The Least Popular Cat Color. New Survey Reveals What’s Out for Felines

Introduction

Cats come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Some colors, like black, tabby, and white tend to be very common. Other colors, like chocolate, cinnamon, fawn, and lilac are less common. When it comes to popularity, some colors are preferred by cat owners while others seem to be less desired. There are a number of factors that contribute to color preferences and which colors end up being the most and least adopted.

While there is no definitive ranking of most and least popular cat colors, some clear trends emerge. Black, tabby, and tuxedo pattern cats tend to top the list of most adopted colors. At the other end, black cats, followed by senior cats, tend to wait the longest before being adopted. This means that black cats end up being both one of the most desired and least desired cat colors simultaneously. The dichotomy highlights the complex interplay between cat color preferences.

History of Cat Coat Colors

Cats were first domesticated around 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent region of the Near East. The earliest domesticated cats likely resembled the African wildcat, with tabby coat patterns in shades of brown and grey [1]. Over thousands of years, selective breeding by humans led to a wider variety of coat colors and patterns.

One of the earliest color variations was the “blotched” tabby pattern, which appeared in Egyptian artwork dating back over 3,500 years. Other early coat colors included black, white, red, and cream. The Egyptians bred cats with coat colors they found sacred or mystical, like the “Utchat” cats with striking tabby markings reminiscent of the Eye of Horus symbol.

As cats spread along trade routes to Europe and Asia, local preferences shaped coat colors. In Britain, early cats tended toward grey and black tabbies, while in Asia white cats were popularized. By the Middle Ages in Europe, cat registries recorded over a dozen coat colors ranging from orange to tortoiseshell.

Current Cat Color Preferences

According to article, Black Cats: Most Common, Least Desired Tabbies and tuxedos are among the most popular cats in homes today, while black cats and all-white cats remain the least adopted. A 2018 study by Vetstreet looking at adoption rates across 2.5 million cats at Petfinder adoption centers found that black cats had the lowest adoption rate at 31%, compared to brown tabbies at 75%.

Article 12 Rare Coat Colors and Patterns in Cats notes that the most common cat colors adopted are brown tabbies, tuxedos, calicos, and tortoiseshells. The rarest colors are albinos, chocolates, lavenders, and fawn colored cats.

The preference for tabby patterns and avoidance of solid black or white cats stems from superstitions around those colors as well as a desire for “unique” coat patterns in adopted cats.

Reasons for Color Preferences

There are several theories as to why certain cat coat colors seem to be more or less popular. According to one 2021 study published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, gray cats tend to score lower on friendliness and higher on aloofness and intolerance. This may make them less preferred by some potential adopters. On the other hand, orange cats scored higher on friendliness, which may account for their popularity.

Some people believe that color is linked to personality, with black cats perceived as more aggressive or aloof, while orange cats are seen as more friendly and affectionate. However, experts say personality depends more on early socialization than on coat color. Still, these perceptions, whether true or not, can influence which colors people prefer.

Visibility may also play a role. Brighter colors like orange and white may be more noticeable, while black cats can seem to “disappear” in shadows or dark rooms. People may find the brighter colors more appealing. Additionally, some colors may seem more exotic or unique, generating greater interest.

Health assumptions may also contribute. Some people believe black cats are generally healthier, while white cats may be more prone to deafness. However, no major studies confirm color definitively impacts health. Nevertheless, these assumptions can shape preferences.

Overall, reasons for color popularity seem to stem from perceptions around friendliness, uniqueness, visibility, and health, though the truth behind these assumptions remains uncertain.

Superstitions About Cat Colors

Throughout history and across cultures, certain cat coat colors have been associated with myths, folklore, and superstitions. Black cats in particular are surrounded by superstition. In some European folklore, black cats are considered common companions of witches and bringers of misfortune if they happened to cross your path (https://carnegiemnh.org/superstitions-and-black-cats/). There is a superstition that a black cat crossing your path signifies bad luck (https://www.thesprucepets.com/black-cat-superstitions-554444). This fear of black cats appears to stem from medieval times when witch hunts were common, and black cats were seen as witches’ familiars.

In contrast, some parts of Britain and Asia consider black cats good luck. Sailors in particular believed black cats could bring fair winds. In Scottish folklore, a strange black cat’s arrival to a home signified prosperity was on the way. And in Japan, black cats are seen as good luck symbols and are kept as pets to draw prosperity.

While black cats are the most steeped in superstition, other colors like white and tortoiseshell have their own myths and folklore as well. White cats have been associated with purity, blessings, and good luck in many cultures. But in some areas, they are linked with bad luck or ghosts. Tortoiseshell cats meanwhile have a reputation for being able to see ghosts according to Japanese legend.

Coat Color and Adoption

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information and a study conducted at the University of California, Davis looking at adoption trends at a large urban shelter, black cats were adopted at the lowest rate among all colors, with only 12.2% of black cats being adopted. White cats fared much better and had the highest adoption rate at 18.8% among all colors. (Carini et al. 2020)

Another study by the NCBI in 2020 that looked at 8,405 cat intakes at an urban U.S. shelter found that black cats also suffered the highest euthanasia rate at 71.1% compared to 63% for white cats. White cats again had the lowest euthanasia rate while also experiencing the highest adoption rate. (Carini et al. 2020)

So the data shows that black cats are adopted at the lowest rates, while white cats are adopted at the highest rates among cat coat colors.

Coat Color and Health

There are some links between a cat’s coat color and certain health conditions, though more research is still needed.

For example, white cats are more prone to congenital deafness, with studies showing that 65-85% of white cats with blue eyes are deaf in one or both ears. This is caused by the lack of melanin pigment in the inner ear. However, deafness is not definitively linked to just white fur color.

Nutrition can also play a role in cat coat colors. According to the Arlington Animal Hospital, copper deficiency or zinc excess can cause black fur to lighten. So nutritional issues may lead to changes in coat color over time.

Overall, while there are some correlations between coat color and health, there is no definitive evidence that certain colors inherently lead to more health problems. Proper nutrition and veterinary care are important for cats of all colors.

Coat Color Genetics

The genetics behind cat coat colors are complex but fascinating. There are several key genes that control the production of pigments and patterns in cat fur:

The agouti gene (A) controls whether a cat’s coat is solid or tabby striped. The dominant A allele produces tabby patterns, while the recessive a allele results in a solid coat. As explained by Basepaws, variations in the agouti gene can create tabby patterns like mackerel, classic, ticked, etc.

The dense pigment gene (D/d) determines whether a cat can produce large amounts of black pigment. Cats with two recessive d alleles will have lighter coats and reduced striping.

The orange gene (O) is responsible for creating ginger or orange fur. The dominant O allele blocks the production of black pigment, resulting in orange coloration. This is why orange cats are almost always male, since the gene is carried on the X chromosome.

There are also dilution genes like dilution (Dm) that lightens black pigment to create blue coats. Other genes affect white spotting, point coloration, and many other patterns and colors. But overall, it’s the interplay between a few key genes that creates the diverse palette of cat coat colors and styles.

Changing Attitudes Toward Color

In recent years, there have been efforts to combat bias against black cats and promote the adoption of cats of all colors. Animal shelters and cat advocacy groups have launched campaigns to educate the public about why coat color should not factor into adoption decisions.

For example, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has a national campaign called “Adopt a Shelter Cat Month” every June that highlights cats of all colors who are waiting for homes. They spread the message that “black is beautiful” when it comes to cats up for adoption.

Many local animal shelters also have special promotions specifically for black cats around Halloween time to counter superstitions. The Orlando Humane Society has stopped adoptions of black cats in October to protect them from potential harm.

With more public education and advocacy, the stigma around black cats and other less popular colors may continue to decline. Adopters are being encouraged to choose cats based on personality and temperament rather than coat color.

Conclusion

Some cat colors are clearly less desired by potential adopters, leading to longer stays in shelters and a higher risk of euthanasia. Black cats and black-and-white tuxedo cats tend to be the least adopted colors. Historical superstitions, difficulty photographing black fur, and perceived connections to Halloween have given black cats an undeserved reputation. More education is needed to highlight that coat color has no bearing on a cat’s personality or trainability. Shelters can help by showcasing black cats in optimal lighting and contexts. Adopters should keep an open mind about coat color and remember that cats of all shades can make wonderful companions.

While trends come and go, it’s important that humans look beyond fur color when considering adding a cat to their family. With care and training, cats of any hue can live happy, healthy lives in homes. Their unique personalities shine through when given a chance. As public perceptions continue evolving, black cats and other less popular colors may someday be as sought after as other patterns. By adopting and advocating for cats of all colors, humans can help make that color-blind future a reality.

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