Left Behind: Why Aren’t People Adopting Black Cats and Dogs?

Larger black pets are the ones you see most often in the shelter. Quite a few people seem to dislike them. But why are they left, unadopted, when they are just as smart, beautiful, furry and lovable as their more colorful counterparts?

by faeryboots via Flickr

Potential pet adopters seem to have an aversion for black pets. For many pets left unadopted in shelters, their color seems to be their only fault.

by ginnerobot via Flickr

They are overlooked when they can be amazing pets just like the merle collie mix in the next cage.

But why, exactly, are they so forgotten?


Superstitious people are afraid of black cats. The fallacy that a black cat crossing your path means bad luck has persisted from the Middle Ages, when commoners believed that witches could turn into dark-colored felines.


by JustMcCollum via Flickr

Big black mixed breed dogs are just too big for some people. That little Chihuahua is so much more manageable. And some of us instinctively believe that big dogs are aggressive. That is completely false: in a recent study, small dogs topped the list of most aggressive dogs. Daschunds were number one, and larger dogs came much further down the list. Big black dogs also have a bad reputation: in books such as “Harry Potter” they are bad omens.

It’s Dark In Here!

by Hotash via Flickr

Black animals can be harder to spot in the shadows of a cage. (Although with bigger dogs this is no problem!) They are harder to photograph for on-line listings. Older pets with a smidgeon of white on their muzzle will be mistaken for an arthritic twelve year old dog who is deemed too old for adoption by many. It may also seem harder to read the expressions of black dogs, as they may have no defined eyebrows.

And, think about it: You see a muscular guy walking down the street, holding the leash of a huge black mixed breed dog. You automatically shy away from him, thinking he is a “tough guy,” someone not to be messed with.

Love is Blind

Many black colored pets make wonderful companions regardless of their coat color. Remember: love knows no size nor color.

by randyloodle via Flickr

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User Comments
  1. willie wondka

    On September 4, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    i know a lady who homes cats and kittens, all colours go except the black ones and the black and white ones, as you said they like the other colours with no regard to the others who may have better personalities and better temperments and these are so much more loving.Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sarah

    On September 4, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Another theory I’ve come up with about this tendency in regards to cats is that black cats tend to be one of the few kinds of colouring that fail to have a pattern. While volunteering for a cat adoption agency I noticed that people seemed to be drawn to the cats with beautiful tiger stripes and tabby colouring. While black cats might not display dizzy patterns, they are still remarkably beautiful creatures, and I hope that more people will become aware of their friendly, loving natures. Thanks so much for this post!

  3. Tiger

    On September 4, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I have two large black mixed breed dogs, (a german shepard/golden retriever/black lab, and a black lab/pointer) as well as two black/white cats, as well as a grey/white cat, a tabby cat, and a Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier. The black dogs are both sweet and loving, and extremely loyal–possibly to a fault–if i’m home sick, I get no time by myself, both of them need to be right by me…though I’m not sure what they’ll do if I need a glass of water!

  4. Erin

    On September 4, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    I’ve worked at the same pet store for almost 10 years. There’s actually a computer listing for “Kitten-Black 1/2 off’ because no one ever wants them. Black puppies are also harder to sell. Seeing friendly pets get passed by for the more ‘attractive’ ones is really annoying. Then again, if they were more popular I wouldn’t have 2 of the best pets ever! (I have a black Husky mix an a black male cat with a deformed tail) They sat at the pet store getting passed up for other animals.. my cat was there for 3 weeks and my boss didnt even charge me for him!

  5. Janet

    On September 5, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Black cats are harder to adopt!!! It really is silly to pass up a cat because he/she isn’t pretty or cute. Cats should be adopted for their personality not their looks. As it happens I have never met a black who was not very sweet and loving.
    WARNING, watch your black cats during the month of October! It is true that bad people can do horrible thing to black cats for Halloween!

  6. Jessie

    On September 5, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I have a HUGE black cat that I adopted from a shelter, and he is the sweetest, most affectionate animal I have ever met. Everyone who meets him loves him, and I am so glad I picked him over all others. It is sad that people can be so superficial when it comes to something this silly.

  7. RA Butler

    On September 6, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    I’m curious to know where the people live that the postings are from.. I have worked in rescue for over twenty years and live in New England transporting many dogs up from the South to permanent homes.

    It always perplexed me why the Southern rescues/shelters said that black dogs (I don’t know about cats) are quite often not photographed because the ACO doesn’t like them and are rarely adopted out.. In New England, from the dogs I have flown or driven up, a LOT of them are black and I see many people walking black dogs in the neighborhoods I have lived in…. So is this more of a Southern issue????? I have always wondered about that…

  8. Sasha

    On September 6, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Black colored animals are always harder to adopt. I wish the majority of people were like us (those posting comments) and can see the personality and beauty that lies behind the coat. I have a full black cat (he\’s the most loving cat I\’ve ever owned) and a black and white cat (which she is also very sweet). It\’s in my nature though, to pick out the animals that others pass by. As said in the blog, love knows no size nor color.

  9. Nicole

    On September 9, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I work in rescue (in WA state) and can verify that black cats are the hardest to adopt out, with tuxedos (black & white) being the next hardest.

    Personally, black cats are my favorites! They always have been, and since I was a child I’ve never been without a black cat — usually more than one. In fact, of the 10 (yes, 10) cats that I have (many were fosters that were never adopted out), three are solid black and two are tuxedos. Although, the reality is that my black kitties weren’t rejected/leftovers — they moved in as fosters (or were born here from cats that came into our rescue pregnant) and I adopted them myself right away when they crawled into my heart!

    I’m a bit surprised, though, by the black dogs. Labs are so popular, although I know yellow and chocolate are more popular than black, I know lots of people love the classic look of a black lab (there are sure a lot in our neighborhood!). I have had a black lab/doberman cross myself (who was a solid black, and you could only see the dobe in him if you knew about it, although his personality was pure dobe [super loyal one-person dog]). My dogs now are black-brindles, but only b/c I adopted a specific breed and the individuals that met my needs (#1 need being 100% cat safe!) happened to both be brindles. I would love to have a black dog of this breed, if the individual was the right match.

  10. Nicole

    On September 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Oh, as an addendum, as a bit of trivia… the opposite is true in horses. Black is probably the #1 most popular horse color (although far from the most common). This is true in most, if not all, breeds of horses (at least here in the US). There are even people whose entire breeding programs are based on black color. (But, that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.)

  11. SD

    On May 11, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I never thought of adopting a black cat till I met mine almost 4 years ago. Our other cat had passed away quite a few years before that and I knew it was time for a new friend. I looked online, in newspapers to find my new friend. In one of our local papers I found a rescue place who had cats for adoption. I found one that I thought we would like, so we went to the rescue place the following week. They told us that cat found a new home already, so they asked us to look at the other ones. We saw kittens and cats in all varieties( white, orange, calico, tabby, and of course black. I love tabbies, so of course I wanted to look at them. To my surprise none wanted to have anything to do with us. I saw two black cats one was like the other ones. The last black cat we saw was the only one who would have anything to do with us. We took him out of his cage and all he wanted was to be held. That’s all it took for me. Now he’s been a part of the human and dog family for almost 4 years. So please don’t overlook the black cats and dogs, they could turn out to be your best friend. Oh by the way, my next dog will be black.

  12. Ryan

    On September 28, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I adopted this black cat as she was a kitten from the shelter years ago. She is extremely smart, sweetest, and loving cat ever! I love this cat more than ever! I don’t know what I do without this cat.

  13. Kinga

    On September 28, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Black pets are amazing pets. Thank you for all the beautiful comments!

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