The Scratching Post is a weekly newsletter from pets columnist Kate Karp, bringing you all the latest news on pet adoptions, animal welfare and ways to get involved.

The author of this newsletter’s own black cat, Duncan. Photo by Kate Karp.

Mythbuster: Black cats are just cats—or are they?

It’s October, which means Halloween is coming, and this is a pet newsletter, so we’re going to talk about black cats, long emblematic of the occult. Cats in general, and black cats in particular, have a storied past—they’ve been worshiped as deities, enjoyed as subjects of literature and of course, today, they’re an endless source of entertainment on YouTube. But they’ve also been misunderstood and demonized. 

Black cats are just cats with dark fur, but they do bespeak a touch of strange. Their dark pelts virtually disappear into the night as they pierce straight into your soul with their unnerving eyes aglow. They practically insist on the mythology surrounding them.

I wrote an article some Halloween’s past. It includes some explanation and opinion of how cats in general fell out of favor but always landed on their feet. It also touched on a disturbing urban myth that you might be familiar—no pun intended—with: black cats sacrificed in present-day Satanic rituals. Fact-checking resource has shredded that story, revealing a soupcon of fact that developed into an overblown legend that has little basis. 

A Best Friends article (“Myth Buster: Adopting Black Cats at Halloween” by Francis Battista) quoted Helen Woodward Animal Center’s president Mike Arms as saying, “I have heard this old wives’ tale more than once in my career. You would think by now that pet adoption agencies would be professional enough to be able to screen potential adopters in evaluating a good home life.” 

Several shelters and rescues nonetheless stay on the safe side and put the kibosh on black-cat adoption in the weeks leading up to Halloween— but some animal advocates say that it doesn’t do the cats any favors. Black cats are usually the last to be adopted from shelters, whether out of superstition or because their faces disappear when they close those glowing eyes. 

Happily, responsible rescues and shelters do have stringent standards and procedures for adopting cats of any color and pets of any species. They’ll know who the adopter is, where they live, whether the landlord will allow a pet—everything.

“We maintain the same rigorous standards around Halloween that we do throughout the year,” said Deborah Felin Magaldi, cofounder of Helen Sanders CatPAWS. “These myths cost lives—the most dangerous place for a black cat—or any—to be is in some public shelters.”

A loving, responsible home is the best place for any cat. If you’re worried about danger befalling black cats on Halloween, keep them indoors, for crying out loud. That goes for any cat at any time of the year.

Pets to adopt or foster

I popped by Long Beach Animal Care Services looking for adoptable black cats this week but became smitten with a number of orange ones. Orange cats are a black cat’s Halloween counterpart. Not that they should be looked upon as décor, but it’s a heck of a good excuse to give another needy Halloween icon a chance at adoption. Volunteer Janet, who happily does the cuddling duties, agrees.

Meet all these cats at the shelter, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, at the entrance to El Dorado Park (no parking fee for shelter visitors). You can email [email protected] to speed the process for adopting or fostering any pet, but I heartily recommend going in person because you’ll also meet the others hoping to live a life of no mean tricks and many treats. And the likely opportunity to smell your feets.

Nemo reaches out for more snuggles and pets. Photo by Kate Karp.

You wouldn’t believe what Nemo (ID#A704161) looked like when he came in. He was obviously ill, but the vets knew that they could make him the beauty he is. He’s a year old and ready to play with you! Yep, that’s Nemo’s arm reaching out to Janet—”Why’d you quit the cuddles, lady?”

Goru poses with Janet. Photo by Kate Karp.

Goru (ID#A702223), 2 years old, likely got his name from an Urban Dictionary definition: “Goru is the most lovable. Goru secretly loves cuddles. Goru loves to create things and make other people smile. If you have a Goru in your life, you are super lucky!” Couldn’t have said it better.

Jerry is 13 years old and needs a new home. Photo by Kate Karp.

Last but not least is Jerry (ID#A708107). Jerry is 13 years old and was found wandering the street, weighing only a little under 7 pounds. He’s a big fellow, so that’s way too thin. Jerry was probably someone’s sweetheart once, and you can tell by the way he welcomes snuggles and scritches. Golden cats deserve to spend their golden years in a loving home. All cats do, in fact.

Pet events and announcements

The holiday season has begun, and there’s no better treats than pet-themed Halloween stuff! Get into costume (or not), get your doggie dressed up (the cat may have a word with you about that), and let’s get eerie with our dearies!

Feline Good Social Club’s Friday the 13th Sound Healing Event

Ready yourself for a late afternoon of eldritch bells, gongs and aural brushstrokes as the Social Club kitties rub against your feet and purr as you lie there, taking it all in. Sound healing uses gongs, bowls and other instruments to calm a superstitious soul, and the cats finish the job. They’re all adoptable, by the way. Bring a yoga mat, blankie, pillow or anything to add to your comfort—and wear loose clothing.

Friday, Oct. 13, 5:30 to 6:45 p.m., Feline Good Social Club, 301 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach, tickets are $30.

Kitten Cuddles and Wine Tasting

OK, it’s not scary, not even with orange and black kitties, but a combination of little familiars and superb examples of liquid courage will give you great odds against anything going bump in the night, unless it’s your cat knocking a vase off the shelf. Sparkly cat ears will come with every bottle purchase. You’ll explore 10 curated wines selected by The Wine Country oeno-smarties, and 50% of ticket sales will go to the kittens at The Little Lion Foundation for their care, food, spay/neuter and anything else they need. You can meet some of them in the kitten play tent set up at The Wine Country, and you can even adopt one or two to take home and chase away the night ghoulies.

Sunday, Oct. 15, 2 to 3:30 p.m., The Wine Country, 2301 Redondo Ave., Signal Hill, tickets $30, no reservations needed.

Long Beach Animal Care Services annual Howl-o-Ween Festival

LBACS staff and volunteers promise that you’ll have a “hare-raising adventure” going trick or treating through the trails. They’ll wend and wind through the animal-education village; past kennels to participate in Bark-o-Treat and Pet Ofrenda for the cats, dogs and bunnies; down to the Dia de los Muertos memorial to commune with spirits of past pets; bounce the spirits out of you at the Ohhh-possum Patch; and grab a few spooky snacks for the road. Last trail entry is at 5 p.m. Of course, if you want to work some heavy magic, you can bring home a new “drool ghoul” or a not-so-scaredy-cat and share each other’s enchantment. The Festival is most certainly a family event, but only for the human haunters! For more information, call 562-570-1745.

Saturday, Oct. 21, 2 p.m.–6 p.m., Long Beach Animal Care Services, 7700 E. Spring St., Long Beach, no parking fee for shelter visitors, $5 donation to Partners of Parks/Friends of El Dorado Nature Center.

To see a list of local animal rescue groups, click here.

Editor’s note: In the Friday, Sept. 30, newsletter, “How vets are fighting a deadly canine virus,” the text was updated to emphasize that the 100% success rate of Elanco’s Canine Parvovirus Monoclonal Antibody parvo treatment was achieved in a laboratory environment; also, 270 dogs at Fix Long Beach did survive parvo with the antibody treatment, but some cases of the virus were too advanced and several dogs did die.