Sunday, July 18, 2021

Cat coat colour and personality stereotyping

'You can't judge a cat by its colour' is the mantra to follow at a cat shelter. Adopters should spend time with cats at shelters and not prejudge using stereotyping. Some people judge domestic cats by their coat colour but there is little evidence that a cat's coat type and colour has an effect on personality. 

White cats stereotyped as aloof
Male white British Longhair cat bred in Russia by the Golden Leris cattery. Photo:  Питомник британских кошек Golden Leris located in Moscow, Russia. White cats seen as aloof.

It is anecdotal and stereotypes circulate on the internet. The trouble is that typecasting cats by their colour has implications at cat shelters. We know the colours which are the least popular such as black. Here are some more associations between colour and personality:
  • Orange cats (usually orange or red tabbies) are stereotyped as friendly;
  • Black, white and tricolour (tortoiseshell) cats are stereotyped as being antisocial;
  • Black cats are regarded as having less extreme character traits;
  • White cats are typecast as being aloof, shy, lazy, and calm;
  • Tortoiseshell cats are regarded as being intolerant ('catitude) and are more trainable.
The lead author of a study, Delgado, on this stereotyping said: "To date there is little evidence that these perceived differences between differently colored cats actually exist, but there are serious repercussions for cats if people believe that some cat colors are friendlier than others...".

Perhaps it is time for a definitive study on the link between coat type and color and the cat's personality if a link exists. 

Red tabbies are regarded as 'leadership material'! (my thoughts). 

Tortoiseshell and calico cats (tortoiseshell-and-white) cats are widely seen as having an attitude problem of sorts. 

Black cats are seen as bring bad luck. A stupid throwback to the Middle Ages. You'd think that by now people would have given up this absurd stereotype. 

Delgado and his fellow researchers used Craigslist to reach out to cat owners, requesting them to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 the personalities of black, white, bicolor, tricolor (tortoiseshell) and orange cats using the following traits: active, aloof, bold, calm, friendly, intolerant, shy, stubborn, tolerant and trainable. 

Most participants said that personality was an important factor in selecting a cat to adopt but coat color played an unconscious or conscious role in that choice. 

When more than one black cat is in a shelter adoption room few adoptions take place said Berkeley East Bay Humane Society (BEBHS) cat coordinator Cathy Marden.

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