(10/25/09) It's common knowledge that animal adoption agencies change their adoption policies for black cats near Halloween due to fears that they will be sacrificed or tortured in Halloween pranks. The most disturbing rumor I've heard about it is the idea that some folks will get a black cat to go with a costume and return it later on. That's twisted. As far as sacrifice goes though, it makes no sense.

I am aware of the story that Samhain is the celebration of a Celtic God named Samhain who demanded sacrifice of animals on His special day in order to release the spirits of the sinful dead or some nonsense. The only problem with that is that Samhain isn't the name of any God, it's the name of a festival; it means "summer's end" and the ancient Celts conception of sin wasn't as developed as those who came later.

Modern Druids know all this and therefore find no place for this sort of sacrifice in their rituals.

Looking back in history, I can only think of two instances where cats were sacrificed. In ancient Egypt they were sacrificed to Bast, and during the European Witch Hunts they were occasionally burned along with their owners in case they were familiar spirits- dogs, fowl and other pets as well. The sacrifice of animals that weren't traditionally eaten by the people was very rare in the ancient world as sacrifice often meant a feast for the people. These were folks who didn't dare eat meat too often for fear their meat supply would disappear so when they butchered their animals it was a big deal, a religious event. A sacrificial feast.

It is somewhat logical that modern Bast worshipers would sacrifice cats, but they don't. They generally revere them and display replicas of sacrificial statues as if they were statues of the Goddess Herself. Cats have ceased to be objects of sacrifice to Her and are instead living representations of Her. You don't go around stabbing your Goddess, it's rude.

While Satanists get most of the credit for cat sacrifice, it's highly illogical. According to the offending folklore, black cats contain demonic spirits, that is, they are of Satan, so assuming there was any truth behind that logic; why would Satanists kill them exactly? You don't go around stabbing your God's minions. Anyway, modern Satanism isn't about all that despite what you may have learned in the '80s.

I'm not saying crazy stuff doesn't happen. In 2004 a black cat was found duct taped to a cross in front of an animal shelter. Yea, maybe it looks Satanic at first glance, but a little thought will tell you it was more likely a prank meant to shock folks than to honor Gods.

Who else is there then? Wiccans? A more harmless bunch of tree huggers you'll never find. Some of them don't even squish bugs. Other Witches; maybe we squish bugs, but we generally like our cats too much to stick them. Heathens? Again, if they're not going to eat them, I can't see them killing them.

How about… crazy people?

Yes, crazy people. It seems more logical to me though that this sort of behavior would be more prevalent in the long hot school-less summers when the poor miscreants have nothing better to occupy their time than Halo III, Grand Theft Auto and the random abuse of stray animals. There is such an incident involving a frog in my childhood that I'm not proud of… But the media doesn't report random animal torture unless there's something particularly and delightfully gruesome about it. That's not nearly as exciting as Halloween animal torture. And where did those kids get the idea anyway? (In my case it was from a Biology text book belonging to my friend's mom.) You don't think maybe the media insisting that Halloween is the time to torture black cats might give some mentally unstable or immature people the idea that… Halloween is the time to torture black cats, do you?

I'm not going to sit here and say that there aren't people out there playing at being Witches and Satanists who might misguidedly torture a cat, but I do think the whole thing is overblown. Drunken rowdies showing off for their friends are far more dangerous than Witches, which makes it a good idea to keep your cat inside at night, but not a good idea to refuse to adopt them out.

Have you ever adopted a pet from an animal shelter where you weren't already well known? You have to provide references (and good shelters check them) and there's usually a waiting period of a few days from the time you apply for the animal before they let you take it home and they generally charge between $60 and $80 or more. And so I must ask… What sort of person would go through all that trouble to adopt a cat just so they could torture it, or use it as a prop? Don't you think if someone really wanted to torture a cat, they'd just scoop up one wandering around the neighborhood? Most neighborhoods have a few. Or steal one from a neighbor? Because if you'll torture an animal, stealing is nothing. The best defense against this sort of abuse is good adoption policies. Refusing to adopt out a cat on Halloween just because it's black (or white) is just silly. Our shelters are overcrowded. Trust me, the greatest danger of a cat being adopted by an occultist on Halloween or any other time is that it might end up with a stupid name like Aleistor or Satan.

Do you know how many cats there are in shelters these days? The one my mom works at has cages stacked three high in the lobby and she's got 15 in her garage and they are begging for foster homes! They just had an event where they gave cats away for free, despite the fact that almost all of them needed sterilization. These cats need to be adopted out. Why pull them off the shelf just because it's Halloween? Why not pull them off on the Fourth of July in case someone decides to tie fireworks to their tails?>

Luckily there are some shelters who don't buy this misguided nonsense and continue to offer their black cats on Halloween. Some even actively promote them. Sanity is rearing its head in some places where officials are recognizing that the whole Pagan/Satanic black cat torture at Halloween thing is a load of rubbish. The cruelty database at http://www.pet-abuse.com clearly demonstrates that cruelty knows no season.

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