Changing Planet

Black Cat Appreciation Day: Do You Know Your Melanistic Cats?

Black domestic cat (Wikipedia)

Today is designated as National Black Cat Appreciation Day. It is a tribute—if you will—to any “solid black” domestic cat of pure or mixed breed pedigree, and, perhaps, some of their wild feline cousins.

The “awareness” and “appreciation” day is, in part, intended to help dispel age-old superstitions concerning black cats. Hopes are that the celebration will popularize these single-colored felids among the demographic of cat owners, potential owners, and “foster parents” in the United States. This is all in light of legendary myths that have lead to the demise of black cats for centuries.

Although some cultures consider the black cat to be good luck, as is the case in the UK, most US residents fear these boldly colored feline companion animals—doing everything they can to avoid crossing the path of a black cat. Presumably, they are also less inclined to take one of these dark colored creatures home.

For staff and volunteers at animal shelters nationwide, it is hoped that black cats, which are usually the last to be adopted, if at all, benefit from this day of heightened black cat awareness.

Black jaguar (Wikipedia)

Despite the reluctance of many to keep black cats, solid black is a permitted color option in 22 cat breeds registered by the US-based Cat Fanciers’ Association.

Melanism, which is also seen in 11 of the 36 wild felid species, produces yellow irises as a result of high levels of melanin in the pigment of these carnivorans. In addition, melanism, the opposite of albinism, is most prevalent in male cats.

Black leopard (Wikipedia)

Incidentally, the “black panther” refers to any melanistic jaguar, leopard or jaguarundi.  To date, no record of melanism has been reported in cougars (Puma concolor), including the Florida panther—an endangered subspecies of cougar (aka mountain lion, catamount, puma).

Phenotype transmission analyses suggests that melanism, which is hypothesized to be adaptive in some felid species for ambushing prey, arose independently several times in the cat family (Felidae). More recently, melanism has been suspected of confering some immunological benefit to cats with regard to pathogen resistance.

Remember that keeping large cats is illegal in many states and private ownership is highly frowned upon due to the dangers of working with exotic felids and their challenging welfare needs in captivity.

If you choose to rescue a black cat or any other domestic felid in need, please remember to keep the cats inside or construct an outdoor “catio” enclosure for them.

Mieshelle Nagelschneider on NBC’s Today Show

I also encourage you to read The Cat Whisperer (Random House) by cat behaviorist Mieshelle Nagelschneider. The science-based book is especially recommended if you need to address behavioral issues in multi-cat households or are contemplating relinquishing an animal or rescuing another feline friend.

In my review of the book, I said “The reason people are so mesmerized by house cats is because they are truly miniature versions of lions, tigers, and leopards. Mieshelle explains in an unprecedented and a most accessible way, the behavior of the house cat, with her unique insight into the often misunderstood companion animal that is as wild as we have become civilized.”




With training in wildlife ecology, conservation medicine and comparative psychology, Dr. Schaul's contributions to Nat Geo Voices have covered a range of environmental and social topics. He draws particular attention to the plight of imperiled species highlighting issues at the juncture or nexus of sorta situ wildlife conservation and applied animal welfare. Sorta situ conservation practices are comprised of scientific management and stewardship of animal populations ex situ (in captivity / 'in human care') and in situ (free-ranging / 'in nature'). He also has a background in behavior management and training of companion animals and captive wildlife, as well as conservation marketing and digital publicity. Jordan has shared interviews with colleagues and public figures, as well as editorial news content. In addition, he has posted narratives describing his own work, which include the following examples: • Restoration of wood bison to the Interior of Alaska while (While Animal Curator at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and courtesy professor at the University of Alaska) • Rehabilitation of orphaned sloth bears exploited for tourists in South Asia (While executive consultant 'in-residence' at the Agra Bear Rescue Center managed by Wildlife SOS) • Censusing small wild cat (e.g. ocelot and margay) populations in the montane cloud forests of Costa Rica for popular publications with 'The Cat Whisperer' Mieshelle Nagelschneider • Evaluating the impact of ecotourism on marine mammal population stability and welfare off the coast of Mexico's Sea of Cortez (With Boston University's marine science program) Jordan was a director on boards of non-profit wildlife conservation organizations serving nations in Africa, North and South America and Southeast Asia. He is also a consultant to a human-wildlife conflict mitigation organization in the Pacific Northwest. Following animal curatorships in Alaska and California, he served as a charter board member of a zoo advocacy and outreach organization and later as its executive director. Jordan was a member of the Communication and Education Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (CEC-IUCN) and the Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (BSG-SSC-IUCN). He has served on the advisory council of the National Wildlife Humane Society and in service to the Bear Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA Bear TAG). In addition he was an ex officio member of council of the International Association for Bear Research and Management. Contact Email:
  • Jeannie

    I LOVE my all black kitty named stormy!!

  • JCP

    I certainly hope most people in the U.S. (and elsewhere) aren’t still under the sway of the old black-cat myth. Have had three black cats over the past 21 years and love, love, love them, sweet and gentle every one. Just lost my last, a female, to cancer in June at age 13 and am still mourning her.

  • Jeremiah Ryan

    I big reason why the bubonic plague was so destructive was because people foolishly killed cats out of superstition and silly religious beliefs. Cats are an important part of the cycle of life and help keep the rat population to a minimum.

  • Jeremiah Ryan

    I big reason why the bubonic plague was so destructive was because people foolishly killed cats out of superstition and silly religious beliefs. Cats are an important part of our ecosystem and help keep the rat population to a minimum.

  • Ima Ryma

    I killed a cursed black cat, and then
    Brought another black cat back home.
    I sensed its bad foreboding when
    In between my feet it would roam.
    I tried to kill it, but my wife
    Stopped me, so I killed her instead.
    She’d been a nagging pain in life,
    Sealed her in the cellar wall, dead.
    The black cat disappeared, okay.
    The police came to make a call.
    Screeching cellar sounds led the way.
    The black cat on corpse in the wall.

    “The Black Cat,” a short tale by Poe.
    Black cats are bad luck – doncha know!

  • Catherine Klimenkov

    I am owned by 3 boy cats one of them a Black kitty and he has not given me bad luck as I cross its path everyday.

  • Diane Davis

    I adopted 2 black kittens, litter mates and they have brought me such joy! They definitely have a personality of their.

  • Diana

    I have two rescue black kitties, Rambo and Toby. They were abandoned in my old neighborhood about 8 months apart. I never even considered the color of their fur – I just knew that they were in need of a good home and that I could provide that for them. They are now the best of buddies and live a care-free life, comfortably inside but also have regular access to an enclosed front porch and back porch. They also like to go in the enclosed garage because the lizard hunting seems to be best out there!! I will love my boys forever!!

  • Jamie b

    I have an amazing 7 year old black cat called Clyde and he is the most amazing loving creature and I am so thankful and grateful for him. BLACK CATS ARE FANTASTIC!!!

  • Pearlie

    I have always had a disliking for cats – especially black ones, but on August 17, a tiny, skinny black kitty showed up on our doorstep. My husband and I took pity on her and have kept her. We have now fallen in love with our Bella… and so it was simply amazing when I found out the day she showed up was on Black Cat Appreciation Day!

  • Lee Anne

    Black cats get a bum rap. Mine is sweet, funny, vocal and always knows when I need him next to me. Licorice and I have been through everything together in the past 15 years. He is truly my soulmate. I will ONLY ever own a black cat.

  • Ryan

    My BEAUTIFUL all black; of course Tessa-Queen Tessa-as I affectionately call her is such a BABY;she insists on sleeping in my bed at night. She even won over my mom,miss-you-know-I-don’t-like-all-black-cats. Here’s proof that we as a society still have a long way distance to achieve in avoiding predjudicism towards animals. When ever someone recites one those clench iced age-old stereotypes concerning black cats;I just ask’em “Do you have a black cat?” The answer is of course a resounding “no”. To which I proudly respond;”Well I do.” And present/show them a picture of Tessa. Cue the requisite Aws.

  • Traci

    My black cat helps me through bad bi-polar days and hears me when my asthma is causing problems I do not know about. He ‘chose’ us as parents and we love our 17 year old, grumpy man. Tigerrrr is our playful child with paws.

  • George

    I’ve had a black cat named Kali Ra for six years now. His name comes from putting together the Hindu Black godess’s name of Kali (which was going to be the cat’s name when I thought he was a female) with the name of the Egyptian sun god of Ra. Hence Kali Ra or as I refer to him as “Kali’s Son (sun)”. And my grandmother, who was an Orthodox Jew and was also in stuff like getting her Tarot cards read, told me that while it is considered unlucky by some to have a black cat cross your path, it is suposed to be good luck to own one. Happy Black Cat Appreciation Day to all of you other black cat owners!

  • Jimmie


  • Angela

    I’ve rescued, fostered, and adopted tabby’s and pure black cats (mini Jaguars), and though I love all cats, my black cats (Bear, Doodle, and Wheatgrass) have been my favorites. Why? They’re wilder, more playful, affectionate, and very protective. Kittens up until the age of about 6 months and possibly a bit older have so much energy zooming around the house…knocking things over…scratching and biting things and me, but it’s just a terrible-two phase. During this phase is when people consider taking the Cat to the animal shelter. In doing so, these wonderful creatures are most likely to end up being killed (euthanized). You wouldn’t consider killing your terrible two toddler would you? Being intolerant and giving up on a pet is purely selfish. Once you adopt a pet, be tolerant and consider your pet as a beloved and permanent member of the family.

  • Kathleen Lamb

    Licorice was a little black kitten and the love of my life. She was with me for 16 years and I miss her terribly.

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