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Cat Behavior: Cat Color

Cat Color and Personality

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Orange cat

Do cats with the "red" gene have a distinctive c'attitude?

Photo Credit: © Amy Shojai, CABC

Does cat color influence cat behavior and cat personality? 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!

Of course, genetics influences the color, pattern, and length of kitty's crowning glory. So it follows that the same genes that create coat variations might influence other things as well. Coat coloring pigments are produced by the same biochemical pathways as certain brain substances such as dopamine, which has a great influence on behavior.

Cat Color and Personality

The genes of ancestral cats produced striped, spotted, or agouti pattern--sort of a rabbit-fur-like look. Some of the earliest spontaneous mutations were for solid color cats.

One survey indicates black cats more easily tolerate crowding and indoor living than tabby-pattern kitties. Maybe it's that extra-dose of "friendly" genes that made black cats so adoptable and popular among the accused so-called witches during early domestication.

I've often heard from owners of calico kitties that they're "different" with c'attitude-plus compared to other color kitties. The "red" color was another early mutation, so this gene could be associated more closely with the personality of the earliest domesticated cats. Would you be surprised to know a study of 84 British Shorthair kittens revealed that red, cream or tortoiseshell kittens (with the "red" gene) threw fits and struggled to escape for longer periods when handled by unfamiliar people, compared to kittens of other colors? How does your red-headed kitty act?

Social Structure Impact of Cat Color

If a particular coat color influences aggressiveness or friendliness, the resulting temperament also impacts feline romance. In feral situations researchers noted that aggressive boy cats spend all their time squabbling and lose out on mating. The more amicable boy cats don't squabble-they just sit patiently until opportunity knocks, and so pass on their friendly genes more often than the angry kitty. That may explain why some feral cat colonies have more of one color cat than others. Friendly boys get the girl.

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.

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