Study Finds People Assign Stereotypes to Cats By Color
A new study by a UC Berkeley researcher has found that people judge cats based on the color of their fur. For example, white cats are perceived as aloof, orange cats as friendly, and black cats as mysterious and unpredictable. The study's intended to help animal agencies understand why some cats are adopted faster than others, and how they can work to overcome these stereotypes.
Amanda Newkirk trains volunteers who work with cat adopters at the San Francisco SPCA. She says when they're trying to find a good match between a human and a feline, they go beyond appearances and concentrate on behavior. Prospective cat owners fill out a questionnaire to narrow down the personality traits of the right companion for their household. "Some cats need a lot of playtime in their day," she says. "We want you to know that if you work long hours, this particular cat would prefer you're at home playing for 20 or 30 minutes a day, but we have a nice, shy guy for you who might not mind if you're working those hours."
The study's lead author, Mikel Delgado, says, “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." She hopes future research will investigate whether there's any truth to the idea that fur color is a predictor of personality.
One part of the study does ring true to Amanda Newkirk. Calico and tortoiseshell cats have a reputation for strong personalities -- sometimes called "tortitude" -- and Newkirk's own tortie is a bit of a diva (as is this writer's calico!).
The SFSPCA is offering free adoptions of adult black and orange cats this week; not as a result of the study, but in honor of the San Francisco Giants.