A black cat crossing your path is supposed to be bad luck, but around Halloween, many animal shelters try to hide black cats from peoples' paths to keep the animals safe from people, not the other way around.

Animal shelters often press pause on adopting out all-black and all-white cats close to the October holiday for fear that people will torture and abuse them. Superstitions about black cats have persisted over the years. The dark-haired felines have been associated with witchcraft since the Middle Ages in Europe, and the people who run the shelters are concerned that the supernatural underpinnings to Halloween will bring in people with bad intentions for the types of cats most closely associated with the occult.

There is no evidence beyond the second-hand and anecdotal that satanic cults are actually coming to shelters to pick up black cats for ritualistic sacrifice or to punish the would-be pets for their occult associations, but for decades, many shelters have enforced blackout dates around adopting this kind of pet as a precaution.

A spokesperson from the Animal Welfare League in the Chicago suburbs told me their policy is to withhold solid black and solid white cats for a few days before and after the holiday. "There's a lot of weirdos out there," she explained.

This ban isn't universal, and some shelters are pushing back against the practice, choosing to highlight black cats around Halloween, encouraging adoptions instead of hiding the animals.

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"People believed that witches would adopt black cats and use them for their rituals or wrongdoings. It's proven not to be the case at all," Robyn Barbiers, the president of the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago, told DNA Info.

The Toronto Humane Society also allows black cat adoptions on Halloween, and believes other shelters should follow suite. "Black cats are at no greater risk of abuse at Halloween than at any other time of year. In a survey of news reports, the Humane Society of the United States found no correlation between Halloween and animal abuse, and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sees no increase in cruelty cases around the holiday," the THS website reads.

If you do live in an area with a local shelter allowing pet adoptions, this is a great time of the year for non-animal abusers to adopt a black cat-you'll get a pet and an appropriately spooky Halloween window dressing as it settles into your home.

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Photo via Flickr/Rob Boudon (CC BY 2.0)