Pls Forward to anyone who does Rescue/Shelter Work
- Please pass it along to anyone you know who does shelter or rescue
Heartwarming "black cats" story
By Margie Seyfer
I've never read an official study on the matter,
but I've noticed that in animal shelters, black cats
are the most overlooked. Black seems to be the least
preferred of cat colors, ranking below all
combinations of white, orange, gray, spotted and
striped. Black cats are still stereotyped as
Halloween cats, creatures of bad luck, more
appropriate on a witch's broomstick than curled up on
your pillow. To make matters worse, in cages, black
cats become close to invisible, fading into the dark
shadows in the back of a stainless-steel cage.
For eleven years, starting when I was ten years
old, I volunteered at an urban animal shelter. It
always struck me as particularly unfair that, time
after time, I'd get to know affectionate, adorable
black cats, only to watch them be passed over by
adopters merely because of their color. I assumed
there was nothing that could be done.
One day, many years into my work at the shelter,
I spent a few minutes petting a sweet, black
half-grown kitten, who had been found as a stray and
brought to the shelter. The slender thing purred
warmly at my attention, gently playful as she patted
my hand with one paw. I thought about what a shame it
was that the kitten was already too big to be adopted
on baby-kitten appeal alone, and so solidly black that
most people wouldn't even pause in front of her cage.
I noticed there was no name written on the
informational card on her cage. Since volunteers were
welcome to name the strays that came to the shelter, I
thought for a moment about what I could name this
black kitten. I wanted to think of a name that could
give the kitten the kind of appealing "color" that
might encourage an adopter to take a second look. The
name Jellybean popped into my head, and I wrote it on
the card, just as I'd named thousands of cats in the
I was taken entirely by surprise when, later that
afternoon, I overheard a woman walking through the cat
room say, "Jellybean! What a wonderful name!" She
stopped to look more closely at the kitten, now
batting at a piece of loose newspaper in the cage.
She asked me if she could hold Jellybean, and, as I
opened the cage, I sheepishly admitted that the kitten
didn't know her name, as I'd named her just hours
before. I lifted her into the woman's arms, and the
kitten leaned into the woman, looking up into her eyes
with a purr of kitten bliss. After a few minutes, the
woman told me that she'd like to adopt this black
kitten, and, when the paperwork was approved a few
days later, she took Jellybean home.
I was pleased, of course - adoptions were always
what nourished my soul - but I chalked it up to a
lucky break for one black kitten, and moved on.
I was surprised again a few weeks later when the
woman came back to the shelter. She found me
refilling water bowls in a cat room and said, "You
were the one who helped me adopt that black kitten a
few weeks ago, remember? Jellybean? I know you were
the one who named her, and I've been wanting to stop
back to thank you. She's the sweetest thing - I just
love her to pieces. But I don't know if I would have
noticed her if she hadn't had that great name. It
just suits her perfectly. She's so bouncy and
colorful - I know that sounds crazy. Anyway, I wanted
to say thank you."
I told her I was touched that she had stopped by
and thrilled to hear that Jellybean was doing well in
her new home. Then I explained how I thought black
cats were often unfairly overlooked and admitted the
name had been my conscious attempt to get someone to
notice a cat who would probably not have been adopted
otherwise. She said, "Well, it worked! You should
name all the black cats Jellybean."
I smiled politely at the suggestion, thinking to
myself that this woman knew nothing of the harsh
realities of animal shelters. Just because I named
one kitten Jellybean and it had gotten adopted didn't
mean anything - it had just been a stroke of luck.
Black cats were still black cats, after all, and most
people didn't want them.
As the day went on, I kept thinking about the
woman's advice: "You should name all the black cats
Jellybean." As crazy as it seemed, I decided I had
nothing to lose. Pen in hand, I walked along the
cages, looking for a black cat without a name. There
was only one, a small black kitten alone in a cage,
sleeping. I wrote "Jellybean" on its cage card.
Later that afternoon, someone came along and said
they'd like to adopt that little Jellybean. Well, I
thought to myself, that wasn't really a fair test - it
was so cute and tiny.
A few days later, a nameless black cat came
along, fully grown. I named it Jellybean. It was
adopted. Days later, another. Adopted. The process
repeated itself enough times that, after a while, I
had to admit that maybe there was some magic in the
name, after all. It began to seem morally wrong not
to name black cats Jellybean, especially ones who had
a bounce in their step and a spark of joy in their
eyes. Although I'd usually refrained from using the
same name for more than one cat, after a while, my
fellow volunteers ceased to be surprised when they
came across another of my Jellybeans.
Of course, we'll need more far-reaching solutions
to ensure that every cat has a home. But for my black
Jellybeans, sitting in sunny windows, sniffing at
ladybugs walking across the kitchen floor, snuggling
in beds with their adopted people, a name made all the
difference. "Jellybean" allowed some humans to see
beyond a dark midnight coat into the rainbow of riches
in a cat's heart.