Are Black Cats Healthier?

Intro: this is an article I have brought forward (re-dated) which was written several years ago – Michael

Cassie-A very healthy cat

Cassie-A very healthy cat

Cassie-A very healthy cat Cassie now and then Peeper Midnight Whineybutt-Sole survivor

This morning as I sat and stared at our three month old black kitten Midnight, I found myself asking the question “are black cats healthier?”

My memory flashed back to a black cat I had the pleasure of adopting as a kitten over twenty years ago. Peeper was a black alley cat. Long and lean and somewhat wild. She grew into a beautiful and loving black cat who was NEVER sick a day in her life.

Then I thought of Cassie, who we rescued back in January a week after she was found wandering near the interstate after a blizzard. Cassie had a slight case of conjunctivitis that looked worse than it actually was. It cleared up quickly on antibiotics and she hasn’t been sick a day since.

So now here I was staring at Midnight, the only surviving kitten out of a litter of five. His brothers and sisters sadly passed away from feline distemper. When Midnight was being examined at the vet, she told me he had a slight fever and was fighting off the panleuk.

Norman Reedus with black cat

Norman Reedus with black cat

He had a hard battle to win, but is well on his way to leading a long and spoiled life. I continued to wonder how he lived when the rest of his family didn’t. There had to be something about him that gave him the ability to overcome an infection that had a 90% chance of killing him.

Are black cats healthier? I’d love to get some comments on this one, considering black cats are the last to be picked at a shelter. Which is sad, since research is showing black cats may have the ability to fight off infection better than other cats. One study even suggests black cats may be immune to FIV.

Stephen O’Brien, an expert in cat genetics at the US National Cancer Institute’s Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, in Frederick, Maryland, is convinced black cats are healthier because of the genes that make a cat black.

Without getting into a lot of scientific lingo (well, perhaps just a little), there’s a gene called agouti signalling protein (ASIP). This regulates the amount of eumelanin or black pigment in the coat. When two copies of this gene are present, known as recessive agouti, the coat is solid black.

This is where the research gets really interesting. Eduardo Eizirik of the National Cancer Institute did a study on these mutations and found there are 260 inherited gene mutations that affect cats. After an in depth study, scientists determined that ten of those had counterparts in humans. And humans with two mutant genes have a higher ability to fight off HIV.

So what does this mean for black cat health? A black cat is really your best choice if you want a cat who has a better chance at remaining disease and illness free.

Old Lady in Black with Black Cat

Old Lady in Black with Black Cat

Some even say there are so many black cats today because they are less likely to get sick and die. Survival of the fittest is more than a cliche in the cat world.

After watching Midnight Whineybutt pull through and survive an infection that wiped out his four litter-mates, I’m totally convinced genetics must play a part in black cat health.

Please keep this article and the research into black cat health in mind the next time you visit a shelter to adopt a cat. Not only will you save the most misunderstood cat color, but you’ll likely save yourself a lot of money in vet bills. And have a beautiful, loving companion for many, many years.

And make sure to leave a few comments on the overall health of YOUR black cat. I’m curious to see whether the rest of the readers here have black cats in tip top health.

Elisa

Sources:

  • Current Biology, March, 2003 (vol 13, p 448)
  • newscientist.com/article/dn3459-black-cats-may-be-the-more-fortunate-felines.html
  • genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/03_03/black.shtml
  • web.archive.org/web/20141006074234/https://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/services/coatcolorcat.php

Comments for
Are Black Cats Healthier?

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Mar 17, 2012
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
BooBoo – My Black Kitty Angel NEW
by: Diane V

I am thrilled to hear that black kitties may be among the healthiest of felines. I have a black cat and her name is BooBoo. Today BooBoo is celebrating her 12th birthday and I pray we have another 12 years or more together. I have had her since she was 9 days old and she was injured by a little boy and not expected to live. She pulled through and stole my heart. She has never been vaccinated as I do not believe in vaccinations and she eats holistic grain free food only. During my rescue years I brought home a litter of kittens that suddenly died one by one. They didn’t even appear to be sick so I knew immediately it was panleuk. One day BooBoo refused to eat her breakfast and I panicked because I knew she was sick. I rushed her to the vet and her temp was 106 and they told me not to expect her to make it. I said I will do everything and anything for her and they started her on fluids and antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection and by 7:00pm that night her temp came down and she was eating. She was home the next day without ever having a problem.


Jan 04, 2012
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
BLACK CATS NEW
by: SB Well, I have no comment on the better health of black cats. However with respect to the joy and comfort the cats are capable of giving us, humans, I am the witness that my dearest coal-black little Lissa is certainly the most exquisit, the most intelligent,the most gorgeous little black jewel of a cat I’ve ever met! And I am a cat lover for a very long time… If my dear Lissa is representative for the black cat breeds, then black cats are, indeed, the best friends, the best companions, the best comfort for everyone who is lonely, not too young, not too healthy and otherwise not too happy in her/his everyday life…

Jan 04, 2012
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
BLACK CATS NEW
by: SB Well, I have no comment on the better health of black cats. However with respect to the joy and comfort the cats are capable of giving us, humans, I am the witness that my dearest coal-black little Lissa is certainly the most exquisit, the most intelligent,the most gorgeous little black jewel of a cat I’ve ever met! And I am a cat lover for a very long time… If my dear Lissa is representative for the black cat breeds, then black cats are, indeed, the best friends, the best companions, the best comfort for everyone who is lonely, not too young, not too healthy and otherwise not too happy in her/his everyday life…

Oct 06, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
black hairs are the least conspicuous in textiles
by: Anonymous Mine will turn 20 soon and has had no significant health problems. Only arthritis and a salivary mucocele, both of which she got after age 15. Never a flu, urinary problems, anything. She is a very healthy cat indeed and although hardly a significant statistical sample, her health and long age have caused so much wonder and elation to me and my family that I’m completely willing to believe this about black cats and becoming even more partial to them. Health is a key factor to cat happiness, the major goal of every cat owner – one more reason to love black cats.

Sep 14, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Science
by: Michael Scientist studying wild cats support the view that black cats can be more healthy as the gene that creates black fur seems to be linked to a resistance to disease. More work needs to be done on this subject. Cat shelters should advertise this fact as it would encourage adoption. Black cats are the last to be adopted it seems.

Sep 14, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
I have 3 of them!
by: Alex Hamilton Plus three black dogs. At the shelter, they call it “black animal syndrome.” They are all so common, that no one considers them special enough to adopt.

How wrong they are.

My Crankshaft (Cranky, to his friends), met me in an outdoor shelter on a cold Montana night. I went there to check out a cat I had considered adopting, who was rather noncommited. While I was bending down petting Joey, Cranky launched himself up on my back, and stayed there. I brought Cranky home; not Joey. At 18 pounds and 9 years, he doesn’t move much from his preferred bed in the garage… unless he follows me around as I water the plants. My black lady, Kizzy, is round eyed-wonder and has the most beautiful coat. And she will spend hours in a lap, if allowed. And Denzel, well, his owner didn’t want him, but he has a wonderfully long nose, ears, and tail. He is happy to be out for days in the good weather, but comes home at night to a good canned meal. I figure out of all my 7 cat babies, these guys will do just fine.

After all, my Polish grandmother had nothing but black cats, they were all named “Blacky,” and they all braved the Boston environment for years, happily adapting to temporary visits at our house in the ‘burbs for weeks at a time, where there were always dogs. I remember them all fondly, and none met anything but a natural end. I will always have black animals!


Aug 29, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
@tl
by: Elisa Read the raw meat diet story I did a few weeks ago. Mine love the chicken necks and you wouldn’t believe how soft their fur is now

Aug 29, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
my first cat was totally black
by: tl Marilyn lived to a ripe old age (I think 18) and the vet said he didn’t know what she was using for kidneys. She never seemed to get sick.
I have had several tuxedos and they have all been healthy, their only issues were either cat bites or tick bites.
So maybe they are healthier. In general I have been fortunate not to have any cats with any chro
nic illnesses. Of course now they get the same “supplement” that I take, which is food, to boost their immune systems.
I am thinking I should try to introduce some raw meat or chicken guts. I have been told these are really good for my cats,.

Aug 29, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Our Little Fella – Little Joe (Black and White) His Daddy Cat is black
by: Lindy Fellober This littla fella is now into his fourth month and we have had him since he was a week and a half but the momma had the other little one still with her, Litte Joe had been stuck in a small barn, when the folks who lived there locked it and went away. Anyway he fell down through something and the neighbour behind the other folks took out a panel of the wall in that corner of the barn and found him as he was meowing away to let them know he was there and he was hungry on top of that. Anyways I bottle fed him until he was eating on his own. He had a fever a few weeks ago and we took him to the vet and the blood test was negative for the feline virus, PTL and cancer and whatever else they check. He was on meds and seems to be full of it now, PTL.

Aug 28, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Megan – my tuxedo
by: Betty i have a tuxedo i rescued off the streets of Charlestown (Boston) and she is going on 8 years with me plus 1-2 years on the streets having babies. she lost most of her teeth for an unknown reason. the vets had a casual name for it but otherwise was really healthy. in Charlestown there is a HUGE street tuxedo cat population. they’ve been surviving for years as another friend of mine and her friend rescued a tuxedo kitten from a construction site in charlestown many, many years before.

she had 4 kittens that were black and white, 3 that were mostly black, and they basically had ear mites and that was it. megan and her kittens were very healthy for coming off the streets. many people were feeding her though and i think she was eating better than a lot of house cats but still, they were healthy.


Aug 28, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Evidence
by: Elisa These are not anecdotal tales. The evidence and studies are cited in the references at the end of the article. I wanted to keep the article tone light as most readers here are average cat lovers. The references go into a lot of detail as to black cats proving healthier than other colors.

Aug 28, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
black cats
by: cat lady As the proud owner of two gorgeous black cats, one is 11 and found at one month old (could fit in my hand) was abandoned on a busy highway and left with he littermates, and one five month old, my Boobear who was wandering and abandoned on a busy street where I live ,
I can say YES, my two are very healthy. My Kittygrl has only been to the Vet one time for stomatitis and that time was when I introduced my 5 month old , Boo to her, she was 6 at the time. The other time was when Kittygrl had to get a tooth pulled from an abcess and a cleaning. They are truly amazing cats. They eat Meow Mix wet cat food and One Beyond, Purina dry food. My Boo loves his Party Mix and Temptations treats. They both give me so much joy and happiness and have a wonderful life looking out my 3rd fl window at the birds, squirrels, bujtterflys and an occasional feral Colony cat that I feed.
My Kittygrl just knows when I have a bad day and trys to coax me out of a blue mood, she is quite psychic about my moods. My Boo is the love cat and he is nice and plump and just an affectionate boy and everyone that meets him loves him, not so with Kitty, she is a watch cat and feline version of a pit bull. She on occasion soils the kitchen but I don;t make a big deal of it, I used to get mad but I just make allowances for her, she can be pretty mean and bite out of no where, if provoked ,I chalk it up to her being like me , high strung.
Barbara (Cat Lady)

Aug 27, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstar
Healthiest among cats?
by: Grahame Elisa,

I am happy that you are trying to advocate for black cats, to whom I am rather partial myself. I lost my precious ,Sasha not all that long ago (Sasha was Cat-Of-The-Day July 17 this year in memoriam). I rescued him off the streets of Prague during the time I worked there and brought him back to the States with me after 20 years there. Sasha was a very tough old moggie indeed, but he succumbed to cancer at 17. I believe that many of these street moggies are tougher and healthier than inbred cats. Cats come to me, choose me, and in 70 years all of my cat companions have chosen me from “out in the wild”. All of them have proven tough and healthy.

BUT, as I write, another of my rescues sits here, purring. When I had her spayed before bringing her back to the USA with Sasha, the vet told me that she had a lot of scar tissue and had survived serious peritonitis in her very young kittiehood.

That is amazing. She is a delicate and gorgeous tipped-coat brown tabbie. She has never been ill a day in the 14 years I have been with her. So, Elisa, it does seem that for all cats, it is a matter of good fogenomertune in the roulette of genetic inheritance.

Perhaps black cats are by-and-large healthier than other cats, but one wants to see sound empirical evidence, not anecdotal tales.

When I feel comfortable bringing another cat into the home Radka and I share, it will be another black cat!


Aug 27, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Peepers Red Reflector
by: Elisa Black-Taylor See the red reflector tag Peeper is wearing in the photo? She knew that at night she could tuck her chin into her chest to hide the tag and also close her eyes and she’d be invisible to humans. She was downright sneaky. She was a wild kitten when I brought her home. I still remember Laura laughing at me as I chased her from one end of the couch to the other wearing gardening gloves in case she tried to bite me. She was so funny. She eventually became very loving. We had her spayed young because she had such a wild streak in her that I didn’t want her to be a mother. We had her for 9 years until a pack of dogs came into our yard and killed her 6 feet away from a tree. After that I refused to allow my cats to go outside there.

Aug 27, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
What great news!
by: Ruth (Monty’s Mom) Since I have a black cat, I really like what this article is saying. It makes sense and probably is true that black cats have a genetic advantage. Think about it– black is a color you would often find in the wild because it’s good camouflage. Take your eyes off Monty in the yard and he can become invisible quick in the shadows under the trees. (Good thing “treat!” works every time to get him inside!) Maybe the best coat color would be given other genetic advantages ensuring more black cats are born.

Don’t want to read too much into it, I’m just happy that my little guy will probably have a long happy life with me! This article gave me a happy end to a happy day spent swimming in the cold waves at a Lake Michigan beach. Time to convince Monty to come inside so I can find my flannel pajamas and crawl into bed under a couple of quilts. I had quite an adventure today and it made me think of Monty– he so enjoys his adventures outside. He seems to always want to be exploring new sights, sounds and smells both in the house and outside. He’s always trying out new trees, climbing a little higher each time or digging into dusty corners in the basement, looking for something new he hasn’t found before.

Are black cats also more curious and adventurous? Or is Monty just being your typical curious cat? Does anyone have a black cat who seems more outgoing and into exploring than their other cats?


Aug 27, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Makes sense
by: Cindy Richards Excellent article. Makes sense to me. It is very sad black cats are adopted last. Thank you for writing this. You should continue posting it, so more people will be informed. Your cat, Midnight is beautiful. My very first black cat was named Midnight.

Aug 27, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
PEE WEE
by: Elizabeth Blackwell You ask if black cats were healthier? I had a black cat named after Pee Wee Herman… My daughter named the cat Pee Wee and I had her for 20 years. She was never sick a day in her life and the day she died she crawled up in my lap. She was so weak. She would push her food away. She was just to weak to handle it… I went to the mall and as I was driving back home I prayed for the LORD to take her on to Heaven. She had been through enough… I got home and went into the bathroom and there she was behind the commode. I hollared for my husband and told him that Pee Wee had died. He said, “She couldn’t have..I just saw her walk across the floor”… GOD answered my prayer and HE took her on to Heaven… She will always live in my heart…

Aug 27, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Great Article
by: Marie Baker Thank you for such an informative and interesting article Elisa. I have never personally owned a black cat but the points you raise make so much sense! Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

Aug 27, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Photograph
by: Elisa Black-Taylor The only thing about black cats that drives me insane is they are very hard to photograph indoors with the equipment Whineybutt jumped up in my lap this morning and told me I should write this. My cats are good at planting story ideas in my head..

Aug 27, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Interesting Article Elisa!
by: Ann Wilson Smith My mother-in-law had a solid black Manx cat that outlived her. We adopted it out to a friend of mine and she just told me that it died of kidney failure (oddly enough, the same thing my mother-in-law died of). But she wasn’t ever sick from the time she was a kitten until she was adopted by my friend at 15 years old. My current kitties are brown tiger stripe and have been healthy except for Bree having a UTI a few weeks ago. It is very interesting about the genes, especially about the genetic mutation in humans being resistant to HIV. I have heard that people whose ancestors survived the plague have some genes that make them immune to HIV, but I am not sure that is 100% accurate. Thanks for a very thought-provocing article as usual!!

Aug 27, 2011
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
black cats
by: Rachel aka Rat I’ve only had 2 all black cats…both very healthy until the end of their lives. One was half Persian/domestic who only ever got runny eyes. The other was very soft and gentle but obese…this could be why she is no longer with us. She only got little colds but nothing more. All the cats I have now..which is 4 have had flu as a kitten apart from one. 3 I took on wiv the flu. All have flu an leukemia Jana yearly.squirt

Facebook Discussion

Comments

Are Black Cats Healthier? — 10 Comments

  1. Miss Roxy Doodles is the queen of Caledonia,ms. She’s 13 years old & still acts like a kitten. Always up to something! She’s almost all black,& never had a single health issue

    • I reckon she has those black fur health genes. If more people knew about black cats being healthier they might lose their superstitions about the black cat.

  2. Please see a recent article on the “Catster” website. New research validates that black cats are definitely healthier and are less prone to a number of problems that afflict other cats.

  3. Very interesting. We always took very, very good care of our two black cats (sisters). Jasmine came down w/ some sort of fungal infection in her lungs that we never could get under control, and when the infection began to spread outside of her lungs and into the rest of her body, we had to have her euthanized. The drugs she was on were just awful, and didn’t ever do the job. She was 4 1/2.

    Her sister Sissy came down w/ lymphoma cancer at age 8. I think she had it for at least a year earlier, but we never could get her diagnosed correctly. $38,000 and a bankruptcy later, and after she had been on chemo for one year, we had her euthanized because from all appearances the drugs had stopped working and the cancer had come back, bringing w/ it terrible vomiting episodes that even the anti nausea meds weren’t able to completely control. She was 9.

    So, I guess it just depends.

    • Yes, Steve, as you say it depends. If black cats are healthier it is only ‘generally healthier’. And the difference will be small. There will still be unhealthy black cats for all kinds of reasons such as environmental. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  4. great article, I thought you’d want to correct a spelling error (and it would be purrfect!)

    litter-mate’s should have no apostrophe…. good luck with kitty!

  5. I see no reason this can’t be true. The black cats from our old feral colony are still legend for their hunting skills and their ability to reproduce healthy offspring. Horses have distinct traits that are tied to their skin and coat color, as in skin, hooves etc.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please only upload photos that are small in size of max 500px width and 50 KB size. Large images typical of most default settings on digital cameras may fail to upload. Thanks.