Impact of Cat Breeds and coat color on Personality

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A woman holds an orange cat
A Woman Holds An Orange Cat

Most owners recognize their special cats have a distinct cat personality. But are there behavior differences between a black cat and an orange kitty? Some surveys say cat color matters, though most reputable researchers say otherwise. On the other hand, cat breeds (Siamese, Russian Blue, and so forth) really do have personality types.

Perception Vs. Reality

Most household cats are domestic shorthairs. These cats come in a wide range of colors and patterns but share a common ancestry. In other words, a single litter can easily include a black, orange, and calico kitten. These siblings are likely to have a good deal in common, fur color notwithstanding.

But that doesn't stop people from believing that cat color influences personality. For example, one survey indicates black cats more easily tolerate crowding and indoor living than tabby-pattern kitties. Owners of calico kitties say that they have a different cattitude compared to other color kitties. Red fur is an early mutation, so this gene could be associated more closely with the personality of the earliest domesticated cats. A study of 84 British Shorthair kittens revealed that red, cream, or tortoiseshell kittens (with the red gene) threw tantrums and struggled to escape for longer periods when handled by unfamiliar people, compared to kittens of other colors.

Ginger tortoiseshell cat
Ginger Tortoiseshell Cat

Impact of Perception on Cats' Lives

While it's unlikely that color alone has much of an impact on cat personality, peoples' beliefs have a strong impact on how they choose and care for their cats.

gray tabby cat
gray tabby cat
tuxedo cat
tuxedo cat
gray and brown coated cat
gray and brown coated cat

A study described by the University of California, Berkeley discovered that: Overall, orange cats and bi-colored cats were characterized as friendly, while black cats, white cats, and tri-colored cats were regarded as more antisocial. White cats were considered to be more shy, lazy and calm, while tortoiseshell cats were more likely to be depicted as both more intolerant and more trainable. Black cats were typified as having less extreme character traits, which might contribute to their mysterious reputation.

Whether these characteristics have much truth to them or not, though, according to the Smithsonian Institution, A 2002 study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, for example, found that black cats and brown cats were the least likely to be adopted. Dark cats were also more likely to be euthanized. And despite there being little genetic evidence that the genes that guide the coloring and patterning on a cat’s coat also influence its behavior, the study found that people frequently believed that tortoiseshells had too much attitude (or 'tortitude'), which may explain why they don’t get adopted quickly or get returned to the shelter.

Black cat hissing
Black Cat Hissing

Impact of Cat Breeds on Personality

Unlike color, cat breeds really do make a difference in a pet's personality. For example, Ragdoll cats are almost universally placid, as are Ragamuffins and Persians. The Egyptian Mau, on the other hand, is generally active and athletic. As pedigreed cats are much more expensive than mutts available in shelters, it's important to research your prospective pet before making a purchase.

Gray cat sitting in a yard
Gray Cat Sitting In A Yard

Picking Personality with Color

Breeding won't be an issue with spayed and neutered pet cats. But if coat color can help predict temperament and tolerance, that could be an important consideration when choosing a new cat companion. Tolerance of crowding and friendliness toward other kitties is particularly important when adding to your existing cat family.