Black Dog and Cat Syndrome – It’s Real

A seemily harmless superstition keeping perfectly adoptable pets from finding homes.

Black Dog and Cat Syndrome – It’s Real

August 17th is National Black Cat Appreciation Day, an important pet celebration that is helping change the negative myths surrounding black cats. The rumors claim they are bad luck, a dark omen, an evil spirit in disguise, and so on, but the stigma does not stop there: Black-colored dogs suffer similar unpopularity. It’s a sad but true problem influencing pet adoptions across the United States.

Sad Adoption Rates

Exact numbers are hard to find, but numerous animal shelter volunteers have revealed that pets light in color are not only adopted at a much faster rate (almost four times faster), they are also more likely to find a forever home and avoid being euthanized.

Why is There Such a “Syndrome”?

The media is a major contributor to animal fears. In movies, stories, illustrations, etc., light colors (especially white) are used to depict goodness; meanwhile, the color black is associated with evil villains, dark spirits, and death. Furthermore, black dogs and cats are usually represented as dangerous or mean. Such negative images can influence people's’ perceptions of the darker things in life, leading to a longstanding culture of fear.

Also, pet adoptions frequently occur at face value and a darker face is harder to see, especially in pictures. In a dimly lit room, behind a cage or crate, a black animal’s eyes, nose, and other cute facial features can be masked, giving light-colored pets a clear advantage.

Most of all, it is hard to change history. Black cat superstitions have been influencing people for centuries, so there is a big chance pet adopters do not even realize they are overlooking dark pets.

How Can We Help?

National Black Cat Appreciation Day is the perfect time to start changing the stigmas against black dogs and cats. Here’s how you can help:

•  Get involved with a local shelter to offer a promotion for dark colored pets (like waived or discounted adoption fees).
•  If you are going to adopt a pet, try not to make your decision based on looks. Instead, give the pup or kitten (or both) a chance to show you their true colors by interacting outside of a cage.
•  Start telling new stories to dispel age-old myths. Share pictures of your amazing dark-colored pet with Dog Tag Art or on your own social media pages and tell the world how black pet stigmas are simply not true.


Sending a special thank you to Le Howl Photography for capturing the beautiful black cat and dog featured in this article.