Do Cat Colors Influence Their Chance of Being Adopted?

Myths surrounding black cats have existed for eons. These magnificent cats have been considered by many folks to be omens of evil or, on the other paw, to bring good luck to those people they encounter. However whether these cats are frightening or heralds of fortune, these beautiful and misunderstood felines engender strong feelings in humans that range from loathing and fear to devoted adoration.2016-04-05-08-02-03
Nigel (FloridaWild patient)

In some cases it really does seem that a kitty's overall appearance makes an impressive impact on the way people think about them. But is it possible that a felines color will actually influence the chances that it will be adopted?

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)).

The Smithsonian Magazine reported the results several years ago, which were originally published in the professional journal Anthrozoos, and noted that the research did find some interesting trends. Orange kitties were considered friendly and ranking low in the aloof and shy categories. The orange cats were also thought of 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. However, as a complete surprise to the researchers, the data for black cats revealed no particular trends.

There are people who still maintain that there are definite links between feline behavior and the color of their coat. Many kitty lovers insist that tri-color cats have either fiery willful and spiteful temperaments or incredibly loving dispositions. In reality, there is a lack of hard evidence proving such connections. Feline personality and behavioral traits depend largely on environmental factors, their exposure to humans and other animals in the first two to seven weeks of age and to some extent inherited genetic factors.

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 many years ago, 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 as mentioned above, there is no genetic evidence indicating that 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 some instances when darker cats are adopted, if they don't live up to the owners initial belief that they will be quiet and well-behaved, sadly an overwhelming number of these cats are annually surrendered back to an animal shelter.

Its especially important to remember when you are? considering adopting a kitty that the expression, Don't judge a book by its cover truly applies to the feline species. Its indeed refreshing that research aimed at debunking the many myths concerning the connection between coat color and feline behavior continues to be explored.? The results most certainly will have a positive and profound effect on cat adoptions, with many homes for cats preserved as a result of this research.


What is your opinion about the connection of coat color and feline behavior? Please share your thoughts in a comment.

By Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW (Ret.)