Cat personality linked to coat colour? Yes, but work in progress.

Can a cat’s personality be linked to their coat colour and type? Apparently, the answer is yes, although I had always thought that this was not strictly possible despite the fact that, anecdotally, many cat owners link coat colour and type to personality such as tortoiseshell cats having ‘catitude’ and red tabby cats being sensible and dominant.

Reginald Rumford Rosenberg Maine Coon
Reginald Rumford Rosenberg Maine Coon. Red classic tabby – Photo copyright Helmi Flick.
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Dr John Bradshaw

However, it seems that I am incorrect and that there can be a link sometimes. I can rely on the work of Dr John Bradshaw in his book Cat Sense for some answers on this topic and also Dr Fogle DVM in his book Complete Cat Care. Bradshaw opens his discussion by saying that, “links between coat colour and personality do occasionally occur among pedigree cats”.

So initially he is discussing purebred cats which are selectively bred. This of course must lend itself more to the possibility of a link between personality and coat type. The first point that he makes is that often there are only a limited number of high-quality male breeding cats within each breed who are available to produce the desired appearance i.e. colour.

As a result, the temperament of these individual tomcats is linked to the colour of the offspring. He provides an example. About 20 years ago Scotland’s British Shorthair cats were somewhat difficult to handle. Scientists traced this personality characteristic back to a single male cat who had a particularly difficult temperament. An example of poor selective breeding I have to add.

As I recall, the Bengal cat breed is founded upon a very small number of founding cats. Their personality or remnants of it will be in most modern Bengal cats.

Non-purebred pointed cats are another example. The Siamese cat is a pointed cats (extremities of the cat are darker than the other parts). Non-purebred pointed cats are normally unusually vocal just like their purebred cousins. This is because a random bred pointed cat is likely to have at least one Siamese cat in his recent ancestry.

Another reason why cat personality can be linked to coat colour is to do with genetics. When the gene that controls the colour of a cat is physically very close on the chromosome to the gene which affects the way the brain develops i.e. affects personality, then there may be a linkage between personality and colour.

“…Two genes that occur on the same chromosome tend to be inherited together”.

This is not inevitable; Dr Bradshaw says but it does tend to happen. He provides another example. The gene that causes the white coat (the dominant white gene) is located on the same chromosome and close to another gene which causes both eyes to be blue and the cat to be deaf. Therefore, blue-eyed white cats are almost always deaf.

In rural France there appears to be many ginger cats who are suited to a feral lifestyle. He suggests that the gene that creates this resourceful personality is very close physically to the gene on the X-chromosome which makes the cat orange. The cat pictured on this page was a rescued feral cat. His caretaker said that he was resourceful.

Red tabby in Malta was a resourceful cat
Red tabby in Malta was a resourceful cat. Photo: Michael

Dr. Bruce Fogle DVM

Dr. Fogle discusses cat personality in his book Complete Cat Care. As to whether a cat’s coat type and personality is linked, the picture is not completely clear as far as he is concerned. He surveyed fellow veterinarians on their thoughts about cat behaviour. The vets said that they saw differences in personality between cat breeds but they didn’t report differences in personality that were linked to the colour of the cat.

He also reported on a study of British shorthair cats with red coat colour. Apparently, they experienced more difficulties when handled by unfamiliar people than cats of the same breed but with different coat colour. And in humans, redheaded people are more susceptible to pain than others. Red-haired Cocker Spaniels are more likely to have “avalanche-of-rage” syndrome than Cocker Spaniels with particoloured coats.

Finally, he states that “science doesn’t know whether coat colour is strongly associated with a cat’s personality”.

In conclusion, therefore, there are instances when for genetic and breeding reasons it is feasible to suggest that a cat’s personality is linked to their coat colour but this is work in progress.

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