Can you judge a cat by its colour?
Have you ever wondered whether there is any truth in the stereotypes of black cats being lucky or torties being naughty?
We can’t help being drawn to certain colours of cats. Although I think it’s impossible to have an ugly cat, I can’t help having a little bias towards gingers, Diane prefers black and whites and Georgina is a black cat lover. Indeed, rescue centres find that people are less likely to pick black or black and white cats than more eye catching individuals that need a home. However, once rehomed, it is a cat’s personality that makes it more or less likely to stay with the new owners. Predicting personality using coat colour could be very useful to promote adoption of black cats and to educate potential new cat owners.
Our cats’ ancestors were spotted, stripy or agouti (patterned a like wild rabbit fur). Since genetics is the key to determining coat colour it is interesting to learn that some of the earliest mutations were for solid coat colours. Perhaps this was coupled with extra ‘friendly’ genes which made these cats more popular with the so called witches who befriended them?
The pigments that determine the coat colour share similar biochemical pathways to certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, which could influence behaviour or character traits.
There haven’t been many studies looking at the link between coat colour and personality and so far, results have been mixed. A survey of almost 200 owners looked at how we perceive our cats and found that ‘orange’ (American for ginger) cats scored highly for friendliness, white cats were more shy and aloof, bi-coloured (black and white or ginger and white) cats were friendly and tortoishells were less tolerant. Interestingly, black cats showed no significant difference from other colour cats in any of the traits examined.
White cats were considered to be less bold, less active and calmer than other colours. Orange cats were felt to be more trainable. Do you think we are influenced by the cats on TV adverts, using snooty white cats to market gourmet cat food and fun loving tabbies to sell food for active kitties?
I’m always sceptical about these sorts of surveys, but I think it’s more than coincidence that feisty torties often give us the most trouble here at the clinic. May be we are all more cat colour prejudiced than we like to believe!
Temperament also impacts feline romance. In feral situations researchers noted that aggressive boy cats spend all their time squabbling and lose out on mating. The more amicable boys don't squabble, they just sit patiently until opportunity knocks, and so pass on their friendly genes more often than the angry pussycats. That may explain why some feral cat colonies have more of one colour cat than others: friendly boys get the girls!
Whatever colour your cat is, there is no doubt that he or she is never ‘beige’ on the inside!