For centuries they have faced suspicion, hostility and even death as a result of the bad luck they are said to carry with them.
But now black cats are apparently facing a new existential challenge - the rise of the "selfie" in the age of social media.
Hundreds of the animals are being abandoned as their owners complain that black animals do not photograph as well as their lighter and brighter-coloured counterparts, making them less popular with those who enjoy posting self-portraits with their pets on sites such as Facebook.
The RSPCA in Britain said that 70 per cent of more than 1000 cats in its care are black or black and white.
The Millwood Cat Rescue Centre in Edwalton, Nottinghamshire, which has been running for 20 years, is "full to bursting", according to its owners.
Ronnie McMillen, 71, the centre's founder, said: "We have had a lot of black cats in this year - people don't like black at the moment.
Others look at the black cats and then just say 'Oh, have you got anything else?' Ginger male cats are the most popular but I think the black cats are beautiful and photograph fine."
The RSPCA said it was struggling to rehome abandoned black cats, partly because of the difficulty of capturing the cats in pictures, making owners less likely to "engage" with them in online profiles.