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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Halloween is a bad time of year for black cats, with their long-standing connections with witches, hubble-bubble and evil.
Reports of deliberate cruelty to black cats rise especially in the weeks around Halloween in Britain, the RSPCA animal charity said on Wednesday.
But it seems that not only do people treat black cats badly in October -- they shun them for the rest of the year too.
Black cats at animal shelters take longer than others to find homes, probably because of all the superstitions surrounding them, the charity said.
"Unfortunately, black cats often do spend longer in our rehoming centres than others as they are frequently overlooked by potential owners," said shelter manager Beverly Leavy.
"But their fur color makes no difference to how much love they have to give," she added. "The cats are ready to make wonderful pets."
The image problem varies from country to country and often involves black cats crossing people's paths.
Historians differ about the origins of the superstitions.
Some point to the ancient Celts, some to folklore tales that liken cats to snakes and cast them as the constant companions of witches, others to a Medieval belief that they caused the black plague in Europe.
The view that they bring bad luck has also woven its way into art and popular culture.
American writer of macabre tales, Edgar Alan Poe, published a short story "The Black Cat" in 1843 and in the late 19th century a shady cabaret called Le Chat Noir welcomed guests in the Bohemian Montmartre district of Paris.
The RSPCA is appealing for potential owners to come forward for the black cats in its shelters. They can be found on www.rspca.org.uk
Reporting by Catherine Bosley; Editing by Steve Addison