Thursday, March 3, 2016

What does coat color indicate about your cats personality?

Below are two studies that relate cat coat color to personality.  I found their results very interesting and I hope you do too! 

Did you ever wonder what was behind the stereotype of black cats being unlucky?  Or if there was a real reason why black cats might be adopted less from shelters than other cats? A recent study by researchers at California State University and the New College of Florida explored where these biases originate by using an Internet-based study of about 200 individuals. The survey used a 7-point scale to assign 10 terms (active, aloof, bold, calm, friendly, intolerant, shy, stubborn, tolerant, and trainable) to five different colors of cats (orange, tri-color, white, black, and bi-color). Significant differences were found in that people tended to assign “friendliness” to orange cats, “intolerance” to tri-colored cats, and “aloofness” to white and tri-colored cats. “Stubbornness” was not assigned in any color of cats.

White cats were considered less bold and active and more shy and calm than other colors. Orange cats were also considered more trainable than white cats. There was a glimmer of hope from the survey in that respondents placed more importance on personality than color when they selected a cat companion, though some evidence shows they believe the two qualities are linked. The study’s information will be beneficial for shelters and those in cat rescue to help promote adoption of different color cats, how to educate potential adopters, and how to avoid relinquishment of some cats due to coat color bias.

Delgado MM, Munera JD and Reevy GM. Human perceptions of coat color as an indicator of domestic cat personality. Anthrozoos. 2012; 25: 427-40.

Connections to physical conditions are known to exist for various coat colors of animals. Some examples include white coat color in dogs and cats with congenital deafness, and  an association between coat color and aggressive behavior in a number of species including silver foxes and mink. orange cat on cabinetCoat-color pattern genes in the cat fall into four categories that dictate the amount of white (“spotting”); the intensity of pigment (“dilution”); the orange and agouti pelage (“pigment-type switching”); and the patterns of ticked, tabby, and spotted (“pattern”). Behaviors have also been linked to heritability.
This study used an Internet-based survey to collect information on coat color, affiliative behaviors toward cats/humans, agonistic behaviors toward cats/humans, other “problem” behaviors, and cat and guardian demographic data. A total of 1,432 cat guardians completed the online survey; after exclusions based on study protocol, data analysis included 1,274 completed surveys. Guardians reported sex-linkedorange female (tortoiseshells, calicos, and “torbies”), black-and-white, and gray-and-white cats to be more frequently aggressive toward humans in 3 settings: during everyday interactions, during handling, and during veterinary visits.

Despite the statistical significance, the median scores in all three categories of aggression suggest that the differences between sex-linked females, black-and-whites, or gray-and-whites and the other colors are relatively small and could potentially be explained by guardian differences in interpretation of the scoring criteria. It may also be due to the relatively low levels of aggression in cats overall, as evidenced by the low median scores, so that any difference, however small, comes out as significant. This study suggests that coat colors may be associated with aggressive behaviors in the cat but that the differences are relatively minor.

Stelow EA, Bain MJ, Kass PH. The relationship between coat color and aggressive behaviors in the domestic cat. J Appl Anim Welf Sci.2016 Jan-Mar;19(1):1-15.

Both of these study summaries were taken from Winn Feline Foundation.  More interesting feline studies can be found at this link:

Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic