Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

He may be 18 and getting thin, but my black cat Darcy is a wonderful pal ... and looks great in photos

Fur goodness sake: Jeff Dudgeon thinks his black cat Darcy is absolutely stunning
Fur goodness sake: Jeff Dudgeon thinks his black cat Darcy is absolutely stunning
Strike a pose: Sandra Cutter's snaps with Ozzy are always a hit
Spot the cat: Kerry McKittrick with Nishka
Deep thinker: Scout likes to ponder the meaning of life
Edwin Gilson
Feline friendly: Heather Weatherup with Oscar, who would love a forever home

The RSPCA says less people want black cats because they don't look good in photos. Joanne Sweeney talks to pet lovers who say that's just not fur.

Apparently people just don't want black cats – no matter how cute they might be. The RSPCA has revealed that 70% of the cats in its care in the UK are black, or black and white.

And rather shockingly the charity claims that their diminishing popularity is down to the modern obsession with "selfies" It seems their features don't show up as clearly as those of more colourful felines in the snapshots that cat owners love to post on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"In UK folklore, black cats symbolise good luck, yet sadly in reality they are not so lucky," an RSPCA spokesperson said last week.

"There are a number of reasons for this, ranging from the fact that black cats are harder to tell apart than cats with more distinctive markings and the fact that black animals tend not to photograph as well as their tabby cousins."

Can this really be true? In defence of the beautiful black cat we hear from five devoted black cat fans about their endless fascination for their pets.

'Darcy talks by looking straight in to my eyes'

Ulster Unionist councillor Jeff Dudgeon (68) has been living with his faithful companion, pedigree black cat Darcy, for 18 years. Jeff lives in south Belfast and is a shadow councillor for the new 'super' Belfast Council. He says:

"As far as I'm concerned, Darcy takes a perfect picture. At 18, he's quite old now so he's getting a bit tired and thin but he still has a beautiful, black glossy coat.

To me, he's kinetic, a moving work of art, as he's so perfect. That's despite the fact that he now has only one of his fangs.

I've never had a negative reaction to him. Of course, there are those who just don't like cats, and that's the end of the story for them and I can understand that. But personally speaking I don't discriminate at all when it comes to cats – his predecessor was a tabby cat called Shadow.

Darcy now sleeps about 12 hours in the day and he doesn't like to be disturbed.

He is one of those cats who will jump on you, and I know that some people don't like that; in fact, he's been a bit of a disappointment in that department over the years. He's also developed a few issues as well. Darcy has this habit that as soon as he hears anyone talking, he starts to howl, as he can't be left out of the conversation – he probably knows that we're talking about him now. He always cries very loudly during phone calls too, which makes him a bit irritating. And he's a heat-seeking missile, he just walks round and round looking for somewhere warm so he can lie and sleep and rest.

He's more than a cat, he's been a long-term companion as I've had him since he was a kitten.

I suppose as a black cat he can slide around and not be too noticeable and keep away from other cats. But unfortunately he does get attacked from time to time, particularly by a big ginger fellow who left one of his feet badly infected after a bite several years ago.

He's a cat who is always desperate for company; it's hard to leave him on his own for an hour or two without him crying incessantly and he'll be all over you when you come back. He understands and communicates to me through looking into my eyes – that's how Darcy checks people out."

'I've never had a negative comment about Ozzy'

Sandra Cutter (32) from Lisburn is the proud owner of black cat Ozzy, although she also has two white cats, Charlie and Dexter, and dog Harvey, a Dalmatian cross. The transport services clerk is married to Lee (43). She says:

"Ozzy is a black short-haired cat and we named him after Ozzy Osbourne. We got him from the Cats Protection League shelter near Belfast about three years ago when he was just a kitten. When we spotted him in the shelter, he was so friendly. He started to lick us even though he'd never met us before and so he completely won us over. He stood out against the rest for us.

We hadn't gone with any particular colour or type of cat in mind.. We already had two white cats, a brother and sister called Charlie and Dexter, who were also rescue cats from the Cats Protection shelter.

Ozzy had such a lovely temperament and even now he still licks my husband's bald head. But he's definitely very mischievous as well – he tries to trip you up when you are walking around the house. He runs around the place at odd times too; he can be a bit mad.

All our cats get on together well, along with Harvey, who we rescued from the pound, too. They are like children to us, and we love them all.

I'm part of a Black Cat fan page on Facebook so I just don't understand why people wouldn't want a black cat or could abandon them, particularly over something as stupid as how they look in photographs.

I'm always putting up pics of Ozzy on Facebook and I've never had one negative comment, only compliments. I would certainly put them straight if they did say something about him!

We've always had black cats, my mother had two while we were growing up and my sister also has one at the moment, so it's very much a family trend.

However, I would say to people to pick a cat for their personality, not their colour."

'Who cares if she looks good in selfies?'

Devoted cat lover and Belfast Telegraph feature writer Kerry McKittrick (35), lives with her partner Dennis in Belfast and their black cat Nishka. She writes:

"I can remember my other half asking me on the way to the Assisi Animal Sanctuary what kind of cat I would like. I told him I hadn't thought about it but perhaps a nice tabby cat.

Then I walked into the cattery and saw a black cloud snoozing on top of a filing cabinet. I was introduced to other cats, friendly ones who clearly wanted a cuddle but no, Nishka was the one for me. As Sarah who worked there told me: 'You don't choose the cat, the cat chooses you'.

Other than a little white locket on her chest, Nishka is pure black, down to her nose, whiskers and even the pads of her feet. What she would look like in pictures wasn't anywhere on my list of priorities when looking for a feline friend.

Two years later and my little black cat is part of the family. Of course, there are downsides to black cats. She vanishes in the dark and I've stood on the end of her tail more than once because I didn't see it against our dark grey floors.

I spend a fortune on reflective and luminous collars so she doesn't get knocked over by a car that doesn't see her – even though she doesn't go outside.

I worry that she might do, though – she's a cat, after all, and they can vanish whenever they like. Still, I'd be petrified about her getting hurt no matter what colour she was.

I'm sold on black cats but I would be happy to give any kitty a home – except one that is pure white. I have the same prejudices against white cats as others do against black ones. I think they look creepy and sly and I can only imagine how coated in cat hair a white cat owner would become."

'It's like having a cool Goth sister'

English Literature student and Belfast Telegraph feature writer Edwin Gilson (20) thinks his mixed colour cat Scout is a truly a black cat in spirit. He writes:

A black cat is like your Goth sister who you always secretly thought was pretty cool. They're mysterious, misunderstood and enigmatic. They're the Helena Bonham Carter of the pet world. If cat buyers are neglecting them on the bizarre basis that they're (apparently) not very photogenic, well, that's their loss.

Moreover, I refute that claim entirely. What could be cooler and more elegant than a sleek black feline? 'But the cat blends into the night sky and/or my dark clothing when attempting a selfie with it', I hear you cry!

As if the divine black cat would lower itself to being easily visible; no, it has more important matters on the mind.

While cats of other types are fully content to merely lie down and be snapped, knowing that Instagram notoriety awaits them just around the corner, the black feline teases us with its presence, thus gaining a layer of depth and mystique other pets could only dream of.

I should confess that my cat Scout (named after the plucky protagonist from To Kill a Mockingbird) isn't entirely black; there is a little white in there, too.

And rather inexplicably, she has an orange face. She has much of the black cat spirit within her, though; a stealthy mover, occasionally aloof, prone to bouts of deep contemplation. She is not to be interrupted at times such as this.

On other occasions, she is affable and affectionate, while never letting slip her aura of cool. Basically she's like your moody teenage child that sometimes acts a bit blase (and would probably rather be hanging out with friends) but loves you deep down.

And that's much more interesting than having a straight-laced, goody-two-shoes child/cat isn't it?

'I don't know any nasty black cats'

Heather Weatherup (53), is manager of the Assisi Animal Sanctuary in Newtownards. At home in Newtownabbey, the mother and grandmother lives with black cat Joseph, who's 12. She says:

"Black cats and black dogs are always difficult to rehome. It's not something new to do with taking selfies – I'm really not quite sure where that notion has come from.

I've only ever owned black, or black and white cats myself. I come from a rural background so we always had cats.

I prefer black cats with a bit of white to any other colour. I think there's nothing nicer than a lovely black coat and face, with a wee white locket on their chest and white whiskers on their wee faces.

And let's face it, black goes with anything, it doesn't matter about the decor or what you are wearing. If you are heading out in a wee black dress, your black cat hairs won't show up on it.

At the moment, we have 31 kittens to rehome and the majority of them are black – only nine out of them aren't.

We think that sometimes black cats are overlooked as when you go into our shelter all the kittens or cats that you see there are predominantly black, so your eye is just attracted to a different colour.

But black cats are lovely. I don't know any nasty ones. Cats are just like people, they have their own individual personalties.

While I think black is a good colour for dogs, sometimes cats don't always photograph well unless you have a cracking camera, but who really cares about that?

You could have a lovely white cat that photographs stunningly but it may not be a loving cat.

Edward, the tabby cat that is featured on our vans, was an absolutely stunning cat but you couldn't touch him.

All good rescue shelters will know just what a cat or kitten's temperament is like, so don't even look at the colour, go for the temperament."

  • In addition to the 31 kittens needing to be rehome, Assisi Animal Sanctuary also has many adult cats looking for a new home, around a quarter of which are black. To find out how to adopt a cat, or any animal from Assisi, visit www. assisi-ni.org or tel: 028 9181 2622

The cat's whiskers in popular culture

  • Blacks cats have been the sleek stars of literature, film and television for many years now
  • Edgar Allan Poe's famous 1843 short story The Black Cat helped form the general notion of the animal being slightly spooky and mysterious – despite the belief of it being a lucky symbol
  • But who can forget the talking and ever-so sarcastic Salem in the TV hit Sabrina the Teenage Witch?
  • In the children's book Coraline, written by Neil Gaiman, first published in 2002 and later turned into a movie, there was a mysterious yet nameless black cat with special powers
  • And while not pure black, Looney Tunes star Sylvester found fame with his trademark exclamation – 'Sufferin' succotash!' – for his repeated failure to sink his claws into Tweety Pie

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