Friendly Cat Colors

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.

Friendly and Unfriendly Cat Colors
Friendly and Unfriendly Cat Colors. Credits: White cat and solid and white cat copyright Helmi Flick. Calico cat copyright Giane Portal.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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:

BlackMore antisocial. Less extreme personalities.
WhiteMore antisocial, more shy, calm and lazy. Aloof.
Tri-color (calico)More antisocial, trainable and intolerant.
GingerFriendly (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.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

7 thoughts on “Friendly Cat Colors”

  1. Thanks so much for the article. But agree colour is not prerequisite in terms of personality. I have a ginger male cat. Has never been friendly. Will never sit on my lap.

  2. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    I don’t think the colour of a cat affects his/her purr-sonality at all. There are many old wives tales about cats and this is one of them. We’ve had various coloured cats over 38 years and none have conformed to what is said about them, each cat just like each human, is unique.
    It’s like saying all red haired humans are hot tempered, not true and anyway other hair colours are hot tempered too. That blondes are simple (hence so many dizzy blonde jokes) Also untrue,I know lots of clever blonde haired people and many thick people of other coloured hair.
    It’s such a stereotype world where too many people don’t think for themselves, they just accept what is said and pass it on.

  3. The calicoes I’ve known have all been very gentile and sweet. I think breed has much more to do with it than color does. One of our tortie twins was very sweet tempered, while the other didn’t like to be touched. She was fine as long as she was alone on a perch watching us from afar. I think it was just the way she was. If I had to judge, I’d say the calicoes I’ve known were by far the sweetest cats I’ve ever known. I LOVE ginger hair cats, always have, but they seem to be loners. Not real big on coming up to me and being petted. Yet they weren’t put off by me, just liked to keep their distance. So again, I think it’s the breed. Great story. thanks.

    1. Yes, Dan, I think you’re spot on. I don’t think color affects the cat’s character (with possibly the strange exception of the red tabby as Marc says). One thing that may be going on is that people will behave differently towards cats with different coats if they think the cat has a certain character and that may result in a reaction from the cat that is consistent with the person’s ideas. A sort of self-fulfilling prophesy.

  4. If I were to use the same ‘surface’ or subjective method for what I think of the different cats I would totally agree about the orange cats. I personally think black cats are extra friendly and people oriented, torties would be the loners and the rest I don’t know because I have no experience to base it on. Now you know what cats I’ve known well enough and how their characters turned out in my situation. Of course its all complete rubbish probably – next I will meet and antisocial black cat and orange loner and an attention seeking tortie. The only one of all of these I am inclined towards is the orange as being laid back and alpha. Because I’ve seen it and heard it so so often – enough that I could almost think it might be true. But still in the end I suppose and assume it can’t exactly be so true.

    1. The only semi-scientific connection I know between coat color and something else is that the gene that causes a cat to be black seems to help against defending against infections. It has been suggested that the melanistic (black) servals have mutated for this reason.

      So it is possible that coat color can affect something else about the cat other than just appearance. But whether color can affect personality is another thing. I think this is more about the fragile human mind looking for something that is not there.

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