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Don’t Judge a Cat By Its Color

Don’t Judge a Cat By Its Color

People are a judgmental lot. It turns out that in addition to judging each other based on appearance and stereotypes, we judge our feline friends in much the same way. You can probably guess which color cats we think are spooky and which kitties we assume are aloof and fussy.

A University of California, Berkeley researcher conducted a study to learn more about the link between cat color and cat adoption rates. Mikel Delgado, a doctoral student in psychology and the study’s lead author, surveyed 189 cat owners and found that:

  • orange cats were more likely to be described as friendly
  • white cats tended to be characterized as aloof, shy, lazy, calm
  • tortoiseshell cats were more likely to be labeled as intolerant, but more trainable
  • black cats were stereotyped according to superstition
  • white cats, black cats, and tri-colored cats were all regarded as less sociable than orange cats

Those perceptions may influence how people choose which cats to adopt in the first place. According to Ms. Delgado, prior research shows that black and brown cats are less likely to be adopted than other cats, a fact echoed by the ASPCA. Dark cats are also more likely to be euthanized. This time of year, talk of Halloween and witches and superstitition only serves to reinforce negative stereotypes about black cats. However, there is no reason to believe that a cat’s color has any relationship to personality.

“To date there is little evidence that these perceived differences between differently colored cats actually exist, but there are serious repercussions for cats if people believe that some cat colors are friendlier than others,” says Delgado. “We hope that this study will be a starting point for further research in what qualities affect adoption and retention of pet cats, and whether there is a genetic or physical basis (such as coat color) for personality differences in cats.”

Details of the study were published in Anthrozoos, the official journal of the International Society for Anthrozoology. Coauthors were Jacqueline Munera, New College of Florida, and Gretchen Reevy, California State University, East Bay.

Did you see these cute cat videos?

See also: Why You Should Adopt a Lucky Black Cat

Read more: Adoptable pets, Cats, Halloween, Life, News & Issues, Pets

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5:59PM PST on Dec 29, 2014

I just laid to rest my all black cat, rescued when he was about 4 years old. I was so happy I took him in, as he always seemed thankful and showed it with his love. My remaining cat is all white and she is anything but aloof! These stereotypes are not based on personal knowledge.

1:04AM PDT on Oct 12, 2014

This tells you more about people's perception to, reaction to, and attitude towards colour, more than any animal, or other human being.

4:54PM PDT on Oct 11, 2014

Colour does not matter..

1:31PM PDT on Jun 18, 2014

I think that black cats are not popular, which is a shame, because all cats are wonderful, no matter what color they are or what they look like. It's too bad that some people choose a cat by its appearance.

2:47PM PDT on May 24, 2014

Is the study on perception or actual behavior characteristics?

3:47PM PDT on Apr 13, 2014

What is the color of love?

1:40PM PDT on Mar 20, 2014

Yes, I was staggered to hear that black cats are adopted far less than other colours. I have met so many gorgeous friendly black cats, and with their sleek glossy coats and often brilliant emerald eyes, they are irresistible to me. I love all colour cats.

6:24AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

I volunteer for the local animal shelter, and it makes me so very happy every time a black cat is adopted. I hate that ignorance keeps these little panthers from finding their forever homes.

12:23AM PDT on Oct 28, 2013

the photo is a good choice : cats don't discriminate by color...

7:48PM PDT on Oct 19, 2013


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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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