Pansy, a black cat, takes a nap
Pansy, a black cat, naps on the bed of his owner, Tryphena Wells. Black cats like Pansy are less likely to be adopted in shelters due to superstitions. Photo courtesy of Tryphena Wells.

Pansy is a black cat with a lot of personality and a lot of names. His name on official documents is Panther, but people usually call him anything but, including Pansy, Pan Pan and Panzita. 

Tryphena Wells, a sophomore psychology major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Pansy’s owner, said her mom had caught Pansy in a garage at their apartment in Lincoln last year. He was a month old.

At the time, Wells was searching for a black cat to bring home because her first cat growing up was a black cat.

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Tryphena Wells, a black cat owner and sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said her black cat Pansy is a lovey cat. Pansy came into her life during a rough time, and Wells said he brought her good luck. Photo courtesy of Tryphena Wells.

“They’re just super lovey,” she said. “A lot of people stereotype and say they’re evil and they’re this and that, but Pansy’s lovey. All black cats that I’ve met are lovey.”

Despite Oct. 27 being National Black Cat Day,  black cats are less likely to be adopted than other cats due to their color. In a study of almost 8,000 cats in a Kentucky shelter from 2010 to 2011, black cats had a 10% adoption rate while white cats had an 18.8% adoption rate. 

Nebraska shelters are seeing these statistics in their adoptions, even after a decade since this study. 

At Felius Cat Cafe, a foster-based cat rescue in Omaha that doubles as a coffee shop with a cat playroom, 10 black cats await adoption, said Bre Phelan, founder and president.

At Felius, cat lovers can book time to play with the adoptable cats and kittens. The longest it had a black cat in the cafe playroom was for 60 days. The typical amount of time a cat spends there is 14 days. 

“Just from observation, they do tend to be a lot harder to adopt,” Phelan said. “I think a lot of it is preconceived, honestly superstitious, notions that are baked into our culture, which are completely inaccurate.”

Some believe black cats are bad luck, while others fear adopting them near Halloween because someone might harm them.  Lisa Doescher, shelter manager at Animal Shelter of Northeast Nebraska in Norfolk, said there is no research that supports these beliefs. 

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Doris and Francis are two black cats available for adoption at the Animal Shelter of Northeast Nebraska in Norfolk. During October, the Norfolk shelter offers black cats for free. Photo courtesy of Animal Shelter of Northeast Nebraska.

“It’s our job to promote the black cat,” she said. “Just because it’s a black cat, doesn’t make it any less lucky or any less important or meaningful into a family.” 

Phelan said she enjoys seeing people interact with a black cat for the first time. 

“Actually, it’s super funny to me because black cats tend to have some of the funnest personalities,” Phelan said. “They really do; they’re normally very talkative. They’re super playful. They’re very smart, inquisitive cats.”

Wells has seen this personality with Pansy. She said he has lots of energy, especially at night.

“I don’t know if it’s because he’s a black cat or if it’s because he’s from outside, but I think it’s because he’s a black cat because most black cats have spurts of energy, even as they get older,” Wells said. “He runs around like a crazy thing.”

The Animal Shelter of Northeast Nebraska has a promotion during October where all black cats are free for adoption. The shelter also has a Black Fur-day sale on Black Friday to advertise adoption dogs and cats with black fur.

“It kinda opens up the door to more homes, appropriate homes that we maybe wouldn’t find before,” Doescher said.

Both Felius Cat Cafe and Animal Shelter of Northeast Nebraska celebrate black cats on social media around this time. 

“It’s the perfect time to point out that these cats are equally wonderful as any other cat, and we should be celebrating them because they are often looked over,” Doescher said.

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Dustin is one of about 10 black cats up for adoption at Felius Cat Cafe in Omaha. Bre Phelan, founder and president of Felius, said she has seen how black cats are overlooked for adoption. Photo courtesy of Felius Cat Cafe.

Along with social media, Phelan said Felius included some facts about black cats in their monthly newsletter for October to help educate the cat-lover community. 

Spaying and neutering can help with the number of black cats and the general overpopulation of cats in shelters, according to Doescher. Phelan said potential adopters should also consider cats that are overlooked, whether they are considering a black cat, older cat or a cat with medical needs.

“Even if you don’t know how long they are going to live, it is such a huge impact on that animal, and it’ll be so rewarding for you as the adopter, too,” Phelan said.

Doescher, Phelan and Wells agree that black cats are wonderful additions to any family. In Wells’ case, Pansy came at a hard time in her life. He’s always been there for her, and she makes sure he knows with all the catnip and love she gives him. 

“I don’t think they bring bad luck, at least not for me,” Wells said. “Pansy brought good luck because of the hard time I was going through. I guess Pansy was the opposite.”

Jolie Peal is a senior journalism and broadcasting double major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She currently works for Hail Varsity as the content and video production intern. Jolie has also worked for The Daily Nebraskan as senior culture editor, an assistant news editor and a news reporter.