogenic' enough for selfie generation

Black cats already have a bad rap in the world of superstition. Thought to be bad luck, many people shy away from adopting them at shelters. They're also often the victims of cruel rituals around Halloween; a trend that's so troubling some shelters won't adopt out any black cats around that holiday. But the stigma black cats face is only getting worse. In the selfie generation, where pets are often props and ornaments in pictures, black cats are even less desirable because they're harder to photograph.

The U.K. is having problems adopting out black cats. The RSPCA believes it's because black cats don't photograph well.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Mitchell, used with permission

Many different media outlets have picked this story up. The Daily Mail ran a long piece about it, discussing the black cats at the Battersea Shelter in the U.K., and briefly describing some of their stories. People looking for cats and kittens to adopt regularly pass over kittens as young as ten weeks if they're black. The RSPCA calls the problem "Black Cat Syndrome."

In the U.K., black cats are often considered good luck, rather than bad luck, like they are here in the U.S. So in the U.S., there's a possibility that we'd have a harder time figuring out whether it's superstition, or the idea that black cats aren't as photogenic, or something else entirely, that would contribute to a decline in the adoption of black cats.

Another article in New York Magazine says that our own ASPCA disagrees with the RSPCA's findings. Emily Weiss, vice president of shelter research and development for the ASPCA, says that black fur is a dominant gene, so there will naturally be more black cats (and dogs) in the pet population. Because of that, there will be more black cats and dogs in shelters. She analyzed data from the ASPCA's Comprehensive Animal Risk Database, and found that, at least in the U.S., people actually adopt black cats at a higher rate.

Weiss worries that all this hoopla over low adoption rates due to black cats not being photogenic may end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. She said that talking about the reasons black cats are not as adoptable may start to make potential pet-parents internalize those reasons, and less likely to want a black cat in their house.

But The Telegraph says that pet owners do indeed complain that black cats don't photograph well enough for them when they abandon them at shelters. As The Telegraph article reports, Blue Cross, a U.K. animal charity, says that they've seen a 65% rise in the number of black cats they've taken in between 2007 and 2013. 2007 is when social media really began to take off. It's hard to write this trend off as mere coincidence.

Not everybody agrees that black cats don't photograph well, though. Chris Poole, of Life with Cats and Big Cat Rescue, has a beautiful black cat of his own. He told Life with Cats that he thinks black cats actually take "pawsome" selfies. He and his black cat, Cole, have a video that Life with Cats says proves black cats take great selfies.

While this phenomenon may not yet be established the U.S., there's definitely a worrisome trend in the U.K. about black cats. The "selfie generation" may indeed play a role in this.

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