Judging a Cat By Its Colors

From The Smithsonian blogs:

In a new study published in Anthrozoos, researchers from California State University and the New College of Florida set out to discover our hidden kitty biases with an Internet-based survey of nearly 200 people. They asked the participants to associate 10 personality terms (active, aloof, bold, calm, friendly, intolerant, shy, stubborn, tolerant and trainable) with five cat colors–orange, tri-colored (tortoiseshells and calico cats), white, black and bi-colored (white and anything else).

Some trends appeared in the data. Orange kitties were perceived as friendly and rated low in the aloof and shy categories. (They were also considered more trainable than were white cats, although the idea that anyone considers a cat trainable is kind of funny. Or am I betraying my own bias here?) Tri-colored cats rated high in aloofness and intolerance, and white cats were also considered aloof, as well as shy and calm. And bi-colored cats–which could have been any color, really, in the participants’ minds–were thought to be friendly. The data for black cats, however, was a bit muddier and no clear trends emerged.

The article goes on to say that there is no link between cat behavior and coat color. I don’t know. Based on my experience of living with cats for my entire life, I have noticed that tabbies, like my little buddy, seem to be the friendliest and best behaved cats, long furred cats are the quietest, and three-colored cats usually have “issues” of one kind or another. Our calico was extremely timid, scared of everything, often just plain nuts and, worst of all, loud. My tortie is very clingy and needy and when I won’t hold her she eats or just stands around looking confused and she often cries a really awful, bloodcurdling cry, like she is dying. Trust me, three-colored cats are nuts.

I once had a multi-colored tabby who had a very sweet personality. I don’t count her among the three-colored cats though because she literally had at least five different colors. Her head and body were gray and black striped with little splotches of orange and flecks of white and her legs were brown and cream striped.

I’ve had good luck with black cats too. We had one who stayed with us for five years and he was always nice and friendly and laid back when he was around, which was only when it was cold outside. In nice weather he insisted on being outside and only occasionally came in to eat. My mother’s favorite cat, one we had when I was elementary school age, was a long-furred black cat.

Finally, our favorite cat ever was a long-furred orange or yellow tabby, our dear departed Spot. (Yes, named after Data’s cat on Star Trek: TNG). I have pictures of her somewhere but not on Flickr, I don’t think. She was almost a person. Very independent but friendly, never mean, except to other cats. She really hated other cats.

5 thoughts on “Judging a Cat By Its Colors

  1. Hippie

    Dogs. Look into dogs. They’re all trainable. Some things you don’t even have to train them to do, depending on the breed. (One of my girls is really good at herding small children) And there is a difference in owning a dog, and dealing with visiting a dog that belongs to someone else.

    It’s more than just your calico that is crazy. I’ve noticed a trend in all calico cats. Maybe I’m just projecting. One person Kes seemed to like was my kid. Don’t know why.

    And of course, Spot was an awesome cat. And what do you mean ALMOST a person? I liked her more than most people.

  2. Lynn Post author

    On the contrary, I have known dogs that I like (Chipper immediately comes to mind) and the thing I liked best about them was that they did not live with me. Your two are really not bad, just way too enthusiastic. Well, Zoe’s not so much anymore now that she’s older.

    As for training, I’ve only ever had to train one cat to go to the litter box. Most of them just seem to know what to do. Puppy training is not something I want to deal with.

  3. Hippie

    I mean training them to do things like stay off the counter, stay out of the trash, not sit there outside your bedroom door and scream, and other such i-wish-the-critter-wouldn’t-do-that problems.

    The enthusiasm is something that doesn’t occur when you actually own the dog. The reason they can be like that is they don’t see you every day. They are happy when you get home, but generally spend their time asleep on the couch just like a cat.

    Easy to housebreak a puppy. Use a crate. We’ve never had to clean up after River and we got her at six weeks. They figure it out pretty fast too. You can even teach them to ring a bell when they want out. And no litterboxes.

    Back to training, River will bring her food bowl to you when she is hungry, she will play tug of war, fetch, roll over, run people out of the yard, stay quiet, dig up gophers, and get in the car or bath without trying to kill anyone. Zoe does all of that except for playing fetch, she just isn’t interested. And after having cats for years, then getting a dog, I learned something interesting – my dogs are better at catching mice.

  4. Lynn Post author

    Yeah but I LIKE cats. Sure, I know they have their little quirks but so do some people and I still like those people too. :-)

  5. fillyjonk

    Interesting. The few calicos I’ve known didn’t seem crazy to me. Affectionate and maybe a little needy of attention at times, but not crazy.

    “Cow kitties” (white with dark spots) seem to have a reputation of being lovable, at least among the people I know.

    We always had Siamese growing up. They varied in personality a lot – Daisty was kind of mean to strangers but very protective of “her” people (once when my mother was disciplining me for something – I was about four – she came up and hissed at my mother). Sam was a big baby and was very lovable. Patty was smart and funny and almost seemed devious at times. Cleo seemed not very bright but was very lovable.

    Some Siamese are super vocal, though, and I know a lot wind up in rescue organizations because people can’t deal with the miaowing.

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