Are black cats friendlier?

You will see a range of answers to the question between those who say that black cats are, indeed, friendlier to those who say that they aren’t. The question is interesting because, in general, black cats are less popular than other cats of different coat colours and types. But they remain ubiquitous i.e. there are lots of black cats around. If they are unpopular but there are still lots of them what is going on? You might have thought that they would gradually fade away from the general non-pedigree cat population but they don’t.

Black cat
Black cat. Picture in the public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

It has been suggested by some scientists that the reason why a healthy percentage of the non-pedigree cat population is black is because these cats, who carry two copies of the black coat mutation, are somehow more friendly to people and/or other cats than the general population. However, I think that you will find that the average person disbelieves this argument. One problem is superstition. If you firmly believe that black cats embody the devil or that a black cat brings you bad luck if he walks across your path, you are unlikely to believe that black cats are friendly. The perception that the ‘black panther’ (melanistic leopard) is a dangerous animal lurking around in the dark doesn’t help either. Most failed sighting of big cats are of black panthers but they are actually black domestic cats.

A study of cats in Latin America, where about 72% of cats carry one copy the black gene mutation found that the numbers of black cats in South America is similar to the number of black cats in Spain. The black cats of La Paz in the Andes are no more common than in Spain from where they originally came from.

Picture of the world's smallest man 1956 with his black cat
Picture of the world’s smallest man 1956 with his black cat

Cats that made this long journey would have to be very tolerant of people. Therefore, it is theorised that if black cats were generally friendlier than other cats, they would have been selected for the journey but they weren’t because, as mentioned, the numbers are the same in Spain and in La Paz. This implies that black cats are not more friendly than the general population. It’s a rather complicated argument but I get the point.

The conclusion that I come to is either that we don’t know if black cats are friendlier than other cats or they might be slightly friendlier. They might also be slightly healthier, which is another theory. Being healthier, would support survivability which would also support greater numbers. This may be the reason why you still see lots of black cats despite the fact that they are relatively unpopular.

Black cats and Halloween
Black cats and Halloween. Montage: PoC based on images in the public domain.

As a postscript, a study explored whether black cats take longer to adopt at animal shelters which is what people believe. They checked out two shelters, one contained adult cats and the other contained kittens only. They found that black cats, no matter their age or gender, required the longest time to be adopted. The next most unpopular were black cats with other colours. This extra time at cat shelters negatively impacted their health and welfare. This confirms their unpopularity but nothing else. It is ironic because if black cats are more friendly, they’d find out if they took the time and trouble to push through their prejudices.


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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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