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Does a Cat’s Coat Colour Influence its Personality?

There are plenty of myths and stereotypes surrounding cats, many of which concern the colour of their coats. These stereotypes are incredibly pervasive in our culture and have significant effects on the adoption rates of certain cats, but is there any truth to these rumours at all?  Does a cat’s coat colour or pattern influence its personality? In this blog we’ll not only answer that question but we’ll also discuss the origins and ramifications of linking coat colour with personality. 

Popular myths about coat colours 

Regardless of the science behind whether or not coat colour influences personality, people certainly seem to think it does. In fact people make many judgments on cats entirely based on their coat colour.  These judgments can even influence what cats they adopt and how they treat or care for different cats. Perceived the personality of cats with different coloured coats is extremely diverse. Orange cats for example are perceived to be very friendly and laid back. In fact they were surveyed by University of California Berkeley researchers to be the friendliest of all the coat colours. Orange or ginger cats are also supposed to be more relaxed, extroverted and expressive. White or pale cats on the other hand are considered more aloof, standoffish or shy. Tortoiseshell and calico cats are typically perceived as being stubborn and more likely to become irritated.  All of these personality judgments are entirely based on assumptions about a cat’s coat colour. While most coat colours are assigned perceived personality traits nothing compares to the severity of stereotyping that black cats receive.

Myths about black cats 

Black cats have the most prevalent and well-known reputation. They are known for being mysterious aloof and having been cast as the classic which is familiar. The myths about black cats show just how powerful stereotypes about coat colour can become. During the Middle Ages black cats became associated with witchcraft and satanic rituals.  Of course this had incredibly serious ramifications on the well-being and care of black cats around Europe. Black cats quickly became figures of folklore and superstition. They were often persecuted and killed for the belief that their living presence would bring bad luck. For centuries black cats  were viewed as creatures of evil and  witchcraft. They slowly became mysterious figures that represented the presence of demonic entities or magic. Even today many people believe that seeing a black cat, especially during the night time may bring about bad fortune. Black cats are still very prevalent in the media as representing a witch’s companion or magical entity.  Some of the most famous examples of black cats and media include Salem Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s loyal companion known for his snarky and mysterious demeanour. Other black cats in media that you may recognise include Binks from Hocus Pocus or Isis from Star Trek. All of these black cats have mystical or magical abilities, however, it seems the times may be turning for black cats.  In modern day all of these characters despite being associated with witchcraft and mischief are beloved by people around the globe. They are very popular characters and are often sold as merchandise for the show or movie that they’re in. Even though perceptions are changing for black cats, it’s incredibly difficult to ignore the centuries of persecution that black cats face solely based on the colour of their coat.

Does coat colour affect personality? 

We’ve discussed how prevalent myths about cat coat colours are. They have been around for centuries and still persist to this day. Many people have various perceptions of cats and what their personalities may be like solely based on their coat colour. However is there any truth to these stereotypes: does coat colour have any influence on a cat’s personality? The answer is likely no. There is very little evidence supporting the fact that cats’ coat colours have any influence on their personalities.  In fact, supposed evidence can be debunked by two studies done at the University of California Berkeley. While assessing people’s perceptions of cats based on their coat colour, researchers found that orange cats were considered the friendliest and the most relaxed. However, research done on cat’s actual aggression levels based on interactions with them at home, at the vet and while being handled indicated that orange cats were actually some of the most aggressive. These findings directly contradict the stereotype associated with ginger cats. However there is evidence to support that people’s perceptions of cats’ personalities based on their coat colour impact their treatment and adoption rate.  A phenomenon known as black cat syndrome suggests that cats with darker coat colours are less likely to be adopted than cats with lighter or patterned colours. Research conducted at the University of California Berkeley supports this phenomenon by finding that orange or patterned cats are more likely to be quickly adopted than black cats. Interviews with visitors to the shelter found that many people had positive associations with orange cats while they had either no association or negative association with black cats. Another study analysed nearly 8 000 cats at a Kentucky shelter and found that black cats had the lowest adoption rate of any colour at just 10%, for comparison 18.8% of white cats were adopted. This has led many shelters to hold special events for black cat adoption or even lower the adoption fees for black cats to encourage adopters.

 What does affect personality?

Cats like humans have extremely complex personalities that develop and change throughout their lifetime. Their personality can be shaped by a wide variety of factors. While coat colour is thought to have little to no effect on  cat’s personality the case may not be the same when it comes to the breed of a cat. There is some evidence to suggest that breed may have some effect on a cat’s personality. However, this can also lead to negative stereotypes about different breeds of cats, so it should not be a determining factor when considering what cat to adopt. Several important factors contribute to a cat’s personality including their environment and treatment, their genetics and their upbringing.

 

The most important influence on a cat’s personality is how they are treated and the environment that they are in. If a cat has been treated negatively in the past it may show resentment and aggression towards other people. If they have been in an environment where they did not have adequate food, shelter or water they may be more aggressive and protective over their space. However with love, care and patience you can work with the cat to make it more comfortable and relaxed around you and other people. Genetics can also play a role in a cat’s personality, there is some evidence to suggest that cats can inherit personality traits from their parents. So,  if they have a calm, relaxed parent they may be more likely to exhibit those traits themselves. Something else that is very interesting when considering the perception of a cat’s personality is the case of white cats.

 

White cats are often stereotypically perceived to be quiet, aloof and shy. White cats are also significantly more likely to be hard of hearing or deaf than other cats. In fact around 60 to 80 percent of all white cats with two blue eyes have some hearing impairment. That’s an incredibly large amount. A cat who cannot hear properly could easily come across as shy or aloof simply because it cannot hear when they are being called or interacted with. It’s not a large leap to suggest that white cat’s stereotypical personality traits could be highly influenced by their high rates of deafness. A cat’s upbringing and socialisation levels can also have a very large impact on personality traits.  If a cat is highly socialised with other cats and human beings while they are still a kitten they are much more likely to show social friendly personality traits than a cat who was not. Cats which  were not socialised with human beings may seem standoffish or even fearful towards people.

 

These cats can absolutely be worked with to make them more comfortable around people and these personality traits should not be seen.  As definitive overall a cat’s personality is constantly changing and evolving to adapt to its surroundings. It’s not something that can be determined by superficial features like coat colour. It’s very multifaceted and can be influenced by genetics, environment, interaction and socialisation levels. Therefore it’s obvious that a cat’s personality is much more than the colour of its coat. While there is little evidence that coat colour impacts the personality traits that a cat has, people still believe it whether or not the rumours and stereotypes about certain coat colours are true, the fact that people believe that they are is influential in itself. People’s perceptions of personality based on coat colour can be quite impactful on the treatment and adoption rates of certain cats over others.

 

To distance yourself from stereotypes based on coat colour and be knowledgeable about how impactful and harmful stereotypes can be. Whether or not there is any link between coat colour and personality it’s important to assess your own biases when it comes to coat colour before adopting a cat. It’s also important to understand how a cat’s personality is actually shaped and not place judgement based on a superficial feature like coat colour. Cat’s personalities are complex and are constantly being shaped and changed by their environments and interactions with the world. Just as human beings cannot nor should not be judged based on their appearances, cats shouldn’t be either. To truly understand a cat’s personality you need to properly take care of them and spend quality time with them. Only through building a trusting nurturing relationship will you be able to truly see and understand its personality. 

 

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