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

120 comments

Jo S.
Jo S.3 days ago

Thank you.

Jo S.
Jo S.2 months ago

Thanks Ann.

Mary Boorman
Mare Boorman4 months ago

I just adopted a male Ginger Tabby - what a complete delight! He is divine ... I would never have thought to foster a cat before let alone a ginger cat. He is definitely a 10 out of 10. On the other hand, we have a Maine Coon in our family which is a Buff or creamy ginger colour and he is divine and a new silver/black and white Maine Coon arriving. I say there is no difference... all are unique jus tlike people. :-)

Valentina R.
Valentina R.about a year ago

Black & white cats are the cuddliest ones, while black ones are very intelligent albeit a little distant.

Valentina R.
Valentina R.about a year ago

Orange cats: friendly? All orange cats I have met are crazy hyper psychos and mine is the worst of them all.

Fi T.
Fi T.about a year ago

Get to understand before judging

MJ J.
Past Member about a year ago

OK

MJ J.
Past Member about a year ago

noted.

Sheila S.
Sheila S.about a year ago

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.

Darren Woolsey
Darren Woolsey1 years ago

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