When my dad found out from a coworker that there was a family of abandoned kittens up for adoption, he was eager to find out more about them. Knowing that my three brothers and I had been asking for a family pet for years, he saw this as the perfect opportunity to make our dreams a realization. I was in 5th grade when we adopted Hershey, which means we’ve now had her for 8 years.
My dad has always had a soft spot for the so called “runt of the litter,” and that’s exactly what Hershey was. Not only was she the smallest of her litter, she was the only female and the only black cat. Her three brothers were grey and much larger. My dad didn’t hesitate in his decision to pick her. In a lot of ways I always felt I could relate to her because I am also the only girl in a family of three brothers.
I’ll never forget how my life changed the day my dad brought her home. It was the day before Valentine’s Day, so after much name discussion, knowing that she was an all black cat, we decided to name her Hershey Kiss – Hershey for short. I can still remember when my dad walked in the door and I saw her for the first time. She was so tiny sitting in between the palms of his hands starring at me with her bright kitten eyes full of playfulness and wonderment. My heart melted instantly, and we’ve been best friends ever since.
Hershey is the only house pet I have ever had, and more than anyone in my family, I’ve really become attached to her. I call her my baby and my princess and I cuddle with her, talk to her when I’m sad or happy, and sometimes I like to just spend hours with her on my lap stroking her soft fur and listening to the soothing sound of her purr. Spending time with her is one of my favorite things, and she loves sleeping on my lap and chasing her hackey sack across the floor when I throw it for her. She even picks it up in her mouth and brings it back to me like a dog. It is the cutest thing ever.
Some people are hesitant to adopt cats and dogs that are all black. This is commonly referred to as “Black Cat and Black Dog Syndrome.” In shelters, black cats and dogs are very often overlooked in favor of their more colorful brothers and sisters, and are, sadly, the first to be euthanized in cases of overcrowding. Most people favor tan dogs over black dogs, because they are thought to be more attractive and noticeable. Superstition and myth also surrounds black cats, making them seem scary and less attractive to own as house pets. People have told me before that Hershey is “creepy” because she is all black. That opinion has always been only a first impression; no one who has ever gotten to know my cat has had anything but positive things to say about her appearance and personality.
It is important for people to be aware of this common perception so that they can stop and think twice when they are considering adopting a pet. Shelters that are aware of this syndrome are also taking steps to help our black furred friends by doing things such as dressing them in colorful bandanas so that they stand out. I encourage everyone to look beyond the color of the fur and don’t be afraid to adopt the runt of the litter. Give black animals a chance. We did, and it’s the best decision that my family has ever made.