Are We Unconsciously Racist When Selecting Cat Colour?

black cat against black background

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats
Is cat color preference partly based on unconscious, deep-rooted racism? Is racism a form of tribalism? Humans are essentially tribal because we struggle to live alone and therefore we must live in a group of like-minded people and support each other. This is a survival technique. If a person does not conform they can be criticized, bullied and mocked because their nonconformity puts them outside the tribe which destabilizes it, which ultimately threatens survival. People who are considered outsiders threaten the establishment and the establishment squashes them accordingly.

Important note: I have to stress that this is a discussion article. I am making no statements. There are no hard facts in this article other than what is openly known. It all came out of my head so there are no sources. It is obviously a sensitive subject and I’m trying to address it as sensitively as possible. It is, for me, a very interesting subject and that is why I have written about it.

So it could be that racism is linked up with tribalism. Racism is certainly deep rooted and often people are unconsciously racist despite using their best efforts to be completely unbiased and nonracist. Even the best people struggle with racism. That is an argument not a fact. I am not stating a fact. I am really asking questions.

For the sake of the argument in this article, I would like to make the presumption that the vast majority of people, perhaps all people are racist in varying degrees. Sometimes it will be a very faint vestigial version of racism and other times it will be overt and shocking.

Racism seems to brand people by colour. So whites are racist against blacks and blacks are racist against whites and Pakistanis is a racist against whites and whites are racist against Pakistanis and so on. Years ago, I remember clearly having an argument with a Pakistani taxi driver on the telephone. He wanted cash payment and I wanted to provide him with a cheque (check) and when he refused I suggested that he wasn’t paying tax properly. Predictably this resulted in an argument which turned into a racist argument and he kept calling me “milky white”. He had introduced colour into the argument.

We know that some cat colours are more popular than others. White domestic cats are popular, particularly for the Persian pedigree cat. Calico cats are popular particularly when there is lots of white and blobs of colour as favoured by the Japanese in respect of the Japanese Bobtailed cat.

We know that the least popular cat coat at shelters is probably black and the next least popular is probably the brown tabby. It seems, therefore, that we have a polarisation of two extremes in respect of coat colour. At one end we have lightness and light colours and at the other end we have dark colours. It seems quite possible that these likes and dislikes in respect of the colour of the coat of a domestic cat is in part, at least, an expression of unconscious racism.

It is interesting to note that when it comes to inanimate objects such as the car and technical, electronic devices, black is popular. In fact both white and black, the 2 extremes are popular in respect of inanimate objects. This may, or may not be significant. I have no idea. It may be that the colour black signifies “function” and “functionality” while white is all about aesthetic appeal and appearance. I wonder whether we have another version of racism here as well. Functionality indicates that the device needs to work for the owner. It needs to work faultlessly and a black object may give that impression more than a white inanimate object. Is there a hint of the old black slave trade in this model?

With respect to wild cat species back connotes sinister and dangerous. The typical example is the melanistic black jaguar or leopard. As I recall, certain groups of people, perhaps tribes of people, living in South America worshipped the black jaguar and probably sought to kill it and wear its skin so that they could inherit some of its perceived superpowers.

In a recent study, it was found that white people behaved more aggressively after playing video games in which their on-screen avatar was black. In other words when they were playing a video game and they took on the character of a black person they behaved more aggressively. This indicated an unconscious racism that connected the harmful stereotype that blacks are violent.

Perhaps this is another reason why the black domestic cat is the most unpopular colour. Not only is there a hidden and unconscious racism in play, people might believe that the black cat is sinister, dangerous and violent even though that would be illogical at a conscious level.

Associated post: Black people like cats less than white people.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

23 thoughts on “Are We Unconsciously Racist When Selecting Cat Colour?”

  1. I have just adopted 3 more cats from a very sad situation – sight unseen as usual! The intention was to foster them and then put them on the adoption list at the shelter, but because one is black and is inseparable from his tabby brother, they are staying with me (avoiding black cat syndrome). The third is white with black splashes. All totally traumatised, but now safe and spoiled.

    1. You’re a good woman, Sarah. Phew, that is a big adoption though. I am not sure I could have done that. Perhaps if I was living in the country with nice walled garden I would. I am thinking about that actually.

      1. These cats have never been outside the flat where they lived with the elderly owner. All boys and they weren’t neutered either.

          1. They were very scared at first and traumatised by the whole catching and caging process. They are settling now and love catnip. I sleep in their room for half the night so they are getting used to me. Once the 3rd one is microchipped (this week) and I install a screen at the top of the stairs, I can start extending their territory to the rest of upstairs.

    2. So wonderful of you, Sarah.
      You’ve just blown your commandment of “older cats only” apart.
      But, they wouldn’t be with you if it wasn’t meant to be so.

  2. Black is an ugly looking colour because it doesn’t radiate light and stimulate the eyes.

    When it comes to colour in people though, it reflects the amount of melanin in the body, and how well adapted it’s to a particular climate. I think this is the main reason why people have a social preference towards certain skin tones depending upon the region.

    1. Good point but I am not sure people appreciate skin tone in reference to the region. Also black cars and black cameras are popular. Why do people like black devices but not black cats?

  3. Hi Michael,

    I know you are asking a question and not stating a fact or point of view, but is there anything we can say or do these days without it being condemned as racist?

    I know a lot (or at least some) people reject black cats, but that is due to stupid superstition rather than racism. I could be the most racist white person alive and yet have a black cat.

    My cat is a black and white moo cat, I don’t know what that says 🙂

    Today I am wearing a blue shirt instead of a white one, a clear indication of my hatred of people of European descent. 🙂

    1. LOL. I like your comment, Larry. Yes, I am engaging in pure speculation just to challenge and explore opinion which I like to do because a lot of what is written about on the Internet is repetitious.

      I agree that we can’t say anything, almost, without being criticised for not being sufficiently politically correct. We certainly can’t talk about Muslims and Pakistanis in a critical manner and neither can we talk about immigrants coming into the UK in a critical way otherwise we are branded racist.

      I have no idea whether the lack of popularity of the black cat is due to unconscious racism. If it is then it is deeply embedded in our subconscious such that we do not realise it. I think that is the point I’m making. That it is inherent within us, hardwired and part of our DNA because I believe that all people are tribal by nature even when we are supposedly civilised.

  4. Yea cats choose me i dont choose a certain cat cause its black or ginger its the personanitlyy that i like. Though in the last 3 cats i was mostly saved. i did like the look of jasmin also her eyes when i first saw her she looked like a happy cat. as she is.

  5. You mean you have a choice of colours in cats? Cats choose me. Colour is incidental (so is number of legs, presence/absence of ears, tails, eyes etc). I have a bit of a weakness of tatty old black cats because one of my first cats was a tatty black tom with crossed eyes and broken tail.

  6. Black white killer Bob

    You people are such pseudo intellectual too much time on your hands to get a life nincompoops thanks for the laugh. Your cats think your toopid also!

    1. Thank you for your comment. There’s nothing pseudo-intellectual about the article. It is just a simple article asking a simple question. It just so happens that the question has never been asked before, as far as I am aware. It is a question worth asking. It must be. We need to try and understand more about ourselves and how we think.

      As far as I can see you are a simple reactionary. You react against anything new and questioning and anything that might upset the status quo. Out of interest, I would like to know why you call yourself “Black white killer Bob”. It is a bizarre username.

  7. I don’t want to believe that I am a cat color racist; but, there are some colors that I may like slightly more than others. That would never deter me from selecting any cat though.
    I’ve always liked black cats very much. It may be because I have had so many; plus, I love to see them super shiny.
    Some of it may have to do with knowing that they are unpopular and destined to be killed in shelters.
    All others work for me to – tortis, calicos, orange, ginger, blue, brown…

  8. It’s a HUGE irony that 60% of people in the world today wear at least 60% black everyday because they ‘dont want to stand out’ or ‘not look fat’ or ‘be ‘safe’ from clashing with other colours’ …….etc bla bla

    A smart suite is black. You have ‘black tie’ events.

    Black is therefore got a minus or non value to it. It’s ‘stealth’ or invisible somehow – which is fine except if you are talking about a person obviously lol 🙂

    So its really another symptom of societies schizophrenic tendencies.

    Racism – as you say – does come down to colour.

    This is about subconcious value and awareness of colour in people.

    Black has a powerful value which, in schizo/psychotic/societal mode could be a powerful value in any direction. Either it’s less than – or if it’s your car – it might be more than/better – but if it’s your friend or even just a person then it gets touchy to overtly explore subconcious colour value definitions without the kind of preamble Michael gave a paragraph into the article 🙂

  9. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

    A very interesting article Michael.
    Our late dad was very racist, we weren’t even allowed to have black jelly babies in our sweets when we were kids, our late mother used to have to make sure none went in when the shop weighed them up!
    Very extreme racism! He’d be arrested these days lol
    I think maybe a lot of people associate black cats with witchcraft and of course black is mostly worn at funerals, so it has a sombre meaning.
    I think true cat lovers don’t mind the colour of their cats, all our cats have been/are black or black and white cats apart from one brown tabby,one grey and one ginger.
    It’s just like people, we all look different on the outside and whatever colour we are, we are all the same on the inside because we are one species…human, just like cats are one species…feline.

    1. Ruth, true catlovers don’t mind, do they. My little lovebug who was fostered into this household and has since been adopted into this home is truly a sweet little Marco, since aptly named “Lovebug.” He cannot be seen at night with his part in the “Three Amigos,” but then, never can the other two, Shrimp and Sylvie aka Sylvester, because at night in the treeline, their eyes just shine like huge round phosphorescent loveliness.

      1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

        Caroline you are very poetic, I love your description of your cats at night. Do you write poetry? If not then you really should xx

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