Is the Color of a Feline's Coat a Factor in Cat Adoption?Published November 7, 2012
Myths surrounding black cats have existed for eons. Considered by some to be either omens of evil or exceedingly good luck, these beautiful and often misunderstood felines engender strong feelings in humans, ranging from loathing and fear to outright adoration. Calico and tortoiseshell cats have the reputation of being “cheeky” with their behavior often described as “tortitude”. From these common reactions to the color of a cat’s coat, it seems that a kitty’s overall appearance does make an impact on the way people relate to them. But can the color of a feline actually influence the chances of a cat’s adoption?
To check this theory out and determine whether people do have covert biases about cats based on their color, researchers in the field of anthrozoology (the study of the interaction between people and animals) at California State University and the New College of Florida launched an Internet-based survey. The survey asked participants to associate 10 personality terms (bold, calm, friendly, active, aloof, shy, tolerant, intolerant, trainable and stubborn) with five cat colors (white; tortoiseshell and calico; orange; black and bi-colored (white with any other color)).
Smithsonian Magazine reported the results, which were originally published in the professional journal Anthrozoos, and noted that the research found some interesting trends. Considered friendly and ranking low in the aloof and shy categories were the orange kitties. The orange cats also were perceived as more “trainable” than the white cats. The calico and tortoiseshell cats ranked high in the intolerance and aloofness scale, as did the white kitties. White cats were also considered shy and calm, while bi-color cats were thought of as outgoing and friendly. Interestingly, the data for black cats revealed no particular trends.
Even though there are people who believe that there are definite links between feline behavior and the color of their coat, in reality there is a lack of hard evidence proving such a connection. Mikel Delgado, a University of California Berkeley doctoral student in psychology and the lead author of the study noted that “there are serious repercussions for cats [and cat adoption] if people believe that some cat colors are friendlier than others."
Certain color groups are greatly affected by these "unproven" biases. In a study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science published in 2002, it was found that brown and black cats are often the last ones to be adopted, with dark cats most likely to be euthanized. Even though there is no genetic evidence that indicates color will dictate how a kitty will behave, the popular misconceptions held by some cat people about lighter cats being calmer or more friendly often leads to darker cats spending more time in shelters. In other instances where lighter cats are adopted, they don’t live up to the owner’s initial belief that they will be quiet and “well-behaved", a conclusion drawn wrongly based on coat color. As a result, many of these cats are surrendered annually to shelters.
The expression, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” certainly applies to all feline colors. It’s indeed refreshing that research aimed at debunking the many myths concerning the connection between coat color and feline behavior is underway. The effect on cat adoptions will be profound, as many homes for cats will be preserved as a result of the research.
What is your opinion about the connection of coat color and feline behavior? Tell us in a comment and in our poll below.