Why black cats make amazing pets, and take good selfies too

In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, an enduring symbol of mystery and rebellion


There’s something about black cats that makes us a bit shivery. These feline shadows have skulked around folklore for thousands of years, and become known as both omens of prosperity as well as misfortune. Yet in recent years, black cats have fallen victim to their own mystery. Not only are they usually the last cats to be adopted from shelters but now the RSPCA has said they are being rejected - because they don’t look good in selfies.

Perhaps it’s not that they’re ugly but because their raven pelts are too much competition for selfie-obsessed catonistas. Their eyes, like citrus orbs, beam out of glossy charcoal fur, and hold you spellbound. They are shadows with eyes, liquid silhouettes that melt back into the darkness if you stare at them for too long.

The camouflage of their coats was what first gave rise to black cats' negative association with witches. Lincolnshire legend dictates that a father and son were walking back from the tavern on a moonless night when startled by movement in the shadows. Throwing stones into the darkness they eventually saw a cat limp into a house nearby. When the woman who lived in the house was seen the next day limping with a bandaged hand in the marketplace, the men suspected that she was a witch who had turned herself into a black cat to carry out her magical mischief. Black cats were seen as nocturnal agents of the occult, invisibly causing chaos before slinking back into the shadows.

Scientists, however, think such camouflage may have benefitted their survival. Eleven of the 17 species of cat that exist have evolved to have black coats, proving that sable fur is most definitely advantageous for a feline. The mutated gene that gives them black fur is more resistant to diseases than others. The research hasn’t been done yet, but it is suspected that black cats cannot get FIV, an AIDS-like syndrome for cats Choose a black cat and you won’t only be sharing your home with a gothic glamourpuss but an amazing mutant creature too.

I’m not the only one who thinks so: Their perceived power led anarchists to adopt the black cat as their symbol. Labour activist Ralph Chaplin, who is often credited with first using the arched black cat of anarchy, told a 1918 trial of industrial leaders, that black cat "was commonly used by the boys as representing the idea of sabotage. The idea being to frighten the employer by the mention of the name sabotage, or by putting a black cat somewhere around. You know if you saw a black cat go across your path you would think, if you were superstitious, you are going to have a little bad luck. The idea of sabotage is to use a little black cat on the boss."

A black cat walks along a fence in front of an orthodox cathedral in the Belarus village of Zapesochie, some 150 km southwest of Minsk on February 19, 2013. Ominous: a black cat in front of an cathedral in Belarus













If selfies are still a stumbling block for you, a few simple tricks will let you photograph your black cat to its full advantage. Their facial expressions are just as captivating as other cats, just choose backgrounds that aren’t too distracting, in colours that enhance their particular shade of sable. Darker backgrounds are best, plus a little extra exposure can help throw their eyebrows and noses into sharper relief. Advice on various forums also suggests cross lighting your cat, so sitting by the window to help pick out all the different shades of their coat might help. Tomorrow is Black Cat Day Black cats need a skilled photographer to bring out their personality





I’d like to say that black cats are friendlier, but there’s not been enough research into the relationship between cat behaviour and cat coats. A 2012 study found that people perceived ginger cats are warm and friendly whereas black cats were seen as aloof. I want to change this perception. All the black cats I’ve ever owned have been extremely loving. For me, orange is definitely not the new black.

A kitten less than four weeks old has been found on a tube train in London A kitten less than four weeks old was found on a tube train in London. Why do people dislike black cats?






















React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...


£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

KS2 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ofsted said "A good larger...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: unbuilt buildings, the new Establishment and polling on Europe

John Rentoul
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London