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Ronnie Casey | Black dogs and cats

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    In a 2021 analysis of dresses retailing online in the US, about 38.5% were some shade of black, making it the most common color available. However, it is important to note that the popularity of the color black can vary depending on the context.

    For instance, in the world of fashion, black continues to be a popular choice. On the other hand, in the world of homeless animals waiting for adoption in shelters and rescues, black is not a popular color choice.

    This month is “Black Cat Awareness” month and October 1st was “National Black Dog” Day.  Both events were created for the sole purpose of raising awareness for these wonderful animals, homeless pets who are less likely to be adopted because of the negative connotations that come with their coat color, as if they didn’t already have enough going against them.  These occasions are all about showing that the darker felines and canines are just as loyal, lovable and affectionate as their lighter-haired companions and, in some instances, may even be better.

    While some cultures may view black cats and dogs as bringing luck, others view black animals as bringing bad luck, as well as being intimidating, aggressive and violent. Because of these stereotypes, it has been well documented that many adopters steer clear of the darker animals.  Unfortunately, the Tehama County Animal Care Center (TCACC) has, at this writing, approximately 10 black or B/W cats and 30 black dogs available for adoption. Because of foolish preconceived notions, especially during this Halloween month, the hope that they will all find loving forever homes quickly is probably a silly dream.  Being a dreamer, though, and never one to back down from championing the underdog, or “undercat,” it is my hope that I can provide some additional insight into these darker beauties.

    By looking at a cat’s color, is it possible to tell whether the animal will be friendly or aggressive? A researcher at the University of California, Berkeley published, on October 23, 2012, a study regarding the link between how cat color influences adoption rates (https://vcresearch.berkeley.edu/news/dont-be-so-fast-judge-cat-its-color-study-warns ).  According to it, orange cats were largely thought of as being friendly, white cats as aloof, tortoiseshell cats as intolerant, and black cats were typified as having less extreme character traits.  A few years later, the University of California Davis conducted another similar type of study. This survey asked owners to rate their cat’s level of aggression at home while being handled, and during veterinary visits.  It is interesting to note that black, white, gray, and tabby cats were rated lowest on the aggression scale in all the settings. ( http://www.techtimes.com/articles/99474/20151026/cat-color-may-hint-how-aggressive-it-is-felines-with-black-white-or-gray-fur-make-best-pet.htm ).

    The same question applied to canines, “if we look at a dog’s color, can we tell whether it will be aggressive?”  The question is quite ridiculous, as the color of a dog’s fur is not indicative of temperament. The animal’s behavior is influenced by various factors such as its breed, training, socialization, and environment. The ASPCA has an excellent article regarding aggression (https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/aggression ).  As I tell everyone, when adopting an animal, be honest regarding the lifestyle both you and your family have, as well as your physical abilities.  Review current living conditions, work commitments, and finances to help determine what animal might be appropriate.  Also, be sure to do research regarding breeds.  Differences can go beyond size and energy levels.

    “Hybrid vigor,” or a combination of the best genetic material arising from a diverse gene pool, often leads to a lower risk for inherited diseases found in purebred animals.  In fact, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (https://www.nih.gov/ ) discovered that the genetic mutations in cats associated with black fur are linked to stronger immune systems. For example, they are more resistant to FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus, aka feline HIV) than other cats.  Additionally, in 2022, researchers found that a wolf’s coat color (black versus gray) reflects that individual wolf’s immunity to the canine distemper virus (CDV).  The variant involved, known as CBD103, also plays a similar role in the immune systems of dogs.

    One more thing to note is that, despite the huge variety of coat colors in dogs, there are only two basic pigments that determine the color: eumelanin (black) and phaeomelanin (red). All different variations in color are created by these two pigments, which are both forms of melanin.  For a cat to be solid black, it must inherit the recessive pattern gene (a) from both parents.  If the tabby gene is not completely repressed, one should be able to see ghostly tabby stripes on a black cat. There are 22 cat breeds that have the appearance of being solid black, but the only true all-black feline is the Bombay cat.

    Every cat and dog have their own unique personalities. I have always held that tabby cats are “bombproof”, and have noticed similar traits in the dark cuties.  They are capable of rapidly adapting to a change in circumstances and often warm quickly to people in general. They are frequently friendly and outgoing, even in the high-stress shelter environment.  Come to think about it, I can say the same about a great many of the black dogs there.  So, why not put your foolish preconceived notions away about black cats and dogs and head down to the Tehama County Animal Care Center, where you might find one that will be a perfect addition for you, your family, and your home?


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