Not long ago, I broke the silence and outed my troubled tuxedo cat Rorschach as a sufferer of Black Cat Stress Disorder (BCSD). In case you’re not familiar, BCSD is a condition in which black cats, including partially black cats, experience feelings of sadness or anger around Halloween-time as a result of the black cat’s turbulent history with the spooky holiday. After years of negative portrayals and unflattering superstitions, raven-haired kitties everywhere are coping the best they can with feelings of shame, inadequacy, and resentment as October 31st rapidly approaches.

Screen Shot 2013-10-18 at 5.10.14 AMThis is Rory’s second Halloween, but it’s the first year he’s had any BCSD-related episodes. You may have read that he destroyed a decorative stryofoam pumpkin, knocked over some tabletop gravestones, took a miniature corpse figurine hostage, and tore down the curtains in a fit of Halloween hatred. I thought the culprit for this initial tantrum was brought on by the movie Hocus Pocus, but it appears I was wrong. Evidently, the pain Rory’s manifesting runs a lot deeper than I’d thought, and his most recent outbursts have become troubling and violent.

We had affixed an innocent skeleton gel cling to one of the front windows. The skeleton was a young decoration, less than a year old and filled with promise and stickiness. He could have easily been with us for one or two more Halloweens. When we took him out of the Halloween box, his expressionless skull seemed to twinkle subtly in the iridescence of the living room lamp as I freed him from his wax paper chains of preservation and pressed him against the cool glass. Stuck to the window and highlighted by the soft glow of purple lights, he silently haunted everyone who passed by, baring not only his fragile bones, but his unbreakable Halloween spirit… Until Rory took all of that away.

One day we noticed the skeleton on the window was gone. We found his clavicle and sternum on the floor beneath the windowsill, and we convinced ourselves he had simply fallen down. After a few days his femur appeared in the bedroom, his tibia in the hall, and his skull showed up on the concrete ledge outside, likely picked up by a neighbor after noticing his head had come unstuck from the bottom of one of our shoes. We didn’t find this humerus.

I thought it strange such a promising, young decoration could fall so quickly, but I assumed I overestimated its lifespan when more and more of them the gel clings disappeared from the window: small bats went missing, the phrase “Keep Out!” in blood went away, the entire word “treat” and the “r” from “trick” vanished. Suddenly the once-festive window looked like a storefront whose employees are too lazy to change the light bulbs when entire letters in the sign burn out.

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I chalked up the unreliable gel clings to a bad decoration investment, until one afternoon when I saw Rory playing with something on the carpet. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be the skeleton’s hand. That’s when I realized the horrible truth: Rory dismembered him.

RIP
RIP

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I’m afraid that isn’t where Rory’s alarming behavior ends.

The table next to the window has several Halloween decorations on it; it’s a small Halloween vignette, if you will, complete with a candy bowl that’s not yet filled, a vase with a pair of scarecrow owls, a few small pumpkins (and now two big, carved pumpkins), a wooden black cat that says “Happy Halloween,” and a couple of gravestones with a hospital stretcher. In Rory’s conflicted state, he’s started to assimilate into the scene as an added fixture. He’ll sit very still in the hollow candy bowl, staring off outside, losing himself in his catemplations.

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When he’s not making himself a part of the scene, he’s still knocking things over or destroying gourds:

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With Halloween still 13 days away and our Halloween party in 8 days, I’m not sure how Rory’s going to handle the additional decorations that will be added in the coming days/weeks, the Halloween baking, or the expectation that he wear his cow costume long enough for me to take one decent picture of him. I just hope my fragile feline can stay strong until November, when we both can agree on exploiting turkeys instead of cats.

Keep black cats in your thoughts as you partake in your Halloween festivities–even the most self-assured cats can suffer from BCSD.

28 thoughts on “Black Cat Stress Disorder (BCSD)

    1. HA! He might be! We actually never considered “White Sox” as a name (truthfully, we thought he was a she at first). I guess he’s a lot more sensitive than I thought…

  1. Rory is simply showing his appreciation for all the new toys you purchased and installed for him to play with: Your Halloween has morphed into his Christmas/Birthday etc.
    Rory says, “Thanks! Who needs mice with all this good stuff to torment before I kill it?”

    1. HA! I guess so, but he usually doesn’t bother stuff like this though! And prior to these Halloween decorations this year, he’s never ruined anything. Maybe he just needs more exercise.

  2. Haha this made me chuckle. He’s adorable and mischievous, I love the picture of him sat in the bowl, exactly the kind of thing Crunchie would do. Thankfully BCSD isn’t a major issue for us as we (as a family and in the UK in general) don’t really celebrate Halloween all that much. We dress up for free sweets but we sure aren’t buying decorations 😛

    1. It’s so surprising to me that Halloween seems to be the most popular in the U.S.! I had no idea other countries weren’t as festive with it.

      I was thrilled when I got a picture of him actually sitting in the bowl. He’s been doing it for a week or two now, and every time I’d try to sneak up to snap a pic, he’d always jump down mid-photo.

  3. Great post! And Rory is so cute! I will keep BCSD in mind next time I see a black cat. And I will be careful not to judge any black cats for their volatile actions during this difficult period 🙂

      1. Cats have such unique individual personalities. I do think some of them become more sensitive due to the energy shift that they can feel leading up to Halloween. A lot of people can feel it too, but not as many as one might think. It’s a small percentage. Cats can see things we can’t and their hearing is also far superior, so I’d wait to see if he calms down after November 2nd, which is when the veil starts to diminish down more.
        My cats clawed up brand new leather furniture within a week of me getting it, so I feel you on the nail digging. I hate when they do it, especially when they’ve been trained not to.
        I am used to getting my hair ties yanked right out of my hair in the middle of the night. A wickedly smart cat knew how to not only get multiple ones out of my hair while I slept, but she also combed out the braid to get the last one. LOL. That’s what I get for letting a cat take over and have a pillow behind my head. We all want to be kicked in the head by a cat all night. God I miss that little macaroon.

  4. They know when they are being naughty. He’s probably doing it now just to wind you up! Plus, if he’s anything like one of mine – anything soft and made of a silicone type material that claws can be satifsyingly sunk into is fair game, hence the disappearing window decorations. Just be thankful he’s not started in the seals around the window, like mine has.

    1. I’m surprised he hasn’t gone after the seal around the window, because he did claw through a screen once. (He’s desperately trying to get closer to the birds.)

      I hope he’s just playing or doing it for attention. He rarely does anything like that in front of us, so I’m thinking he’s doing it when we lock him out of the bedroom.

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