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June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th's full moon gets bad rap

And yes, black cats are safe, too

There was a time when shelter personnel at Nevin’s Farm in Methuen would sleep overnight at the MSPCA on Friday the 13th and Halloween. Black cat adoptions were shut down. Animal welfare organizations shared a fear that black cats would be hurt, due to myths passed down over generations of employees and volunteers.

Michael Keiley, the director of the Noble Family Animal Care and Adoption Center at Nevins, has been in the business for over 20 years. He said that in that time, the theory that black cats are taken from the shelter to be used for nefarious purposes has been debunked.

“Really, nothing ever happened, and by shutting down adoptions, we probably turned down good adopters,” he said.

Keiley said that shelters in some parts of the country remain superstitious and continue take measures to protect black cats on days that draw attention to them. Still, he holds that the old wive’s tale that they bring bad luck has very little to do with high numbers of black cats in shelters.

Black and black-and-white are two of the most common color patterns for short hair cats, meaning that they are often over-represented in shelter populations. Keiley believes the problems with adopting out black cats stem from the fact that any color would not be as eye-catching to people if most of the cats in the shelter looked the same.

“When we have struggled (with adopting out pets), it’s when our volume of intake has been very high. We’ve done a ton of promotion to move animals more quickly and limit over-population, so we’ve found that there is no real slowdown with adoptions of any kind or color,” he said.

Today marks not only Friday the 13th, but a full moon. According to Merrimack College adjunct professor Ralph Pass, a full moon will fall on a Friday the 13th roughly every two and a half years. Pass, who is director of the Melden Observatory at Merrimack, said much like the imagined correlation between Friday the 13th and bad luck, the full moon has a mysterious reputation mostly due to coincidence.

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