We’ve all heard about tortitude, snobby white cats, and universally loving tabbies — but just how true are these behavioral expectations? I suspect that they’re really not as true as most people think, and I know that stereotyping cats based on the color of their fur does more harm than good. How many people turn away from adopting a black cat or an orange tabby female because of what they think they know about how "those cats" act?
Here’s a run-down of eight common kitty stereotypes.
Maybe it’s because of Garfield the cat, or maybe it’s because people just seem to know more orange cats (whether they’re straight-up orange or orange tabby) and associate them with good experiences, but lots of people think ginger kitties make the ideal family pet.
I’m guessing this belief is a corollary of the stereotype that red-haired humans are hot-tempered and moody. Those poor ginger females are apparently in a constant state of PMS and ginger males are like the guys that get in huge fights every time they go out to a bar. Totally miserable roommates, right?
Blame that cat food commercial with the white Persian eating gourmet food out of a crystal bowl for this one. Some research has revealed that white cats tend to be more timid than cats of other colors, and if you were a shy kid like I was, you probably got called a snob because your fear of approaching people was mistaken for arrogance and condescension.
Ah, this myth rears its ugly head again. The truth is that people who think a cat is going to have a certain temperament will approach that cat with the expectation of that behavior. And then there’s the classic "Texas Sharpshooter" logical fallacy — finding a pattern to fit a presumption — which causes people to chalk up perfectly normal cat behavior to "tortitude.”
The poor black cat has earned an unjust reputation of being stubborn, suspicious, and even evil. Having grown up with black cats and met many of them in shelters, I’ve seen that they’re loyal to a fault, good-natured, and perhaps a bit shy depending on their early kittenhood experience.
If you’ve ever seen a Siamese cat in heat, you can probably understand where this misguided belief arose. While Meezers usually do stay close to their favorite person, it’s not from a demanding and needy nature, but from a deep connection. They may even pine for their human companions when left alone.
While Sylvester the cat of Looney Tunes fame is not exactly the sharpest claw on the paw, there’s no evidence to support the belief that tuxedo kitties are less intelligent than others.
While my tabby boy, Thomas, is a lover and not a fighter, I’ve seen some pretty vicious barn cats and terrified-to-the-point-of-trembling shelter cats with stripy or blotchy fur.
Do your cats fit these stereotypes, or don’t they? Have you seen other kitty "racial profiles”? Share your thoughts (and pictures of your feline family) in the comments!
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.
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