4 min.

Does the colour of your cat determine its personality?

Did you know that 50% of the 189 people surveyed in an American study thought that the colour of their cats played a role in their personality? If you’d been a participant, would you have said the same thing? If so, your perception of how cats of different colours behave might align with what these people said:

  • Bicolour cat: friendly, affectionate
  • Ginger cat: friendly, affectionate, lazy
  • Calico cat: independent, intolerant
  • White cat: independent, calm, timid, not very active, friendly
  • Black cat: no particular behaviour associated with this colour

A perception that changes depending on cultures

Interestingly, another study with British cat owners led to completely different results. In fact, their responses in two of the categories directly contradicted the American findings. In England, bicolour cats are perceived as independent and intolerant—not tricolour cats, which are considered to be affectionate, active and friendly.

Only ginger cats got identical results in terms of the personality traits that both the American and the British participants attributed to them. So, how can these differences be explained? There must be a better way to judge cats in relation to their colour than by asking pet owners their opinion, which—truth be told—can be informed by a lot of different factors. As far as ginger cats go, isn’t it possible that the participants’ perceptions were informed, at least in part, by a cat made famous in a comic strip? Yes, Garfield, we’re talking about you!

The myth of the black cat: Superstition, beliefs and history

If we go back to ancient Egypt, cats in that time were revered by Egyptians and the reputation of felines remained positive for several centuries. Esteem for these furry friends began to decline gradually early in the common era with the prohibition of pagan worship, and they became the embodiment of evil in the Middle Ages during witch hunts. Although the cat's image has since recovered, isn't one of Halloween's most popular emblems the witch and her black cat? It's hard to get rid of these superstitions!

Even today, we still find disproportionately more black cats in shelters, and these unloved creatures stay there longer than their more colourful fellows. Though often associated with bad luck, in some cultures black cats bring happiness and prosperity. Some may still fear them, but others adore them. What’s certain is that everybody cares one way or the other!

Facts that are proven by science

Let’s look to science to see if a logical case can be made connecting colour to personality. We know that if a gene develops on the same chromosome as another gene, these two genes will often be passed on from one generation to the next. That explains why most white cats with blue eyes are deaf. The gene determining the white fur colour develops on the same chromosome—or right next to the chromosome—that determines eye colour and hearing. So if we can confirm that the gene for colour develops on a chromosome right next to the gene responsible for the development of the brain, maybe we could claim that colour and behaviour are in some way connected. Some scientists have suggested that such links exist, but there’s very little proof backing up these claims.

It is possible to see similarities in colour and personality when it comes to purebred cats, where scientists have observed cats of the same colour sharing certain personality traits. However, this can be explained by the fact that the genetic pool of cats of the same breed is relatively limited. So the cat’s colour is less a determining factor than the fact that these cats all share the same pedigree.

Today still, there is no clear scientific proof that a cat’s colour has an effect on its personality. Instead, television, cartoon characters and films tend to influence our perspective of how cats of different colours behave. Is it a coincidence that white cats are perceived as being independent, calm, timid, and not very active when all of the white cats in Disney films just so happen to display the same personality traits? Or that bicolour cats are seen as being friendly, much like Felix the Cat, the cartoon character that we recall from our childhood?

So, what’s the key takeaway here? You should choose your cat based on its unique personality—and not based on its colour.