I have two cats that I took in as strays when they were kittens. In front of my house is a protected natural area that the county owns and somebody had abandoned them there. They usually spend their time outside playing out by the creek in the preserve and when I come home they’ll come running out of the woods to greet me. Except when there’s Black people around. If one of my neighbors, who are Black, is standing outside, the cats will crouch by the edge of the woods with suspicious eyes. Sometimes they’ll wait for just the right moment when I walk into the door to bolt out of the woods and run inside. When I’m having a conversation with one of my Black neighbors, my cats will just look at me with apprehension and keep their distance.
Now, you might say that they’re just afraid of strangers and it has nothing to do with race. That’s what I thought for a while, until I began to witness their behavior towards others. When my family members or friends come over to visit, my cats are very affectionate and friendly. When my Black neighbor came over, my cats immediately took off upstairs. My two immediate neighbors are Black families and my cats run from all of them, even the children. Some of the teenagers in the neighborhood built a bridge over the creek and sometimes walk past my house to cut through the preserve. Any time some Black kids come by, my cats scatter, but I’ve seen them walk up to a few of the White kids that live in the neighborhood to get their heads rubbed.
I don’t know why my cats act this way. I can only assume that they had some bad experience with Black people. What I find interesting is that my cats can tell the difference. It’s funny to me that so many egalitarians keep insisting that race is just a social construct, yet animals are able to tell races apart. I wonder how they know. Is it as simple as the difference in appearance or is it maybe differences in scent? Growing up around Black people, I’ve noticed a distinct smell. If I can smell it, then I’m sure my cats can as well. I’ve heard that dogs can be trained to react to certain races as well. There was a story recently about a Black man that murdered his neighbor’s dog for being racist.
I sometimes feel bad about my cats’ behavior. Before I let my cats outside, I have to go out and survey the area to make sure the coast is clear, otherwise my cats will just run back inside if they see a Black person. It makes me feel like a weirdo when I walk outside and my neighbors are sitting on their front porch and I have to pretend that I’m going out to do something other than making sure they’re not around. When I was talking to my neighbor the other day, he saw one of my cats looking at us from a distance. He called my cat over, but he wouldn’t come. He said in a annoyed tone, “What’s wrong with your cats? They’re not very friendly!” I thought that he might be onto my cats’ racist ways.
I’ve told others about this before and someone joked that I should put my cats in a re-education program. It made me laugh because I’m sure that there’s some out there that would actually think that was a good idea. I figure my cats have their own reasons for feeling the way they do and it most likely has to do with their own safety and survival. It’s probably best that they keep an eye out for shady characters. I know I do.