You can’t judge a book by its cover. You can’t judge a cat by its color. People do though. Often people chose cats in the same way they choose books or cars. One of the most outstanding influences is the color and pattern of the cat’s coat.
I am not surprised that people are influenced by a cat’s color when choosing to adopt a cat. It is a very human trait to judge on appearance. We are somewhat obsessed with it. Two cat colors are often discussed on the internet: black and calico. Calico is tortoiseshell and white. Calico cats are popular. The coat is very interesting. The dilute version is probably even more attractive.
People think that calico cats have a certain behavior. The behavior is labelled, “catitude” or a feline with attitude. As to the black cat, quite a lot of people are put off by its plainness and the history of the black cat and its association with witches does it no favors. Throw into the pot a bit of fear and the black cat is deemed antisocial and unfriendly. These are stereotyping on superstitions. Both aspects of the process: stereotyping and basing judgements on superstitions are wrong. Although in defence of black cats people saw them as having less extreme characters.
Apparently calico are also seen as less friendly. This is probably an extension of the catitude problem. I think the calico catitude idea comes from the perception that red headed women are firery because calico cats have red hair in their coats. They have three colors, red (orange), black and white. Incorporating black is not good. And as white cats are also seen as less friendly the calico cat, despite attractive looks, is judged as unfriendly. They still remain popular despite this probably because the looks outweigh the character.
By contrast red tabby cats or ginger cats are meant to be friendly cats. The same could be said about bicolor cats (white and another color). My experience of talking to people who have red tabby cats is that they are sort of laid back alpha type cats. Strong and friendly.
But there is no scientific information based on proper studies that supports people’s ideas about cat coat color and patterns being linked to character traits.
Other than for black cats and their long history linked to centuries old superstitions I am not sure where people’s perceptions come from. I know though they are perpetuated on the internet on social media sites and sites such as Yahoo Answers. Also advertising tends to reinforce misplaced beliefs. Advertisers use people’s perceptions about anything to sell anything.
The trouble is that these misplaced beliefs are often bad for the cat. Black cats are the last to be adopted at shelters – we know that. It is called the “black cat syndrome”. Black cats are most in danger of abuse during Halloween, which is a massive celebration in the USA.
It is probably time to address this matter and start changing people’s ideas.
The outline findings of a study by University of California, Berkeley of the opinions of 189 people are as follows:
|Black||More antisocial. Less extreme personalities.|
|White||More antisocial, more shy, calm and lazy. Aloof.|
|Tri-color (calico)||More antisocial, trainable and intolerant.|
|Ginger||Friendly (I can add alpha type and laid back to this)|
My general conclusion is this: it is another example of how cats have to live in a people world and how cats have to react to people’s behavior towards them. I think people can do better. Cats will always reliably do what they have to do in the circumstances under which they find themselves.